What About Other Dog Training Methods?

What About Other Dog Training Methods?

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Sam Basso
PHOENIX , AZ AREA: (602) 708-4531
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Email: [email protected]

I am NOT a “method” dog trainer. Any trainer that adheres to a specific method (clickers, electric collars, leash and collar, “dog whisperer” method, etc.) is either a novice dog trainer, or someone who is too rigid in their mindset and more concerned with their method than reading the dog and owners they are working with.

(Please Also Read: What’s The Right Way To Train A Dog?Why I Don’t Believe In Clicker Training, Let’s Talk About Electric Collars – And Why I Don’t Use Them, Sixteen Corrections You Should Never Use On A Dog, Staying Motivated To Train Your Dog, Corrections And Dog Training Tips, Buying A Dog / Choosing A Breeder)

I am not a beginner. I’m not in this for the money. I’m not rigid, and I am always learning. I am experienced with all dog training methods. I use my 25+ years of experience, plus the intuition I have developed over the years, to address your dog’s issues. I am known for being thoughtful, kind, clear, and effective. And I have references you can call to confirm I know what I’m doing, and what I do works. In obedience training, I will generally use food, toys, petting, praise, leash and collar. In behavior modification, things get more sophisticated, and it is too complicated to explain here what is done, since each behavior problem has roots in the dog’s genetic temperament, the dog’s history, the people involved, the relationships among the people and the dog, potential medical issues, and environmental factors. What you will find, however, when you speak to my references, is that I don’t hurt dogs, and that past customers will speak very highly of me. I say what I mean, mean what I say, and I treat your dog well.

I always use Bruce Lee as an example. Bruce Lee was a famous martial arts master. He successfully challenged the idea that there was only one “best” martial art. He proved that some methods and techniques were obsolete. He then promoted the idea of having a method that was no method. He then started teaching this to his students… and then closed the schools because he was concerned that even his teachings would evolve into a method.

Likewise, I know all the dog training methods, but I am NOT a method trainer. Method trainers will try to force your dog to do certain things, even when their method isn’t working. It takes intuition to get past this point, and that only comes from many years of experience, and an aptitude for sensing the intentions and feelings of the dog and the owner. And even trainers who have trained dogs for decades don’t necessarily have this intuition… you either do or you don’t. I will say that it takes at least 10 to 15 years of full time dog training to even start to tap into this intuition. It can’t be found in books, videos, classes, seminars, or from college professors or veterinarians. I wrote this article to expose a number of methods which have the potential to cause a lot of harm to you and your dog if followed rigidly. I can always provide references to demonstrate that I do have that intuition, and that I can use it to help you and your dog.

This article has been a work in progress. I have been told by people that I’m one of the most positive, can do, people that they have ever met. Heck… I’m the most positive person I’ve ever met! Yet, this article comes across as pretty negative and maybe cynical… And I apologize for that. See… before I started training dogs for a living, I started out working for animal welfare… specifically focusing on responsible dog ownership. And when I found out over time that some dog trainers were not so nice to dogs… in fact cruel… Well, I just have a soft spot in my heart for dogs. And I don’t like it when trainers don’t know what they are doing. And I especially don’t like it when they are cruel to dogs and and when they take advantage of dog owners just to earn some fast bucks. I’ve seen a lot of stuff over the years. Great dogs and great people. I’ve also seen some folks that had “issues”… Hmmm… let me be a bit more blunt than that. They were sociopaths when it came to dealing with dogs and/or dog owners. So, I apologize for the negative tone in this article… but there are real dogs and bad stories behind each of these points in this article. I’ve volunteered countless hours for animal welfare work… and I’ve never been in this just for the money (By the way, maybe I should be wondering: When am I going to get rich and famous doing this? Hehe…It hasn’t happened yet… nobody ever promised it, either… Well… when you figure that out… send big bagfuls of money… I need a vacation… You can come with, too! Where are we going, by the way?… OK… I’ll be patient. I love surprises…). OK… here’s the article:

Using Prey Drive to motivate this American Bulldog

I practice what I preach. This is me training a customer’s dog, off leash, using “prey drive” for this lesson. Proper motivation results in superior performance.

So, if you don’t know whether I’m the right person to train your dog, then here’s what to do.

First, read through a lot of the articles at my web page. I wrote this to show you that I know what I’m talking about, and to educate my customers. Through those stories and examples, you’ll get to know me and my training philosophy and opinions on dog training. Also, be sure to read my blog, Pooch Master. You’ll learn a great deal about who I am and my commitment to animal welfare.

