Not All Training Is The Same

My husband took one look at me and said, “Are you crawling out of your skin?”

I had been shopping at a local box store pet store and heard 2 dogs barking at each other and then a series of clicks from a clicker. Like 10 clicks in a row. That sounded odd to me so I went over to see what was going on.

A very large mastiff-mix was barking and pulling his very petite owner off her chair towards a yellow lab puppy who was lunging and jumping towards the mastiff. Both owners were clicking continuously to try to get their dog’s attention. And both owners then fed their dog a treat.

Is it just me or do you get exactly how wrong that is?!

I am crawling out of my skin. I feel sorry for those people who think they are doing exactly what they should be doing to solve their problem. They were told the trainer’s are “accredited experts in animal behavior and learning theory.” What I saw today was anything but expert. What I saw was actually dangerous. People were being taught to reinforce their dogs for dangerous behavior.

Like rubbernecking at an accident, I couldn’t stop watching the session.

28038462_sThe lab puppy was pulling towards the trainer and jumping repeatedly. The trainer moved closer to the puppy, put her hand in front of her face with a treat in it, and said, “look at me.” The puppy jumped towards her face three more times. The trainer said “sit” at least four times in a row. The puppy did not sit and did not stop trying to jump. The trainer said something to the owners about how distracted their puppy was and gave her a treat.

Let me repeat: dog pulls and jumps repeatedly and does not listed to either of the commands given to her and she gets a treat. I can’t even imagine what the trainer was thinking. And I can’t imagine that the owners of this lab could possibly think that’s what training is supposed to look like. Just for the record, I recommend giving a dog a treat to reinforce them after they have done something right not after they have done something wrong. Duh.

And to finish up the training session, the trainer said she had some products she recommended for them to help. The mastiff-mix was pulling a lot the whole time I was watching. The trainer left for a minute and came back with a leash. She said, “I recommend this type of leash because it has a padded handle and it won’t hurt your hand as much when your dog pulls.”

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Whaaaatttttt? Are you kidding me? What ever happened to the concept of teaching you dog not to pull? But instead a padded leash handle is the recommendation to help? Unbelievable. Seriously unbelievable. This family- a young couple and 2 young kids- rescued this dog who had been abandoned in someone’s garage and they’ve only had him for a month. They knew they needed help because the dog weighs almost as much as the mom and she was scared that she would not be able to control him. They reached out for help and what they got was a padded leash. I am appalled, to say the least. It’s sad to think about the stress their family will go through in the months to come as they follow the advice from their trainer- reinforcing their dog for barking and lounging at other dogs all while they are enjoying the comfort of a padded leash.

I would be able to work with that mastiff-mix and have him not pull in less than 5 minutes. Then they could use any leash they want.

Using a clicker is simple, but it’s critical you click and reinforce when your dog is being good (not when he’s being bad). The trainer had told them to use the clicker to try to get their dog’s attention and then give their dog a treat. Reversing the order- using positive reinforcement to try to get your dog to do something right- is the most common mistake people make. The digital download explains this concept in more depth and if don’t already have it, sign up below to receive your free copy of “Want a better behaved dog? Avoid this one common, but critical mistake.”

I know some excellent trainers who have worked at box stores. Unfortunately for the people in the class today, they got the short straw. Have you ever seen someone receiving training advice you felt was wrong or didn’t agree with?

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