Part 3 - Dog Trainer Red Flags

We’re back again with insights into choosing a dog trainer. In this final installment (for now) we bring you our Part 3 on how to pull the curtain back on those often hidden red flags you need to know about in order to choose a qualified trainer.

Catch up with Part 1 and Part 2 in the series by clicking those beautiful orange letters.

Wrapping up, we’re zeroing in on trainer ethics. You see, professional Modern Trainers should hold themselves to a high code of ethics. Those of us who do, as members of the best trainer associations, even sign our names to a Code of Ethics. Members are required to behave with our clients’ and their dogs’ best interest at the forefront of every decision and action. This includes the training gear we use, the disclosure of practices and clarity of expectations in training. 

Let’s look at how this applies to your experience with a dog trainer.

PSA #5

“Guaranteed!” We love hearing that, don’t we? It assures us there is no risk. It helps us make buying decisions. It tells us we can have full confidence in the service provider, right? What’s to lose when you have a guarantee?

However, your dog is not a set of defined unchanging pieces, like a computer waiting to be fixed with a new part or reboot. As one of my trainers likes to say, “Your dog is not a refrigerator. They can't be fixed with a new part.” That's not how behavior works. That's not how training works. You can't guarantee a trained behavior is going to always be 100% reliant in a dog. When a trainer promotes that they offer a guarantee, this is a big red flag.

Just like ourselves, dogs are experiencing life and all the information it gives them. Their behaviors are based on the pieces of feedback they gather from it, genetics, early socialization, their owner’s training knowledge and commitment to supporting them in training and so much more. So, how would it be possible to guarantee training outcomes? It’s not.

Therefore, guarantees in dog training are completely unethical to state under any terms. This is so important that we dedicated an entire section of our website to debunking this concept. You can read more about this here.

PSA #6

Brace yourselves for this next one.

We get inquiries regularly asking if we do Board and Train. See Parts 1 and 2 of this series for some of the reasons why we don’t offer this service. 

If you’re considering it anyway, please put on your detective hat to understand why this may not be a good choice for your beloved friend. It takes just a few minutes to uncover what your dog will experience in this situation and if it is the right choice for both of you. Remember, in this scenario, your dog will be trained away from you, at a facility and without your watchful eyes there. 

When screening a trainer for this type of training, look at their social media posts. On social media, that's where you find much more information about their methods that doesn't show up on their websites or in an interview. We often have friends ask us what we think about a specific trainer and, if we are unfamiliar with them, we always go straight to the trainer’s social media posts.

Watch their videos for a full view of the training gear and methods they use. This is where you can spot the telltale signs of a trainer who is using old fashioned training; shock collars or intimidation tactics. If you can see two collars on the dog they are training, this is another huge red flag. One collar makes sense. That holds the dog's ID or a tracking device maybe. Do you see a second collar? Why would a dog need a second collar? A dog doesn't need a second collar.

A second collar usually has a little box on it that is a shock device or a “vibration device,” as the trainer may tell you it is. There will usually be a piece hanging down, the extra length of the collar, because that collar is not fitted to that specific dog, because that collar comes off and is used on different dogs in training, so it needs to be left the full length so they can fit it to the neck of whatever dog they're working with. So look for short haired dogs where it’s easier to see this on their social media photos or videos.

You might see the trainer holding a large rectangular device or reaching into their pocket for it. That is the remote shock device. If the trainer doesn't come out of their pocket with some yummy treats for that dog, they’re probably working the shock device in their pocket.

Please protect your dogs. 

It's not that these trainers mean any harm. It's not that they're trying to do wrong or harm dogs, though they are. They simply think that this is the way to train. Someone else taught them that this is how to train. Perhaps they don't stay up on continuing education and read the most recent research papers and studies that would clearly state these methods are long outdated. A professional trainer should be reading those studies and position papers to see there's another way to train that gets great results.

Those are some things to watch for. You can also watch the dog's body language. If you see…

  • The dog's ears are pinned back,
  • The dog's mouth gets tight when they're near the trainer,
  • Their tail tucks,
  • Their body becomes slightly curved or tight,

These are other signs that something's not happy with that dog and a dog should be happy when training because training should be fun. 

Most people are surprised to learn about these revealing items. It’s important that you do your due diligence when selecting a dog trainer. Training can and should be a life changing experience for good, not one that sets you back in your training goals, wastes precious time and money or inflicts behavioral damage.

Even specialty areas of dog training that have long used aversive techniques, such as dog training for hunting dogs and police or protection work are completely possible and successful using Modern Training with absolutely no force or corrective equipment. 

It’s a new day and we know better now.


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