Second, read how I motivate a dog. Any dog trainer that primarily focuses on using corrections to motivate dogs (I’m especially talking about electric collar trainers… and those folks who say they train like Cesar Millan (my experience is that they are just using his name, never met the guy, never trained with the guy, or are using him as some kind of stepping stone)… read my article on Cesar Millan, by the way) should be ELIMINATED from your list. Eliminate ALL of the trainers that use electric collars as their “method”. Top trainers don’t focus on using electric collars or force to get top performance. Instead, they focus on working dogs in a positive or pleasurable “drive”. If you ever get a chance to sit down with top trainers and handlers, most of what they talk about is “drive” and how to manipulate it to maximize the performance of the dogs they are working with.You’ll hear terms like “fight drive”, “prey drive”, “food drive”, “pack drive”, and so forth.

Third, go to my competitor’s web pages and compare what they are saying to what I’m saying. Read their training articles. Do they know what they are talking about? Usually, the answer is no. If you don’t see a lot about “drive”, then you are dealing with either a flake or a novice. And if it sounds too good to be true… well, your dad probably told you to watch out for that stuff when you were a kid.

Next, talk to real people. You are going to see a lot of so-called credentials touted by other trainers. Ask for references. You can even see me train a dog if you wish: I’ll arrange for you to meet me and watch me working with a current customer and their dog. I can always give you a credible list of customers. Try doing a reverse directory search of some of the so-called references of some of these trainers you see on the internet. I remember doing that once and finding that the numbers weren’t listed with the people named in the article (I asked myself at the time: were these paid stooges?).

There are several non-profit dog organizations which you can join, supposedly to prove you are a qualified trainer. Though I appreciate these organized efforts to establish qualifications for becoming a dog trainer, these organizations have a long way to go before a consumer can count on them to determine if one of their trainers are worth hiring. They range from very poor to very good. At some point, I might join such an organization, but not yet. I don’t see that these certifications indicate that these members will be able to properly train a dog or deal with most serious behavioral problems.

The same is true with applied animal behaviorists and so-called “certified animal behaviorists: folks who have gotten a PhD in animal behavior. SOME ARE GOOD AND SOME ARE NOT… I’M OBJECT TO THE ONES who can’t or won’t train your dog to obey, who know more about behavioral drugs and the theory of operant conditioning, but can’t relate to how to train a dog to obey you in your home and in your life. I have found their studies were all academic and never dealt with the real world, and some never have even owned or trained a dog, and even will say they don’t believe in dog training at all!  In addition, you will find that their entire program revolves around  clicker training, harnesses/ muzzles, and drug therapy (viewing almost all behavioral problems as a medical problem). When their methods don’t work, they then recommend euthanasia instead of dog training! And you’ll rarely see them train any dog to obey any commands, in public, off leash. So, you had better look into those organizations and certification programs if you are really wanting to work with one of these folks.

There are also dog training franchises you can pay money to join and call yourself a “dog trainer”. They don’t mean a thing. One such franchise charges you thousands of dollars to join their network, and once you do, you get to call yourself a dog trainer. I decided long ago to not waste my time joining them. I know of one such franchise which is comprised mostly of electric collar trainers. Another franchise is one where anyone can join if they pay the money.

If you want credentials, ask for past customer references. Ask them what methods were used on their dogs. Customer referrals are where the rubber meets the road. I am always willing to give you references. Tons of them, if necessary. More than you can and will call to check me out. I never pre-screen my references. I don’t call them and tell them what to say or warn them they are going to get a call. I want you to get it straight from them, good or bad. Ask away. You’ll see they like what I did with them and their dogs, I came to the appointments, I didn’t hurt their dogs, I have high standards and I am relentless in going for a good result, we worked through all the problems they were having, and I knew what I was doing.

The biggest laugh is is when you see a competitor calling themselves a “Master Trainer”. I have only met one of those in my lifetime, and his name is Armin Winkler. I trained with him for 2 years and continue to learn from him, and I give him all the credit for making me into the trainer I am today. He is absolutely phenomenal. And I’m blessed to have had the opportunity to not only train with him, but to be his friend. Go to his web page Rivanna K9. You will see that he doesn’t belong to any of these silly organizations, either. He just has a web page to educate his customers, tell them about his schedule, and to update you on past and upcoming events. Many of those so-called “celebrity” trainers, who write dog training books that you can find in the local bookstore, train with him. He doesn’t have anything to do with these organizations, and they mean nothing regarding how qualified the trainer is. In addition, we have all trained dogs for famous people. I could tell you names of people you would know, famous people: lead singers of rock bands, sports stars, researchers, business icons, the wealthy, etc. but they want their privacy, and I don’t publish those names.

