Mark's Dog Blog

Dog trainers selling snake oil

Your dog is not a robot!
Reliable does not mean guaranteed!
No matter what you are training your dog to do, and no matter what training methodology or tool you subscribe to, there is no such thing as a 100% fully trained dog.
For example, any trainer that informs you that once he or she has trained your dog that they can guarantee your dog will recall off lead every time in any given situation, or under any distraction, or instantly respond to a command every single time, is selling you a lie for no other reason than to take your money. They are selling snake oil to dog owners in desperate need of help.
You can guarantee one day when you least expect it, the training will fail you and your dog, and it doesn't matter what methodology or tools your dog was trained with. There will be times or situations that your dogs, instincts, drives, desire or motivation will override its training. Training a dog is a life long commitment of consistent and continual reinforcement, and maintaining consistent discipline through rules and boundaries.
If for example you want a 'reliable' recall under any distraction, then the only way this can be achieved is if you can reinforce this command every single time you give your dog the recall command. So if your dog is roaming around free, how can you enforce the command when your dog refuses to obey due to a stronger motivator? In my opinion there are only 2 options:
  1. Your dog has a long lead attached to its collar every single time you allow your dog to roam free. Your dog drags this lead around. By doing this you can reinforce your recall under any distraction every single time by taking hold of the lead, and using pressure (negative reinforcement) to make your dog return on command, or;
  2. Your dog has an 'invisible' lead. A remote training collar (RTC) is used to apply pressure (negative reinforcement) no different to applying pressure on a long lead. The RTC is on your dog every time your dog is roaming free. Having said this, the RTC is NOT a quick fix for reliable recalls, you need to learn how condition your dog to respond to the collars stimulation and how to use the collar correctly. Please DO NOT rush out and purchase an RTC and start using it on your dog without professional instruction first!! If you can't get professional instruction, then stick with option 1.
Yes there are dogs that are so responsive to their owners that the owner feels that no matter what they ask of their dog, their dog always responds immediately. I would suggest that you would be lucky if this 1 in 200 dogs, and still there will be situations that most of these types of dogs will be influenced by a stronger motivator, its just that the dogs owner hasn't come across it yet.
So if a trainer informs you that they 'guarantee' they will train your dog to recall 100% of the time, or obey every command every single time, and that their method is so full-proof that after training your dog you will never have to reinforce commands, look at them through very suspicious eyes! I see this a lot with some trainers that offer board and train services, whereby a dog is trained with very low level distractions at the trainers location. The owner picks up their dog after its 2 to 4 weeks training, goes to the training yard with the trainer, and yep by magic their dog recalls every single time... Unless this trainer also includes a tool and instruction on how to reinforce the command every single time it is offered, and instructs the owner how to do this correctly, then the chances you have a guaranteed recall trained dog, is very, very, very slim indeed, and in my opinion very doubtful.
Please don't listen to trainers that are selling you snake oil! You may live to regret it. Training and reinforcing your training is a permanent part of your relationship with your dog. No amount of training your dog received, no matter the method, can ever guarantee that your dog is trained for life for every situation. Part of the joy of owning a dog is getting out there and training your dog.
Dog trainers selling snake oil - part 2
Road rage, not just a human condition

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