Dog Trainers Don’t Fix Dogs
The Problems of the Modern Dog
Our dogs are not born with the knowledge of how to live in our modern world. Just like children they have to be guided and taught. It is the duty of every dog owner and is best done with the help of dog trainers. The dog’s biological needs must be fulfilled, the ones that they were bred for, the ones that make their souls sing.
But there is a problem.
Most dog owners have a very limited pool of knowledge when it comes to raising a sound and well mannered dog. The knowledge the average owner has is gleaned from having a few dogs, the internet, maybe a couple of books, some time working at a shelter, youtube, etc. It is a patchy and very incomplete collection.
Naturally most owners try their best with what they know, even when it’s limited, and that quality is something that I will always admire in dog owners, even if it ends up causing them trouble. The willingness and determination to try to find solutions is always a good thing, because then all that is missing is the correct knowledge and skills.
That being said, more often than not, the holes in the average owner’s knowledge DO get them into trouble.
Whether this is because confusion, a lack of action, fear, incorrect application of a technique, incomplete or incorrect knowledge about training, outdated knowledge, unethical techniques, or misunderstanding of dog behavior, it doesn’t really matter. The problem is the same. The knowledge isn’t complete or thorough. And why would it be? Dog owners are not dog trainers.
This is the situation that the average dog is thrown into and it can be messy. The lack of knowledge from the owner almost always begins to create problems with the dog. Ineffective communication systems, misunderstandings and misconceptions causing the wrong responses from the humans, it’s not pretty. Add on top of this life obligations and stresses that aren’t the dog, and now we have a perfect storm.
It is hard to admit you might need help with your dog. It is hard to have a dog in the modern day WITHOUT help and guidance. The owners who I see are all typical and average, just trying to figure out how to live well with their dogs. How to change behaviors that are problematic and causing conflict. These are not bad owners, these are not bad dogs. Our modern life does not put dog ownership on easy mode!
When confronted with the challenges and stressors that our urban and suburban lives demand, dogs can tend to get a bit wonky behaviorally.
Gone are the farms where they helped all day. Gone is the work they performed tirelessly at our sides. Instead they have gilded cages in the form of yards and houses. Isolated from real stimulation, restricted from performing normal and natural dog behaviors, or placed in overwhelming social situations like dog parks and daycares. Life is different and it is not better for our dogs.
The Myth of Fixing Dogs
The behavioral challenges that dogs face often come from stressors in our modern lives, and usually these behaviors are not compatible with how the humans imagined their life with their dog.
“Well can’t you just fix it?” I am asked.
No, I can’t. Because there is nothing wrong with the dog, they are merely responding to the stressors in their life. Addressing those with appropriate lifestyle changes is what will change the dog’s behavior for the better. Fulfilling the dog’s needs will stop the destructive behavior, the digging, the barking, the hyperactive and overenergized companion. Removing the stress will help them recover.
And yet this is a hard pill to swallow for many owners. They don’t want to deal with the dog’s behavior and also don’t want to make lifestyle changes that would make the dog’s life bearable. So they ask me to fix it. They are certain there is a way to do so. To break the behavior. To just give a solution that will magically change things.
I don’t have a wand.
The reality of the dog’s life is overlooked, they have food, shelter, are petted, played with, and pampered; isn’t that enough? It’s not a stressful life from the human’s perspective, and yet is the opposite type of life that the dog would choose for themselves.
It is not a life that will promote behavioral wellness. The dog is not broken. The lifestyle he is forced to live in is. This is a hard truth that many owners either don’t realize, or want to avoid facing.
Dog Trainers are not Magical
I hate to break it to you, but there it is.
We will help move mountains for owners who are struggling to move them alone. We are educators, dog and owner advocates, and here to help. But we have limitations.
As dog trainers we can’t just fix your dog. We can’t end a behavior that is stemming from a lifestyle issue or other conflict. That has to be addressed. Otherwise it’s like putting a Bandaid on a gunshot wound. It won’t help effectively.
This is why I have a wellness program that all my clients and their dogs get. Each case is unique with its own challenges and variables. Changing the lifestyle to better suit the dog and fulfill their needs is where we always begin, before we even start training!