Why Won’t Anyone Work With My Dog?

This was written about four years ago after receiving a significant number of contacts from people having trouble finding a trainer to fix their dog.  The callers all had a similar theme so I merged them in to one person we will call Mr. Jones.  I think after reading this it should be clear why he is having trouble finding someone to work with his dog.

“Hi, I have been calling around trying to find a trainer who will fix my dog.”

“What seems to be going on?”

“He is not good on leash, he pulls, he lunges, he has dragged my wife down.”

“Did you go through any training with your dog?”

“Yeah, puppy training and he did real well.  But the past few years have been heck.  I though the classes would fix him.”

“Did you do any practice work after the classes?”

“Well the trainer said that she recommended the next level of training and more classes as the pup got older but she just wanted my money.  Trainers are greedy.  I only did puppy classes because the vet told me they were important.  Then I got to thinking all I have to do is watch that show on TV and I can do the rest myself.”

“After the classes were completed, did you continue practicing the behaviors and applying them to your daily life? Did you do any homework between classes?”

“No, once a dog goes through classes he should remember the lessons.  They are not that hard: sit, down, walk.  I did not have the time to practice between classes but the dog dod great so he did not need it.”

“So you have done nothing since with the dog?”

“Well, my dog should have remembered the lessons.  Not my fault I got a defective dog.”

“Though we teach dogs things, we have to brush up, practice etc.  Dogs will forget.  Your dog is not defective, he is a dog and throughout dogs’ lives we have to refresh training, social skills and manners.  Do you remember what you learned in sixth grade matg? Can you remember how to factor out a quadratic equation or prove a theorem in geometry?   If not it is because you did not practice it and not because you are defective.  Make the same analogy for your dog.”

“I don’t want to do a lot of work, just get the dang dog walking on leash again.  The past five years have been hell.”

“Five…  Well the longer an undesired behavior has gone on, it will take longer and work to resolve.  How much work are you willing to do?  I can teach you how to improve his leash manners but when I am not there, who will be responsible for the work?”

“So you can’t just fix my dog? I need it done by next week when my elderly mother in law is moving in.”

“No, I can teach you what to do, I can help you train your dog but you will have to keep up with the lessons and practice when I am gone.”

“What if I send you the dog, you fix it and he will be fine. I need it done my next week.”

“First, I am not zoned for that.  I would need a special permit for a boarding kennel in my county and my neighborhood is not kennel zoned.  I will come to your house or meet you somewhere like a local park for work.  Second, even if I did board and train you will still have to learn what I did and be able to practice with your dog at home or the behaviors will persist.  Sending him away will not absolve you of work at all.”

“Really… That is not what an ad I saw stated.  I saw an ad that promised a fully trained dog in six weeks.  I don’t have six weeks.  I need it done now.  Since he only needs to walk nicely on a leash I figure that can be done in a week.  Especially if you show him you mean it.”

“These are not robots we can program once or twice and have them remember everything. I want to form a bond with a dog too.  I will not train with force or show him ‘I mean it.’ 

“Yeah well just teach him in a way so he will remember it and learn damn fast.  By the way, my dog is acting like a jerk too, he seems to be dominant aggressive or whatever it is called.”

“What seems to be going on?”

“He got nasty on walks and at home.  He lunges and barks.  He is pushy.  He refuses to let us pat him when we want to pat and he has to learn we will pat him when we want to. He is just mean. Guess my mother in law will want to touch the dog too.  But I can teach him not to bite and let him pat her.  I just need you to teach him how to walk on leash.”

“He bites?  He hates to be touched?  This is all very important.  Has he been seen by a vet?  Could he be in pain?”

“Nah, dog’s fine. When he growls I hit him and tell him he cannot do that. He stops eventually but I need him to stop faster and know he cannot try to bite.  ”

“Well I am very concerned about that behavior and I will have to work on that too with him – it is a safety issue.”

“Nah, I just want my wife to be able to walk him OK. He just needs to know he cannot growl.  I can teach him that on my own.  What pisses me off is last week he pulled out of my hands when I was stopping him from barking at a stranger and he bit the guy.  My wife is scared of him too.  He bit her a few times on walks when she pulled him away from a fenced dog. She grabbed him collar, yelled at him to stop and the jerk nailed her. I told her walk him more and show who is boss.  He will get he cannot bite her.  He hangs his head now and has not bitten her in a weeks or so.  But he pulls like a fool on that leash.”

“What happened when you caught the dog and what happened after he bit your wife?”

“I punished him seriously, he has to know he cannot do this.  I can tell you the dog won’t go after someone again…  I sure showed him I am in charge – saw that on TV, show the dog you are in charge and make him know it.  Since my wife can’t control him when he lunges, I told her to use a stick.  A good whack across his nose stops him from lunging so I am not worried about that.  I just need him to walk on leash. You need to teach him that.”

“If I work with you, will you be willing to use my methods so we can get some better behaviors out of your dog?”

“What I am doing is working, he gets whacked a few times, hold him to the ground, got a prong collar too and yank that a few times and he stops the biting.  Then he shakes and whines so I know he is crying and sorry.  If I let him know he cannot bite, he will stop biting.  A few whacks is all it takes and he finally stops.  Show him who’s boss, you know, your a trainer.  He just don’t walk well.  That damn collar was supposed to stop pulling and he still drags my wife all over.  I know how to train this dog.”

“So if you know so much about training dogs, why are you calling me?”

“Because animal control said I need to have a professional work with him and write a letter.  They say he has bitten too many people.  They said if I do not find a professional and get the dog worked with they may take him if there is another bite.  My wife started to cry so I started calling people.  No one will work with me!  My vet said try you. ”

“Exactly HOW many people has he bitten?”

“I just need to be able to walk him. He bit my sister when she came over.   She loves dogs, stupid dog should have known that.  She went to pat him while he was on the couch and he bit her hand.  I can tell you he will not do that again.  He also bit kids when he got loose and their stupid parents called the cops. Why do you care how many people he has bitten?  I just need him to walk on a leash for my wife.  I want to hire you to do what I want with my dog!”

“Are you aware the liability this dog is?  He is a lawsuit in the works and anyone working with him could be named in a lawsuit too.  I cannot risk being named in a lawsuit because an owner is not willing to follow protocols.”

“Well as long as I can get him walking well, I can stop his going after people.”

“Look, there is more going on there than just the leash issue.  It all has to be addressed, they are all related.”

“Just fix the walking, all I need so my wife can control him so he does not get loose again.  By the way, dog won’t let you touch him…  Hates people touching him now and I don’t know why.”

“Does this worry you at all?”

“Nope, I yell at him and he lies down and I can do stuff with him.  If he bites, I get him to stop.”

“So you are only willing to address the walking and nothing else?”

“How many times have I said this?  The dog just won’t walk.  I can stop the other sh*t.  You need to fix the walking.”

“Sir, I am sure you have heard this before, at this point there is nothing I can do to help your dog.  I may be able to help him but not unless you are willing to work with a program and really try to understand what is going on.”

This is why Mr. Jones cannot get a trainer to work with him…  The poor dog is a major liability, he will not address this and unless he does, nothing can help the dog.  This is sad and the situation preventable when owners understand their roles in a dog’s life and how beating behaviors out of dogs will only make things worse.

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One Response to Why Won’t Anyone Work With My Dog?

  1. I probably don’t want to know how often this happens. 😦 Poor dogs. Getting after them is one thing. Common sense is another. The dog pays.

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