Saturday, October 24, 2015

Show Me Your Soufflé

Someone posted a video on Facebook. 

The video was of someone I have actually met, and someone I watched do a multi-hour presentation a few weeks ago. A good trainer. A nice man.

The caption on the video said this trainer was "debunking" what another dog man (whom I have also met) has said about dominance.  That would be interesting but in fact, this trainer never mentions or even alludes to the other trainer at all!  Nor does this "debunking" trainer ever define dominance in any way, shape, or form. Nor does the trainer who is supposedly being "debunked" use the term "dominance" in the way suggested.

I fired off a comment noting that the video does NOT say what is being said. The label on the tin has no relationship to what is in the box.

I then asked the person doing the posting whether they had ever read anything ever written by the trainer supposedly being debunked.

Answer: NO.

Now here's the interesting thing. There was no apology for slagging someone this person had never read or met. There was no apology for passing on a lie.

Further questioning revealed that no effort had actually been expended to read or learn anything about either of these dog trainers.

And the bullshit video remained up. 

This is increasingly how it goes in this "Facebook world". It's simply too easy to write a caption and click "share" and pass on pure malarkey.

I mention this because this kind of stuff is not isolated.

Look at the people who opine about e-collars. Just ask them if they own one! Use an e-collar? Good Lord, they don't have to actually own one or use one to be an EXPERT do they?  I mean, just look at their dog leaping up on the kitchen table. Surely that's proof of their dog-training expertise, is it not?

And all e-collars are alike right?  Just ask them if you do not believe it!

And so it goes, down the list.  No they have never used a prong collar, but they are experts on them! They have never used a halter or a slip collar, but they are experts on those too. Just ask them!

I am NOT not a dog trainer. I have said this so often that people seem to get confused.  They think I must be a dog trainer because I say I am not a dog trainer and someone else once described me as one.  Please. NO. I am not a dog trainer.

You see, I KNOW dog trainers. These are not folks who have trained a few puppies to sit-stay for a minute. These folks are REAL dog trainers. These folks are paid a lot of money to train dogs because they are worth it. You want to see what they can do? They can show you with their dogs and with yours.

Please do not confuse the folks at Pet Smart with these folks.

Please do not tell me you are a dog trainer because your Labrador Retriever will jump in the car on command.

If that's your standard, your standard is too damn low.  The fact that you can scramble eggs does not make you a chef. Trust me on this one.

A real dog trainer is not going to tell you
that any tool is wrong. Every tool has its place. There's more than one way to skin a cat -- or train, or rehab, a dog.

You do not see carpenters debating hammers. They may have a preference, based on experience, but if you need a roof put on and insist they use a 9 oz cobbler's hammer instead of a 20 oz claw or framing hammer, they can work with it -- especially if you are going to pay them by the hour!

As Michael Jordan so aptly put it
, "It's not the shoes."

And it's also not about a theory.

That's terrific that someone has a PhD in "ethology" and  they wrote their thesis about communication patterns among Mynah birds.

You say they are ALSO experts in every species of animal communication AND evolution?

Right. Fascinating.

Show me their dogs.

You say they have dog training certificates -- a virtual alphabet soup follows their name?


Show me their dogs. 

Show me what they can do with a leash-reactive Pit Bull.... a phobic Chihuahua... an Irish Setter with separation anxiety... a sheep-worrying Lurcher.... a Sheltie that is a chronic barker.... and two fighting Jack Russell terrier bitches from the same litter.

Now, here's the good news.  Real dog trainers CAN show you what they can do. These folks have entire channels full of YouTube videos, and more and more are loading up live training and Question and Answer sessions on Periscope.

My cell phone pings several times a day with someone doing a new live training session. I watch a few.  Most are not award-winning in terms of production or delivery, but so what?  I am not looking to learn about movie making.  I am looking to learn more about dog training from REAL dog trainers who are better than me. It's a low bar, and at least once a day someone crosses it, and I learn something new.

But am I turning to "ethologists," dog breeders, vet techs, lawyers, or tax men to learn about dog training?  I am not. I am looking to learn from someone who actually trains dogs for a living -- who smells of DOG, rather than theory and lamp oil.

Call me old-fashioned, but I want to learn cooking from someone who has spent at least 10,000 hours behind a stove and who teaches other cooks how to cook. I know how to scramble an egg. I am not looking for someone to tell me there is only one way to crack the shell based on what they were once told by someone else on Facebook.

A real chef can cook on gas or electric, a campfire, or a sterno can.

A real chef can show you his soufflé.


Donald McCaig said...

Dear Patrick,

There are any number of people setting up shop as "herding" trainers. When a novice asks me how to evaluate a trainer I've never met I say, "Has he ever won an open sheepdog trial? If the answer is 'no' grab your wallet and run."

Donald McCaig

Unknown said...

I think I'm gonna start doing Facebook LIVE videos.

And it's nice to see you, Mr. McCaig!

Viatecio said...

The fact that so many titles are popping up for pet dogs (and have been for quite a while now) show how quickly the bar is lowered in terms of standards.

First there was obedience.

Now we have trick training, obedience Lite (see "Rally" and/or "Beginner/Graduate" classes), parkour, agility, herding, flyball, barn hunt, and lure coursing, among others. All of which have their own set of titles for which the dog can earn after achieving a particular "level" of "performance."

I am NOT slagging that people are actually going out and doing these activities with their dogs. ANYTHING that gets people and their dogs out, keeps them active/fit, keeps the dogs occupied and gives them a mental/physical outlet in this day and age is awesome. Amazing. Kudos to those people and their dogs for leaving the confines of the house, yard and neighborhood walkies on a MORE than regular basis!

What I'm complaining about is that people earn these titles or train for them and say they have a "trained" dog and what's worse, "trainers" out there exist to ONLY teach these particular disciplines. Obedience is so boring, strict and regimented compared to the excitement and speed of agility, the "instinct" of herding or barn hunt, the FUN of "tricks." Look at all the things they can do without having to MAKE the dog do anything or STRESS it out by making it hold a sit for 5 minutes or walk calmly at heel while maintaining focus around DISTRACTIONS. It's all based on rewarding and feeling good so here, let's degrade true obedience by doing same with it! Even better, when the dog makes a mistake, you just laugh it off, withhold your treat reward, and try again.

When your average dog in suburbia blows a recall when the gate is left open or ignores a call-off from an exciting chase in prey drive, there is a high potential of injury or death in the maze of busy streets. Owners go through the stress of posting flyers, calling shelters and vet offices to BOLO and oh by the way he isn't microchipped because he NEVER leaves the yard or has ALWAYS came back in the past. Laugh that one off, why don't you.

When a dog violently pulls someone around on-leash, laugh off the chronic neck/back injuries to him and the shoulder/back strain to the human. After all, one is "working with a trainer" or bought the latest pain-free-but-not-pain-free "no-pull" device and the issue is still a "work in progress" six years later, but look at all these agility and trick titles we have! Maybe even a CGC from some unnamed evaluator with standards lower than a snake's belly! And he's a therapy dog too!

As with you, when someone claims they are a trainer, SHOW ME THE DOG!