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I Need Help With My Dog

Help, I need somebody. Help, not just anybody.

Help, you know I need someone, help!

The Beatles 1965

Just as the Beatles sang these lyrics several decades ago, modern dog owners who search for dog training help, lament the same words. Dogs are complex and to understand their behaviour is not always easy.

The behaviour catalog of dogs is to dig, chew, chase, bark and jump-up to greet. In truth, most of what dogs do, we don’t really enjoy. So begins the search for advice to fix a problem.

Fortunately there is help if we sift through the rubble to find the gold-nugget answer. The question is where?

Husky dog waiting for treat from hand.

Not Just Anybody

Am I my mother, am I my father? Our parents’ important values and skills help to shape who we are. Methods to train the family dog change over time. Force and intimidation were hallmarks of an earlier generation and include yanking on choke chains, forcing sits and kneeing jumpy greeters. Unknown at the time, adversive training carries the risky side effect of fear and aggression.

A friend in need is a friend indeed. Abundant advice abounds in social circles and though some may be helpful, much is ineffective or even dangerous. As folk wisdom circulates and “the study of one” surfaces, dog owners can drown in conflicting information.

It's on the Internet. In an era of instant information, the internet is an amazing resource. Tips and tools are widely available. Google search any dog behaviour problem and pages of conflicting methods and heaps of free advice appear. No filter exists for good and effective dog training so at best, it is a shot in the dark.

Might the dog trainer be dog’s best friend? A business card or website could lead to an excellent reward-based dog trainer but not always. The use of words like “dominance,” “leadership” and “being good with dogs,” is not the language of modern dog trainers and a signal to keep looking. A “balanced” trainer is one who uses both treats and pain or intimidation, so pass on that one.

Reward-based dog trainers shout from the rafters, they are not shy about the need to motivate dogs to train them and the power of using treats to do that. Their message is big and bold.

When the trainer has a solid education in animal learning and behaviour modification, the school of their study will be front and centre. There will be clear links to their school and its curriculum. An example is The Academy for Dog Trainers.

Reality TV is about ratings. Producers know real dog training is not particularly entertaining but dog owners are hungry for information so glitzy, Hollywood-style dog training programs are created. The dog trainer is a hero and the dog, a villain. Magical “right energy” triumphs. It is silly and sometimes dangerous; not the kind of advice that helps dogs or people.

So if friends, family, television and the internet are not somebody to go to, what can dog owners do?

Good News! I Found Somebody

People living in British Columbia, Canada can now go to an online registry for accredited dog trainers who use humane, reward-based training and have demonstrated adherence to strict standards implemented by the BC SPCA. The guessing game is over and an expert dog training professional is a few clicks away. Owners take comfort knowing their dog problems will be solved effectively with reward-based training.

For further information on the standards for dog trainers or to find someone near you, click here.

The future looks promising and in time, other jurisdictions may bring forth similar standards which allow dog owners to toss away “anybody” advice and find “somebody” to solve their dog behaviour problems in a humane and effective way.

Who can you turn to for help with your dog?

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