If we are to give a definition of a dog trainer, it is worth looking at the verb to educate. The National Textual and Lexical Resource Centre gives an interesting definition: to give a person all the care necessary for the formation and development of his personality. This, in the dog world, means that we are far from training. Education includes care, training and development. We will speak here of ethology and respect for ethological needs.
The term “training” is most often used to refer to working dogs. But to tell the truth, the world of “dressage” has evolved over the last 50 years. Not enough since electric collars are still not forbidden in France (they are in Switzerland, in Germany, in Wales… but not here). A bill (N°1206) aiming at banning spiked collars and training collars by electrical stimulation, has been submitted in 2018 !!! But for the time being and despite the Dombreval bill (N°3265) things are stagnating from this point of view..
In the United States, however, the true professionals of training have understood that the best way to train an animal is to get it to cooperate. Try punishing a dolphin that doesn’t obey you…
It’s a question of terminology if you accept that the most important thing is respect for the animal and the use of gentle, positive methods. Even (and especially) with a Malinois, you will always get better results with positive methods. Punishment is of no use at all. The clicker-training wave comes from dolphin trainers. We are not talking about educators but about trainers and yet they were the first to understand that the voluntary participation of the animal pays more than its submission.
There are many dog trainers available on the net. Again, common sense should prevail. Never let a trainer manhandle your pet, scare it (even with a water bottle filled with coins or rocks) or shake it with the leash. You will only damage the dog-human relationship. These methods still exist and are more common than you might think. Ask for advice. Try it out. But above all, keep control of the exercises proposed. The trainer can call himself a professional, but you are and remain the dog’s referent..
Your dog trusts you, don’t take him anywhere, be careful.
A session lasts about an hour.
Moreover, the sessions are not held in a club, but at home, or in town, or in the country. This is because the dog integrates the context at the same time as the work. Your dog knows how to sit when you ask him to, standing in front of him. But one day, you are invited to a friend’s house, sitting at the table, you ask him to sit and he does not. He doesn’t disobey. He has just learnt that at home, when you are standing, he has to sit. All in all, any work with a dog should be done in changing contexts and with increasing difficulty. Remember that on the day of an exam, you forget a lot of your knowledge, don’t you? Stress also makes us lose our nerve and we forget many things and gestures on the day of the competition… for the dog it is the same thing. You have to get him to act in all contexts. For this reason, education is often in the form of coaching.
When should you start training your dog (or puppy)? As early as possible. But in reality, there is no age to teach your friend the rules of good manners. Remember that your dog has been raised by his mother (except in exceptional cases) and she has taught him a code of good behaviour for living in a dog society. For example, a dog’s nature is to explore its environment. For this reason, your dog pulls on a leash, nothing abnormal for him. But here’s the thing… your friend actually has to live in your human society and you are the only person who knows the codes..
Do you want a specific example? Mummy dog has made it clear to her babies that they must not relieve themselves in the nest (which would attract predators). Your puppy, when he comes home, has already learnt this rule. The proof: he doesn’t pee in the nice basket you gave him. He does much more than that.
Your job is to explain that the nest has changed in size. The nest is the flat. Again, if you punish your dog for something he didn’t do, you’re making two mistakes yourself:
1/ the punishment is useless.
2/ the punishment is unfair and you’ll come across as unfair and unstable to your puppy. He will not trust you.
Every time you punish your dog, you are teaching him to do the “wrong thing” in your absence. Punishment teaches nothing else.
As you can see, there are several ways of looking at dog training. The so-called traditional method places the master in the position of a commanding officer who expects unfailing obedience from his dog. I ask my dog to sit by pressing on his train. If he complies, so much the better. If not, I force him. The principle is that if the dog doesn’t obey, I give him something unpleasant to do. The more marked side of this method is coercive. My dog disobeys: I send an electric current. Some will tell you that the results are there. This is of course not true. On the one hand the relationship is broken. If I put a gun to your head, you will obey me. But you won’t trust me. Secondly, a dog wearing an anti-bark collar often continues to bark. So the method doesn’t work..
The dog trainer who practices positive education has every chance of success. And here’s why: saying no teaches nothing. That’s what you have to remember. If I forbid you to raise your arm and say NO every time you raise it, I’m not teaching you that you should put it behind your back. Do you agree with that? Another example: Your dog puts his paws on the table. You shout: NO! He goes down. You have not taught him not to put his paws on the table, but only to get down. You can see that dog training is often more subtle than we think, and it really is a good idea to seek professional help as you would in other areas.
Clicker training is wonderful and I don’t mince my words. It is a tool that gives you precision and accuracy in telling the dog what you want him to do. The clicker allows you to create a space in which the dog will express itself. Let’s be clear: if you’re terribly intelligent but your boss won’t allow you to give your opinion at all, how can you show your intelligence?
You’ve got it. Beyond education, there is a way to create an extraordinary relationship with your dog by letting him express himself in a controlled setting.
This is what every good referent should offer his dog: a framework of expression in which he can flourish.
Why is it called a referent? Because you have to be the reference of a world of humans for a dog that only knows dog language. Please contact me to find out more about clicker training.