Navigating The Dog Training Jungle

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By Sean O’Shea

If you’re struggling with behavior issues with your dog, know that I feel for you. Not just because you’re dealing with behavior issues, but because it’s so hard to make sense of what training and trainer to trust. There are so many conflicting opinions and approaches, so many diametrically opposed points of views – I just feel for anyone trying to make sense of what’s best and what and who to trust.

Every time an owner shows up to work with us, I know they’ve probably spent hours upon hours trying to decide what to do and who to trust – with the ever-present worry of making things worse and/or not making any progress at all.

I know how hard it has been for me to find my way, to figure out what I believe and what makes sense, through all the conflicting noise and near-religious zeal many in the dog world take in regards to training – and I’ve had the luxury of being immersed in it for years. So for the average owner trying to make sense of all of this, I know it’s rough.

On one hand you have some folks saying you will ruin your dog if you use this tool or that approach, and on the other you have people saying if you don’t use this tool or that approach you won’t get anywhere. (And I’m making some very big simplifications and generalizations here – the real story is far more confusing, difficult, and scary to navigate.)

The upshot is that I truly feel for you and I cheer anyone on that is trying to make sense of the dog training world and find solutions for their dog’s issues. The main reason I make videos is so folks see what we do and what it looks like – rather than talking about what works or doesn’t, I’d rather show you what we find to work. Of course that doesn’t mean it’s the only way – there are millions of ways to successfully train a dog – it’s just what we believe in and what we’ve found works best for us and our clients.

My suggestion is this: in this day of video on every phone, trainers should be easily able to show what kind of results their work produces. If not, it would give me pause. Personally, I’d want to see what they do, not just hear about it. If a trainer has serious opinions on aggression (dog to dog or dog to people), fear, or any other serious behavior issue rehab, they better be able to show proof of their philosophy and approach. If they have big opinions and zero evidence of the efficacy of those opinions, something is fishy. (There’s lots of talk about science based training, and using rewards only to rehab serious problems – but unfortunately I don’t see these people showing serious dogs making serious progress. If the program works so good, it should be easy enough to show.)

So do your research, read up, get as educated as you can, and perhaps most importantly, look for proof of results. When you see a trainer regularly making great progress, that’s a pretty good sign. And if you can’t find someone in your area you trust, or you’re just unsure, you can always email us for a recommendation and we’ll do our best to help point you in a good direction. (thegooddog.la@gmail.com)

It’s a jungle out there. Hang in there.

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2 comments
  1. Eric T. Whitley said:

    Sean,
    Just found your internet presence. I own a consulting company and it’s growing. I’m 59 and plan on turning over the reins of my company at 63. Then I plan on becoming a dog trainer. You (and Cesar) are the models for me. My early years were spent as a falconer with trained dogs for hunting, then just training hunting dogs along the way with a much more than full time career.
    I need you to keep doing what you’re doing. On June 1st, 2018, I’ll be signing up for whatever seminar system you have at the time, moving to the Pacific NW and starting in on relationship molding and family hunting dog training business. It’s mapped out, planned out and just needs to be carried out.
    Everything you do in your training, approach and dealing with people (you’re a great listener) matches what I’ve found to be effective (tools, consistency, leadership etc). My problem is mastery and the time it takes to get there and that I can’t be full time at this until I’m 62 (good shape and still can remember my dogs names). All the nuances and technology (I’ve been a zealot over cable leashes and flat wide collars that transmit a pop the best) are known but not effectively practiced in my part time, friends helper/trainer.
    The business side, I’d like to share a book with you. It’s called “Profit First” and is a must read for understanding how best to ensure all the effort makes sense. I have a growing consulting company that never made “real profit” until I read this and restructured. http://www.amazon.com/Profit-First-Transform-Cash-Eating-Money-Making/dp/0981808298

    Best of luck and keep going. See you sometime in the second half of 2018.
    Best,
    Eric T. Whitley

  2. I really enjoyed this article. I know for a fact how frustrating it can be to be on the dog training program merry-go-round. The the worst part of a year my wife and I bounced from one trainer and program to another and our dog was no closer to being house broken than when we started. Do it this way, that way oh yeah, the wrong way.

    I almost started thinking that I had the world most retarded dog. It finally worked out, but geez.

    Anyway, Thanks for the article.

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