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Who are you coaching? Dog Training edition.

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

a dog pretending to be a person

Working with dogs is easy, working with their owners... not so much.

Every trainer I have ever met has a system in what they do. Sometimes the system is less formal, for others, it's so structured the S.O.P.'s involved fill a 6" tome with what-if's. Every system is designed to reach a goal. This goal, invariably, is the success of the relationship between the dog and their owner.

Dog training today though, is like the wild west. There are no governing bodies, there is very little regulation, and there is no license or formally recognized accreditation. I've met a good number of fantastic dog trainers who fail to guide the relationship to success, not because of the dogs they are working with, but because of the owners. Sometimes it's simply because they do not follow their trainer's guidance, or more often, they weren't given any.

Jonah is an English Cream Golden Retriever (ECGR). He had a pretty good family who invested in the best training they could find. Jonah went for a two-month board and train, came back and the family was delighted... for about a week. Jonah began to go back to his old rascally ways. They made the hard decision to find a new home for him.

A loving older couple adopted him after they lost their previous dog to cancer. They fell in love with his goofy temperament immediately, but those destructive tendencies had to go. They found and hired a trainer who did a board & train and returned Jonah to the older couple. They were delighted with the change in him... for about a week. Jonah knocked down the older lady and she was hospitalized for three weeks. Again he was given to another.

a dog whos owners got coaching and led them to success

This other though, was a dog trainer. We worked with Jonah for two weeks and found him a new family. Then we flew 3,000 miles across the country with Jonah to take him to his new home and spent three days straight training his new owner before leaving. This was six years ago and he is still with that family.

Working with the owner makes all the difference in the world. The first two owners in this story weren't bad owners, they just didn't know how to work with Jonah. This is where the first two trainers fell flat. They trained Jonah to follow their direction and Jonah would follow the trainer's direction beautifully. But, the trainers never taught the owners how to give those directions.

This story isn't to tell you what great dog trainers we are, frankly, you probably don't care. This story is to illustrate the importance of working with the owners to make sure they know how to work with their animal. It's the whole "teach a man to fish" scenario. It's a strange job really because if you are doing it well, the person you are teaching should be able to do your job in the end.

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