Whether you sign up for private or group lessons with me, feel free to first check me out. And check out my competitors. I have no worries about any of that. I just want to train dogs, not get in a contest with these other folks.

You are also going to see some outlandish sales claims. You are going to see photos of dogs that these guys never even trained! What’s that all about? Who would do that kind of advertising? Imagine, say Nordstrom or Wal-Mart, publishing ads for stuff that they didn’t have in their stores? They’d be laughed out of business. All the pictures on my web page are dogs I’ve personally trained. Some of the photos on these other dog training websites are so old that you’ll find them all over the internet… some are so old I saw them over 10 years ago on other dog training websites when I lived in Seattle. Look around the web… you’ll see which pictures I’m talking about.

And then, I’ve seen there seems to always be someone in every city I’ve been in that says they can completely train your dog to off leash obedience in 3 to 5 lessons. When I travel, and I travel a lot, I like to see what trainers and other dog people are doing in the cities I visit… Seattle, San Francisco, LA, Phoenix, Las Vegas, you name it… I investigate what is happening in the dog world there. I stop into the local pet stores, talk to the local vets, read the local yellow pages, talk to dog owners, go to dog areas / parks, and surf the web in my hotel room (OK… I never really take time off, even on a vacation… now you know the secret truth…). Clearly, many, if not all, of these trainers are using shock collars to do this kind of instant training. Is that the way you want your dog trained? That’s training mostly by tension and stress methods that will have long term negative effects on your dog. I know of one woman who hired such a guy in the Midwest, someone famous nationwide for being an expert with an electric collar, who was hired to work with a dog from a breeder I knew. The dog started crapping blood from the stress, and she had to start all over again. Any time the dog thought it was making a mistake… bloody diarrhea. It was sickening to hear, and much of that damage was then impossible to reverse. The problem wasn’t the electric collar… there is a limited place for such devices in dog training… the problem was with idiots using the device on a dog that didn’t need that kind of training. I have a friend who has a competitive cutting horse business, and she says there are trainers like that in the horse world, so harsh on the horses that they crap blood, too. Beware of these so-called “celebrity” trainers.

Look around the internet or in the local phone book, and examine the types of sales approaches you see. I don’t find them to be believable, do you? Now, seriously, do you really believe that it is wise to train a dog to obey in a very short period of time? Come on. Do you think that police dogs are given a week of lessons and are then ready for patrol work? Do you think that guide dogs for the blind are given a week of lessons and are ready to do off leash work for their masters? Or search and rescue dogs? Or drug detection dogs? Or competition obedience dogs? Or therapy dogs? No way. That stuff is a lie. Yes, you can berate and force a dog to do something in a couple of lessons, but that isn’t my definition of proper training.  Take a look at all the skills I teach in Basic Obedience I & II. To me, that is a completely trained dog. I don’t know anyone who can do all that in a few lessons… including the numerous people I know of who have used electric collars extensively in their training programs. So, what gives? What is happening to those dogs in those 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 lessons? You’ve got to wonder. Even the electric collar manufacturers don’t recommend using their devices this way.

I’ve belonged to more than one DVG (Schutzhund) club in the past decade, training with some pretty serious obedience competitors, and none of them, not one, had a dog that they had trained in 3 to 5 lessons… and many had trained with some of the best trainers in the US. The level of precision involved, the distance required, the obedience, directed retrieving work and tracking, takes months of work. Similarly, some behavioral issues can takes months to solve, such as Separation Anxiety. I have a current customer who has been working with me on her dog’s Separation Anxiety for nearly 3 months. There are dogs that have required many lessons to overcome their aggression and control problems, too.

I remember the two years of training I did with Armin Winkler with my dog, Dillon. I saw dogs of all kinds, with handlers from all over North America who had been using all forms of training methods: leashes, clickers, food, chain and prong collars, electric collars: you name it, try to work their dogs in obedience while in “drive” on the tracking and protection field. Control work in drive takes months and months. That control work is the same kind of thing that is necessary to obtain obedience out of a dog that is in high prey or defense drive. Read this article by Armin Winkler about Protection Obedience, and you’ll see what I mean. Once a dog is in drive, then you will find all your obedience work fall apart: unless you know how to work through that kind of thing, which I have a lot of experience doing.

