Monday, January 30, 2012

The cost of selecting the wrong dog trainer

I see a lot of dogs. People typically want the best for their dogs, but they're not always in a position to know what "best" may be.  They aren't the professionals in the situation and their perspective is very different than that of someone in an 'expert' role.

At the best end of things, the person just adopted the dog or had only done a few basic classes by the time they're directed to a vet behaviorist.  After the appointment, (and often meds), the dog is able to learn better, do better, and actually progress in class and at home. The downside is the time, money, and frustration that the family unnecessarily experienced up to that point.

At the worst end of things, the family only does a consult after a lot of training or trainer shopping and after the dog has experienced some pretty horrible things at the hands of people who are often not all that skilled with various ...interesting....punishment strategies (whether intentional or not).  The human-animal bond is often damaged.  And it takes a lot more time, training, and effort to get everyone to start progressing.
As a puppy, Luna was anxious, lacking confidence,
had housetraining problems, and no trainers addressed
these  concerns.

And sometimes the cost is higher. By the time the family is seeking more help, the family may not have the patience, time, or money to actually work with the right professional and follow through with treatment.  The family might feel like training won't work because the five other trainers resulted in no real success.

The dog may go untreated for months, years, or life.  The dog may be regulated to excessive crating or kenneled in the backyard.  People, animals, or family members may be physically injured. The dog may be adopted out or euthanized. The family isn't going to feel so great about dogs for a really long time.  

This is why problem areas need to be addressed right away. Families need to know how to seek help, and where to seek help.  Beginning and less experienced trainers need to know when to refer.  Beginner/basic classes and puppy classes should be taught by the most experienced people possible, not those just learning (they should assist and learn!).  If problems are noted, the family needs to be pointed to the right help, right away.  Trainers need to attend/participate in continued education events so they're better able to help people. Vets need to ask leading questions to identify problem areas  ("How is he left home? How is house training?  Storms and fireworks? Are you seeing any training problem areas?").

It's not easy.

And some real numbers with Blaze:
Puppy class. And a second, third, fourth class.   Five or six sport classes.  A lot of books.  A few privates. Extra health tests.   And then to the vet behaviorist (4.5 hours away!).  Neurologist appointments.  So, after only about $1800ish of training (not counting the very $$ obstruction surgeries that didn't heal well even though the pica is probably related to his behavior challenges) we had our $300ish appointment. He was diagnosed and we received treatment options.

Blaze was labeled as a "Just needs more training." puppy.

If we had gotten the right help from puppy class, it would have saved a lot of time, money, energy frustration. He would probably  be a different dog than he is now, though not 'normal'.  We would have saved a lot of money, or at least gotten more for our money rather than many classes where he didn't progress and instructors berated us for not practicing.  I have family members, adults, who are afraid of Blaze. He's not an aggressive dog, just bigger and lacking self control.   Their relationship with him and all dogs has been damaged.



Tim said...

We are so glad we found you and everyone at PosiDog when we did. We wish we had found you sooner, but we're also glad we didn't look for a trainer before we had read about lots of different methods, because we would not have made such a good choice! I regret not starting earlier with Captain but I'm also relieved we didn't put ourselves through any awful experiences that would have totally ruined our feelings about him. I think we're finally seeing lots of improvement thanks to all the great help we've found.

Kristen said...

Tim, you and Kate are definitely making progress with Captain. It's not easy to have a dog who is so aware of his environment. You've done many great things for him, even before starting in class. I'm glad you did so much reading and we're so happy to be able to help all of you.