Bring up any dog training philosophy and you are sure to have people tell you that it’s the wrong dog training philosophy. Whether you think you are all positive, a balanced trainer, positive first, or LIMA, there is someone who is happy to jump in and tell you what you think is wrong and it cannot be done the way you are trying to do it. Many of those people who are most argumentative online have few successes to show for their own style or experience. Others get so lost in the weeds discussing the elements surrounding a particular case that they lose track of what they are actually trying to accomplish. I recently listened to a group of trainers discussing an issue with a dog barking along a fenceline. They spent the better half of ten minutes discussing the fence, different kinds of fencing, how long the fence line was, how far it was from the house, how big the yard was, and the breed of the dog. In the end, they did not ever discuss how to stop the dog from barking at the fenceline.
So, if you are new to dog training as a profession, how do you determine which of the many, many paths is right for you?
Find a successful mentor.
Having someone in real life is best, but online will work. There are countless options on the internet from amazing coaches and trainers right now. Just, make sure it is someone reputable who has real life experience to back up their claims.
Get your information from a broad set of sources.
Look at how other trainers in other sports or disciplines do it. Never stop learning new things.
Decide what methods work for you.
The more you work with dogs, the more you will find which styles work best for you.
The best way to learn to train dogs is by training dogs. Get your hands dirty with lots of repetition. Volunteer with rescues or shelters if you can. Spend time with your dog working on the mechanics.
As you progress, you may change your mind about different philosophies, lord knows I have changed my style over the past twenty years. Don’t be afraid to do different things if you feel it would work better. Don’t be afraid to try something new or to challenge yourself.* Even if you fail, as long as you are not hurting the dog or yourself, it will most likely not have any long lasting detrimental effect. You won’t grow if you don’t push your boundaries.
Until next time, stay healthy, wear your mask, and get out there and do something with your dog.
*This does not apply to aggression cases. If you want to train or rehab aggressive dogs, it is imperative that you work with someone who has experience in this field or you will put yourself, and others at risk, including the dog.