Q & A: Why 18 Lessons?
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(If you are reading this article, I assume your dog needs Obedience training, not one of my other programs…)
I’ve been asked a number of times why some dog training companies promise to obedience train dogs in a handful of lessons and why I recommend, if you are starting Obedience Training, we do 18 lessons to get the job done right. So, here are the reasons in detail.
1.) What methods are being used?
Can you force a dog to obey? Yes. You can so frighten them that they will do things in terror, but that isn’t humane and it isn’t even effective. As I have mentioned in other articles, there are people out there that use questionable, abusive training methods. The most abusive method is the premature and intense use of an electric collar on an untrained dog. I fully explain this in my article called “Let’s Talk About Electric Collars”. (Relax, my program DOESN’T RELY ON USING AN ELECTRIC COLLAR ON YOUR DOG). In brief, even the manufacturers of these collars recommend that the dog be taught all the commands FIRST using traditional methods (meaning leash, collar, praise, toys and treats) before the dog is introduced to the electric collar. Then the electric collar should be introduced over a period of 3 weeks, and THEN put the final polish on each of these known commands with the electric collar, which will then take many more weeks to accomplish. The manufacturer DOESN’T recommend doing it all in 3 lessons… so why is your trainer recommending that?
Let’s say, instead, you use traditional methods of training: it will take longer than 3 lessons to train your dog properly. I spoke with a gentleman today about a company that was promising that they can train his dog in 3 one-hour lessons. I was honest with him: that’s not true. In fact, take any good, traditional dog training book and read it. It will take YOU longer than 3 hours just to read the book! And that’s without even working with a live dog. No one can impart all the necessary information you need to train any and every dog in 3 lessons, with no supplemental information (meaning a LOT OF READING OR VIDEOS) or coaching. No way. Not possible.
Or let’s say you want to use clicker training. I do use clickers from time to time. Some things can be taught quite quickly. but some other behaviors take a LONG time to properly shape the dog behaviors using a clicker. People spend hundreds and even thousands of dollars to attend seminars to learn this method. And once learned, it isn’t a magic method. It’s going to take weeks and weeks of work, even with a highly trainable dog and a knowledgeable trainer to teach the basics to the point of them being reliable in public, off leash, clickers or no clickers. For example, I have numerous clicker training books and videos in my own home library from the best clicker trainers out there… and just a simple video teaching a handful of tricks is over an hour long. And there’s a lot more to learn than just that in order to have a truly obedient dog.
2.) What specific skills are being taught?
So, maybe we should go at this and discuss what skills these “3 lesson” trainers are offering. I do know this, what we are going to cover in my Basic Obedience program are: Sit, Down, Heel, Front, Sit-Stay, Down-Stay, Sit Out Of Motion, Down Out Of Motion, Transition to Off Leash Obedience, Dog Manners (that’s a full lesson, and sometimes 2 or more, depending on the dog), and Handler Skills. If I was to put all that into a dog training book, that would be a minimum of 500 pages of material, or about 2 step-by-step dog training books. So, what is being left out of these other programs? Look, it takes the entire program for handlers to master the proper use of a leash, how to give commands properly, how to read their own dogs, and so forth. I’m good, but I’m not that good. I can’t teach all that I believe a dog needs to know, and all that a dog handler needs to know, in 3 easy lessons. And I can refer you to numerous, famous dog trainer’s books out there and not one of them promises you can have a trained dog in 3 lessons. I have trained alongside people who worked with guide dogs, competition obedience dogs, search and rescue dogs, hunting dogs and police dogs… and not one of them had their dogs doing the specific skills I’ve mentioned here in just a handful of lessons… and many of these people were either professionals or committed hobbyists.
3.) How much time does it take to train a dog?
Dog training is hard work. It is. If you aren’t willing to do the work, then you aren’t going to get a good result. You do realize that, don’t you? Nothing in life is free. Skills take time to develop into habits. Excellent performance requires proper manipulation of the dog’s drives and temperament. Your dog can’t master the lessons in just a few days. The dog has to get the word associations. The dog has to develop the coordination to do the exercises. The dog has to learn how to do all this in public. The dog has to learn how to respect you and your rules. And the dog has to get to the point where these skills become automatic. The person I spoke with today was telling me that he was promised that he’d have a fully trained dog in 3 one-hour lessons. I told him that was a lie (if fully trained means all the exercises I mentioned above… precise, motivated, happy dog, good handler skills, on and off leash, on and off collar, handler skills, manners, etc).
None of this comes intuitively to you or to your dog. I have watched people work on their dogs for MONTHS in order to perfect their dog’s skills. And this is when they were working with TOP TRAINERS, not just some ham and egg guy you found on the internet. That’s why I always offer for you to get references from me and get proof that it was hard work, that there was a lot to learn, and that the dogs didn’t just get it in the first few lessons. There are often bumps along the way, things that don’t go as planned because each dog is slightly different (and sometimes radically different) than the next, and some dogs need alternate approaches in order to master the desired skills.
4.) How long does it take a person to learn the necessary skills?
Truthfully, it takes longer to teach the people than it does the dog. I took a martial arts class a few years ago (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu). My instructor told me that it takes doing a move 5,000 times before you can do it properly and without thinking, naturally and instinctively. People come to my dog training classes with a lot of misconceptions that have to be debunked. They’ve seen their celebrity TV dog trainer do it one way, and learn that it doesn’t work out with their dog. They haven’t read behavioral books. They haven’t read enough dog training books. They haven’t trained with other trainers and been in years of classes. They haven’t worked with a top trainer in their lifetime. That’s what I’m here to help out with. I’m here to be your coach.
I think, honestly, when people seriously start objecting to the number of lessons it’s going to take, it has 3 root causes:
1. They want to do things the easy way because they are lazy. If you are lazy, then you won’t even do the homework that those “3 lesson” trainers will give you. And you aren’t going to want to work with me, because I’M GOING TO EXPECT YOU TO PUT IN EFFORT AND NOT WASTE MY TIME OR HURT YOUR DOG IN THE PROCESS.
2. They are tight on funds, or they are cheapskates who DO have the money but don’t want to spend it on a dog. If you are tight on funds, let’s work something out. I can understand being tight on funds. Talk to me about it, and we can work out a way to spread out the payments to make them more manageable… it’s not a reason to do a sloppy job in the training of your dog. If, on the other hand, you are a cheapskate, not caring that much for your dog, then go somewhere else. I’m not the trainer for you.
3.) They’ve been lied to by someone who is trying to make a fast buck at their expense (PT Barnum’s still exist out there), and they don’t hear the fact that I’m going to go all out to make sure that their dog gets trained and they get trained.
What’s your reason for not doing things thoroughly and in a logical step-by-step manner? It’s better to do things right the first time than having to re-do it a second or third time, isn’t it? It’s better to do it right than have to get rid of your dog, right? I’d really like to hear your feedback.
Sometimes people are looking for someone to tell them what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear. If you want to hear what is wrong, and that is why you are contacting me, then you’ve come to the wrong place. I’ll tell you the truth, instead. I’m known for being a straight shooter and telling it like it is. Hire me and you are hiring my expertise AND my credibility. My references will prove I know what I’m doing. And common sense will tell you that there’s no way you can train a dog from scratch, doing the things I’ve outlined here, in a humane way, and in a way that the dog will be reliable in any way off leash and without a collar on, not motivated by worry or fear, in a handful of easy lessons. Sorry, but that IS the truth.
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