Another example are the people who say you can do a board and train type of lesson and the dog will come back home perfectly obedient with anyone. Now, tell me this, if that is true, then why is it if I hand my fully trained dog to you, he won’t listen when you give him commands? Because you don’t know what you are doing, and you didn’t earn the obedience with my dog. Yes, I could strap an electric collar on a dog and force it to obey anyone who gave it a command, but that takes all the spirit out of the dog. And yes, there are some very malleable dogs that will take commands from anyone after the training, but that just isn’t the way most dogs work. That is why you see mostly German Shepherd Dogs on police forces and Golden / Labs doing guide dog work. Those breeds were selectively bred to be “slaves”, and they re-home better than most other breeds. Rottweilers, Dobermans, and other dogs like that don’t do well switching from one master to another. The police need a dog that can be handed to a new K9 officer, and in a short time, put on the street to apprehend criminals. You can’t do that with most of the man working breeds. And that is the same reason why you don’t see more breeds doing guide dog work. You can’t have others training the dog for you, and then transfer the dog to another person for the dog to obey. I have a board and train program, but it must involve the owners to be appropriately effective.

As I’ve said before, a dog isn’t like a leaky faucet: it isn’t about some “thing” that needs fixing. Dog training is about your relationship with your dog. I have many of these same complaints about the  clicker trainers. They over-promise, and it isn’t truthful advertising.

Here is the best description I have ever read defining drives: “What are drives? Unfortunately, people have forgotten what the term is meant to describe. It shouldn’t be used to give a name to every little thing a dog does. Drives are the internal impulses and urges that motivate animals, in this case dogs, to take certain actions. In order for something to be classified as a drive there has to be a drive specific stimulus, drive specific action, and a drive goal. We can manipulate the drives in our dogs during training to suit our purposes and to get them to perform tasks that are the results of these manipulated drives. However, we should never lose sight of the fact that a drive has biological significance for the animal and its species. It is this biological significance that is specific to every drive that gives us a better idea of what we can and cannot achieve by manipulating the drive. Drives can be split into two main categories. The criteria that create the division are the drive goals. One category contains the drives that lead to the gain of something positive or pleasurable; for example: sex drive, prey drive, pack drive (in this case the desire to be with members of the same species). In this category there is a tone of excitement and lust during the drive action and deep satisfaction when the goal is reached. The other category contains the drives that lead to the prevention of something negative or harmful; for example: defense drive, flight drive, the desire to remain unscathed. In this category there is a tone of stress and tension during the drive action and relief when the goal is reached. — Armin Winkler”.

Note that the second category of drive there is stress and tension. When you work enough dogs, and you see enough other people work dogs, you come to realize that there is often a high price when you train dogs with too much stress and tension. That’s why I am so adamantly opposed to trainers who promise to have your dog completely trained and 100% well mannered in a handful of lessons… In my opinion, and in my experience, and what my customers have told me after they hired these nightmares… they can only do this by putting your dog through a horrible experience. Using only force and dominance to train dogs (and don’t let these guys fool you, that IS the primary way many of these dog trainers are motivating the dogs they work with) becomes more and more inhumane over time. I’m not against corrections… read my articles. However, corrections and dominance should only season the training, it shouldn’t be the primary focus of any method or program. Dogs, like people, can handle normal amounts of stress and come back from it, including the stress of normal dog training. But, they can’t often come back from abusive training, regardless of the nice little package it is labeled and sold as… “secret methods”, “new and revolutionary”, and so forth. There is a second type of trainer in this category that charges a ton of money for a small number of lessons, saying they train you to train your dog. Weird. You are expected to do all the work, they don’t work with your dog… and you are supposed to get a great result. Do you know how much of my time is spent each lesson coaching students on proper handling, leadership, and leash handling skills? Do you realize it takes a TRAINED EYE to observe a dog and properly decipher how that dog is doing, what it is feeling, and how the training is coming along? My opinion is that these quick buck artists are in it for the money, not for the sake of the dogs. A nice looking web page doesn’t equal a good dog trainer… I’m not a web page expert… a lot of web pages look a lot better than this one… I do this almost all myself… but it is REAL, and you can count on what I say… and trust me that I’m in this to benefit you and your dog. In my experience, I have come to the opinion these all-force guys will denigrate using food and toys and patience and good old hard work for the training because they are in it for the fast buck, and they don’t have all that much knowledge and experience so they don’t have that much to offer per lesson, and because they oftentimes have some kind of ego problem where they feel the need to put dogs in their place. That’s my opinion. You think otherwise? Fine. It’s a free country. Write your own articles on proper training methods and how to choose a dog trainer. But, my advice is this: These are the types of trainers you need to avoid!

