The most obvious advantage is convenience. We live hectic lives. If you have kids and a career, even more so. When did kids start having so much to do? Training a dog takes a lot of time and the more frequent that you can train, the more likely they will learn and retain the information. So, on the time and convenience factor, it’s clear that having someone train for you is a winner. Plus, let’s face it, not everyone has the timing and skills to train a dog as a professional will possess. Perhaps you don’t feel confident enough in your abilities, knowledge or skills to do it yourself.
In my professional opinion, those are the only advantages to those hands off approaches. Now to outline why I generally try to talk people out of them.
- First of all, they tend to be VERY expensive. I know that I charge more for day training than regular sessions. Yes, I am putting the money thing first. Money talks, right?
- Training is a bonding and relationship building experience. This doesn’t mean that if you don’t do the training, your dog won’t bond with you, but it will be so much stronger and you will learn about all the finer nuances of your dog’s personality and learning ability if you do it yourself. I have seen so many owners get gleeful, proud looks on their faces when their dog may have struggled with a behavior and then they finally understand and do it. Most people are pretty astonished at how quickly their dog learns new behaviors.
- I would say that at least half of dog training isn’t about training the dogs, it’s about training the people. Just as I stated in the previous point, training is a bonding experience and having a professional there to point out changes in body language, what it means and also helping coach you on your skills and timing is incredibly valuable and will help you far beyond our training sessions. In my training sessions, I have the owners practice the skills that I just showed them so I can help troubleshoot if something isn’t going right or point out what they are doing right (positive reinforcement for the owners is important too!). You can watch someone do a task and think that it looks easy and you wouldn’t have a problem doing them, but when you actually do them, most people fumble and need a professional there to help guide them.
- If you haven’t read about this recent animal abuse case by a dog trainer all in the name of training, I recommend that you do. Warning, the abuse caught on video is extremely disturbing. One good thing has come of it and that is that NYC is passing laws to require dog trainers to be licensed. This has been something that I have been hoping would happen for many years. Anyone can call themselves a dog trainer. No licensing is required. If you cannot see what is going on with your dog during the training process, it’s probably not something that you want to do. I have known MANY dog trainers to use harsh methods with dogs all in the name of training. What they may show you in person may not be what they do when you leave. I would never trust my dog in a board and train facility unless I knew them personally and had been able to observe what they do with the dogs in their care.
- Dogs do not generalize well so even if the dog will do the behaviors for the trainer, this does not mean that it will transfer to someone else. Sure, I can get the dog to do the behaviors if I train them, but I'm not the one that dog ultimately needs to listen to. Yes, a trainer can show you how to do maintain the behaviors, but if one person has been doing the training up to this point, the dog may not be consistent with someone else. We all tend to do hand signals and other body signals, tone of voice, etc. differently and if there wasn't variation while training, they will not respond well.