Oftentimes in dog training, I tell owners to speak and act like Bob Ross, because their dog needs to have clear, easy, gentle, unexcited communication.
Bob Ross could have easily been a dog trainer.
“Hi, I’m Bob Ross, and for the next 13 weeks, I’ll be your dog trainer. I think all of us at some time in our life, have wanted to train their dogs. There’s a dog trainer hid in the bottom of every single one of us. Here we’ll show you to bring that dog trainer out, because you too, can train Almighty dogs. Some of us have been told we have to attend Animal Behavior College for half your life, be blessed like Cesear Milan to train a dog. We’re here to show you that’s not true.”
“Each week, we’ll use the same treats and same equipment, so if you have your leash and collar next week, you’ll be ready to start along with us.”
Remember – Dog trainers all started out not knowing how to train dogs. They learned through apprenticeship, trial and error and experience, their skills. Some of them might have been gifted with grace and good proprioception and timing that made learning to train dogs easier, but none of them are superhuman. It’s putting in the time that makes you good.
You may not be interested in becoming a professional dog trainer, but if you are working with somebody, they should never act like it’s some mystical set of skills that are impossible to master. They should be willing – and happy – to show you how to train, because there’s no secret formula. Just like Bob Ross.
Your training might not make a picture quite as pretty as your instructor’s, but it’s progress.
And when you’re getting frustrated working with clients, or if you are a dog owner and you’re frustrated working with your dog, just remember – Bob Ross taught millions of random, unknown people how to paint a picture, and even if none of them were masterpieces, it still worked.
So when you’re really frustrated, and nothing is working, just sit back. Paint some happy trees.
This is heartbreaking.
There are a lot of people who go on and on about the relative worth of dog training tools, and claim that some are inherently inhumane and others are superior by their books.
But any dog who reacts this way to a tool, should not have that tool used on them.
It’s not the tool that is bad or good, it’s how it is used and how the dog accepts that tool. I can properly use an ecollar or pinch on a dog and they remain happy, lighthearted, and enjoy themselves.
And you can use a tool that most proclaim is “humane” and the dog is devastated.
What is even more sad, I am sure that this lab’s people really think they’re doing right by this dog. I’m absolutely certain that they researched, thoughtfully and conscientiously, the tool they’re using. They are using it out of good intention.
But watch your dog. Know the difference between them perhaps balking out of reluctance and genuinely being depressed, unhappy, and afraid, and try your best to avoid that. Training, while it can be stressful and difficult in some instances, should ultimately be conducted in such a manner that the dog can still engage.
And this poor kiddo just shuts down entirely.
Contrast this with this video of Dax learning a force fetch with low level ecollar work:
Force fetch is a fairly difficult, very precise, demanding skill for most dogs, especially in the early stages of learning it (which this video was taken in). However, Dax is far from shutting down, and is taking the pressure of the ecollar with equanimity, and he’s performing his task with focus and willingness.
I do admit that I probably spent too long training him for the video (session should have stopped after he did really good and stood up for deep scratches) but this is how your dog should act during any training. Taking your dog for a walk very CERTAINLY qualifies as training.
And ultimately, trust the evidence of your eyes, and the analysis of your higher brain functions. Don’t trust the words of somebody with an agenda, especially somebody who is an absolutist with an agenda.
If your dog is slinking away from you, folding up into a ball, hiding from you in his crate, shutting down, then stop because Something Is Wrong. Training can be hard, and yes, you are pushing the dog, but they should still be there with you, they should still be engaged, they should be present in the training (and in the best instances, they are having fun!)
And really, trust your dog.
They’re usually right.