Then, find out how and why I correct a dog. I have several articles here on that topic. People want to know that the trainer they are hiring isn’t going to hurt their dog in the training. I have an article called  Sixteen Corrections You Should Never Use On A Dog: Read it closely. There are bad trainers out there: I recently received a call from a new customer who hired a trainer who promised to have her 5 month old dog trained in 5 lessons. By the fifth lesson, the dog was cowering in the corner and peeing all over itself. That was a local Arizona trainer. I just don’t believe in rushing the training like that, and it is no wonder how that situation turned out. Face it: it was cruelty… cruel to the dog, and cruel to the dog owner who loved that puppy and watched it fall apart in her own living room. I heard of another case; a local trainer, recommended by a rescue organization, came over to deal with dogs fighting in the home. He chose one dog as the “culprit” and for 3 hours worked the living hell out of that dog. The owner told me “I basically spent $200 to have some guy abuse my dog.” I told her to report what she heard to the rescue group. She heard of me from her veterinarian. You don’t fix dog fighting by abusing a dog. It is about the dynamics of the group in the home, people and dogs, that has to be addressed. Many times (and they won’t tell you this in their advertising… you have to ask) they are using electric collars to get the dogs to give up and submit in such a short period of time: Is that what you want? Now I have to go in and fix what went wrong: and  maybe the dog will never be quite right after all the rough treatment it received. I don’t think you want a trainer like that, do you?  That is an important consideration, isn’t it?

I would NOT let just anyone train my dog: I wouldn’t go to a pet store to train my dog. I wouldn’t hire a trainer that focused on using an electric collar. I wouldn’t hire a trainer that just did clicker training or purely “positive” training, either. I wouldn’t train with someone who didn’t provide me with references.

To sum things up, I can train 99% of all dogs with some treats, a collar and a couple of leashes. It isn’t about hurting the dog, or employing a bunch of fancy and expensive devices. It is more about what I know than the tools that I use. Technique and knowledge: those get a dog trained, not a bunch of fancy and expensive gadgets.

Now, try an interesting experiment. Go to your local big pet store: you know which companies I’m referring to. Pick up any metal training collar and ask their trainers if they use them in their training classes. You’ll see that they are prohibited from correcting dogs in the classes, and I have heard that they are prohibited by management from delving any deeper into any potential behavorial problems or handler errors so as to not offend their customers! They sell a variety of collars but won’t use them in class. In fact, in some of the stores, you’ll be scolded for trying to purchase equipment that they have stocked on their shelves!!! Ever wonder how they deal with aggressive or bratty dogs or out-of-control dogs? They don’t. Those types of dogs don’t fit into their training programs, and confrontation over those issues doesn’t sell more dog food. These dogs are left for hopeless, and these big stores call the people they hire “trainers”. Bah! Yeah, right. They’ll use clickers (and they don’t even use them appropriately) and some treats, a leash and a head collar (isn’t that a form of correction device?). This kind of stuff harms more dogs than you might realize, and I’m sure dooms many dogs, in the long run, to being dangerously out of control as adults. A new customer recently hired me to deal with their out-of-control dog, which has now started attacking them and the other family pet. The dog has never been corrected for bratty behavior, and has only received clicks and treats. The owner was attacked the other day, and the dog is starting to bully the other family dog. This dog needs proper leadership, and that will require reasonable rules and some corrections at times. Not abuse, but structure and a wise owner/ handler.  A spoiled dog can become dangerous, and this dog has become dangerous because of foolish, politically correct training. I don’t hurt dogs. Period. I train them. I love dogs! And I get excellent results, as my customers will tell you.

When people call me to inquire about dog training, I often tell them that I don’t have any kind of fancy sales pitch (“Buy now and save $39.95! Boy, you better sign up for lessons right now or your dog is going to become aggressive and dangerous! Etc., etc.”). I just don’t do that kind of thing. I let my reputation sell for me instead. I am a “straight shooter” and I’ll tell you like it is, good or bad. I don’t say things I don’t mean. You are paying me for honest advice, even if it is hard to hear: and I’ll back up my reputation with customer references. Ask my past customers if I did what I said I’d do, if I showed up on time, if I was harsh on their dogs, if their dog got trained, if they got their money’s worth: ask them anything you wish. I don’t warn them you are calling. I have an excellent reputation and I’m willing to stand by it.


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