Working Dog or Pet Dog? Training issues....(10 Posts)
I've just met our lovely trainer in town who is well versed in the training and behaviour of pet dogs. She advised us to see a specialist working dog trainer for our pup who she feared may bite someone. I have been reading up a bit about working dogs and their needs. With another of our dogs, several years ago, it really came to light that a pet dog trainer/behaviourist (all APDT etc) wasn't going to cut it and luckily, while I was tearing my hair out and pulling out my eyelashes in despair, I found a breed specific trainer.
It's all a steep learning curve and interesting to find that working dogs are not bred as pets, or neccesarily for temperament, and have drives and instincts that have been bred out of showing/pet dog lines.
So... We have all worky work dogs, a goof, a nervous wreck and a snapdragon. Well, well, well.... I always thought collies were mad. They're not. But they are special.
I think a breed specific trainer is worthwhile. I stopped going to my local training classes because the trainer didn't seem to have any understanding of my saluki pup. He is quite aloof, doesn't like being cuddled too much, but she insisted that we spent 5 minutes showering them with affection putting them on our laps etc. I should have stopped when it became obvious that he's had enough but she persuaded me to carry on, saying he needed to get used to it, and he gave me quite a couple of quite aggressive nips. More aggressive than he's been before or since and I found it very upsetting. I really ought to look around for a different class, though he doesn't have any particular big training problems, but think it would help keep us on the straight and narrow.
Honestly, a good trainer, a properly educated trainer, will be able to train any breed. Dogs learn in the same universal way whether they're a chihuahua or a great Dane. Obviously certain breeds have strong traits (collies herd, are intelligent and neurotic, beagles are obsessive sniffers, sighthounds have enormous prey drive, GSDs are often fiercely loyal) but those are huge generalisations and in many cases the personality of an individual dog has a much bigger impact on their behaviour than their breed does.
Many trainers who market themselves as experts in a particular breed are not properly qualified. Those who've done the work and understand the theory correctly will have all the skills they need to cope with whatever any breed can throw at them.
I take our three greys and a lurcher to regular training with an APDT trainer and he is superb with our dogs. I agree with DunelmDoris about the points about how dogs learn, though sighthounds often have some specific issues which are worth bearing in mind e.g. they rarely find a sit posture comfortable. Both our regular trainer and our Rally coach are hugely experienced and positive about helping ex working sighthounds learn, and in fact they have challenged me in a good way to push past the "all greyhounds are dimwitted" ideas that are often promoted by rescues and even other greyhound owners.
Having said that, I'm going along to a workshop with Jim Greenwood this coming weekend, a very well known lurcher trainer who crosses over beautifully, as he has extensive experience with working his dogs but also has an Animal Behaviour degree so is comfortable with and very up to date with current thinking on positive dog training, so a great combination.
I do hear some quite alarming things about some gundog trainers who seem to be wedded to some very old fashioned, dominance based methods and are happy to use aversives in some cases. Obviously not all, but it crops up often enough to be a concern.
What breed have you got?
If it is a gundog breed, buy a copy of 'The Pet Gundog' from amazon (it isn't cheap, but it is cheaper than a session with a trainer) and read it from cover to cover, and then read it again.
It will be invaluable in helping you understand your dog, and also help you see how idiotic it is to think that 'drives and instincts' have been bred out of pet dogs. It is just nonsense to think that, sorry.
And then read this:
I've heard awful things about gundog trainers and sheepdog trainers get a bad rep too. There are good ones out there too! There are always rubbish people amongst those who should know better
I go to classes run by our local trainer because he has 7 collies! I have a collie & he knows what makes them tick. I'm not sure I'd be so keen if I had a lab for example...
I'm afraid I don't agree that any trainer will be able to cope with any breed. We're not in the UK, but I've personally watched five different trainers/behaviorists, all of whom were well respected members of our country's equivalent of the APDT, try to work with two different Caucasian Ovcharkas (two different dogs, one male, one female, cases several months apart). It was a disaster, all of them ended up needing at least one set of stitches. All five trainers agreed on both occasions that the respective dogs were far too aggressive and had too many problems, their recommendation was pts in both cases as they were apparently completely untrainable. All of them said that they would not work with Ovcharkas again.
I was watching both times as the shelter had asked if DH and I would take the dogs on as we've had Ovcharkas before, and I am fascinated by different training methods. Plus I wanted to see how severe their problems actually were. Both of those dogs are lying by my feet happily knawing on bones as I type this. Neither of them have ever growled at me (or DH or DS), bitten me, or shown any aggression to me. They are extremely protective but they are incredibly obedient, affectionate, calm and happy dogs.
If the shelter had picked someone with experience of the breed, things would have gone a lot more smoothly, there are some breeds which do need more specialist training, although in general I agree that a reputable trainer ought to be able to train most dogs.
Oh, and I should add that neither of them had any problems, apart from ddog1's adoration of slobbering my feet in the middle of the night , they were just typical of their breed.
I think it's great when a trainer recognises their limitations.
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