In Hebrew, the word for dog is Kelev which means like a heart. A dog needs a leader and that is you, and it is your responsibility to guide your canine comrade’s behaviour by any means necessary. This is because dogs have co-existed with us for hundreds of years and we often seek a professional to help us alter specific aspects of our dog’s behaviour.
Picking the right professional dog trainer is extremely vital. No matter the problem with your dog, a successful trainer will ensure it’s dealt with in a professional approach. Every dog and owner’s situation is different and by choosing a company with experience, you can be sure they can positively help each dog no matter the problem. Dog Harmony, a dog training company I highly recommend you check out, are trainers who have professional expertise unlike any other, they are the leading dog trainers in the North West of England and have an extremely high success rate.
A dog’s behaviour problems will never be fixed quickly but with the correct advice, perseverance and determination you can be sure the end goal will be achieved.
The modern world of niches broadly offers two coaching roles:
- A dog behaviourist measures each animal’s emotional problems and modifies the behaviour through positive reinforcement and reconditioning as the dog under treatment has already developed some negative behavioural They seek to ascertain and heal the root cause of the behaviour. For the sake of understanding, they are like therapists for dogs.
- A Dog trainer focuses on multiple aspects of a canine’s behaviour. The role of a trainer is much like a coach or a teacher. They prepare dogs with the behavioural tools they need to perform in a range of situations such as basic obedience, agility and multi faceted services with the law enforcement and military.
Nonetheless, the two professions frequently work together to help troubled dogs. Let’s start from the onset of training these loyal creatures:
At the beginning of the 19th century, primitive dog trainers were using multiple operant conditioning procedures. The earliest dog trainers played a critical role in establishing the world of professional dog training as we know it today. From the time cavemen found themselves companions in wolf cubs, domesticated canines were used for hunting, droving, herding, pulling sledges and killing vermin.
Historians recorded that monks in Tibetan monasteries are thought to have bred and raised Tibetan Terriers more than 2000 years ago to serve as a four-legged friend and assist with the care of herds and flocks. Moreover, Asian tribes used sledge dogs to carry loads. All these creatures were trained by their masters on the basis of trial and error.
In the 18th century, George Washington kept up a den of foxhounds and competitions involving setters, pointers and hounds were in vogue. Thereafter, 1859 witnessed the first ever organised dog show hosted by English dog fanciers. The show included only Setters and Pointers, which showed the widespread interest in dogs that were trained for sporting activities.
14 years later, The Kennel Club of England held its first authorised dog show. On similar lines, American Kennel Club was formed in 1884 in the wake of a growing national interest in purebred dogs. Originally, the primary focus of the Club was to maintain a stud book and serve as a governing authority for dog shows. Also, from the near end of the 19th century until the 1930s, there were no obedience events at American Kennel Club dog shows.
Therefore, dog owners would train canines in groups for locally held competitions. Professional dog training for competition and to earn AKC titles did not become a norm until 1933, when Helene Whitehouse Walker took on the mantle to show everyone that her Poodle was more than just another beautiful creature.
Now, let’s rewind a little to expand upon the historical evolution of dog training:
Once upon a time, a man named Konrad Most used to train dogs for the police in Germany. During his time with Berlin’s State Breeding and Training Establishment, he carried out his original research into training dogs for a wide range of service tasks. Konrad is often dubbed as the pioneer of a traditional form of dog training. The book he wrote Training Dogs – A Manual, (published in Germany in 1910) is considered the original canine training bible.
The training techniques elaborated in the manual were widely adopted for military training worldwide and are still in vogue for many police, military, and service dog training programs. Even though Konrad’s reliance on punishment and collar correction is considered heavy-handed from the modern perspective. His techniques are based on the philosophies of operant learning which forms the rationale of clicker training. The former gunnery sergeant was one of the first ones to see dogs with their own system of reasoning and interpretation.
THE ADVENTURES OF RIN TIN TIN
While Konrad was systemising dog training, another trained dog was putting Hollywood on fire. As the legend goes, during World War I an American soldier named Lee Duncan found a shell-shocked German shepherd in the French dugouts. He took the baby dog home and the canine became a part of Duncan’s family. Rin Tin Tin, as he was named got trained by his master who also managed to get silent film work for him.
Rinty turned out to be a box-office smasher and went on to feature in 27 Hollywood films, gaining global fame on his way. He would make remarkable leaps in wild river rapids, hide under water from a chaser and would hold the reins in his mouth to operate a horse-driven buggy.
Rin Tin Tin passed away in 1932 and was buried in Paris. At the time of his death, Rinty was receiving close to 8,000 fan letters every month. It also showed the world that people from all walks of life were flabbergasted with the idea of professionally trained dogs acting in front of a camera. Lastly, Rin Tin Tin and before him, Strongheart were responsible for significantly growing the popularity of German Shepherds as family-friendly pets.
As Konrad’s disciples and students moved across the globe, they took their learnings with them. Also among them were Josef Weber and Hans Tosutti – the authors of The Dog in Training and Companion Dog Training. Both opened dogs training institutes in Philadelphia and Boston respectively. In 1936, Tosutti started the New England Dog Training Club in Boston which still is the oldest dog obedience training club in the USA.
Hans was particularly against the practice of using a plain choke collar. To achieve desired results with this collar, the owner or trainer must pull on the choke until the strangled dog loses his breath. It made dogs necks strained and injured due to the exerted strength. Moreover, the choke collar is a tool of torture in the hands of an amateur dog owner because of its unlimited choke. Well, Hans Tosutti must be curling in his grave today as choke collars have become a common part of the beginner’s training aid.
MARION BAILEY & KELLER BRELAND
In the early 1940s, Marion Bailey and her first hubby Keller Breland started a business called Animal Behaviour Enterprises to train and provide hordes of animals for commercial purposes. Historically, Keller Breland was the first professional trainer to use the clicker technique to close the gap between the behaviour and delivery of the reinforcer. He used the sound to spot the expected behaviour when training dogs and herding dogs in the field. Breland termed the click sound a bridging stimulus.
From Konrad Most, the dog story moves on to Blanche Saunders who penned The Complete Book of Dog Obedience (1954) and joined hands with Helene Whitehouse Walker to initiate the American Kennel Club Obedience Trials. They travelled the lengths and breaths of America together, sharing their idea of companion dog training with all and sundry. Her book Training You to Train Your Dog (1946) is considered the base of most dog training of the 1950s.
Another military dog trainer like Konrad Most, who was headquartered in Hollywood and gained exposure courtesy the celebrity clients. The book he wrote, The Koehler Method of Dog Training remained the all-time best seller on the subject and became the launching pad for practically all the dog training techniques from the 1950’s until the ’70’s. Konrad Most’s blend of praise and corrections closely inspired his methods.
It could be said that Koehler was the first professional trainer to encourage dog owners to build a bond with their dogs. His method of training transformed these working dogs into loving pets. Koehler started the use of collars and leads, and explained to his pupils their importance and functions.
Now fast forward to 1984’s Don’t Shoot the Dog, written by Karen Pryor which is a guide to human interpersonal relations. The book’s attention-grabbing title brought Pryor to the notice of dog trainers and he met Gary Wilkes – a professional trainer who followed the footsteps of Keller Breland to use clicker training on many breeds of dogs in a wide variety of ways. Later, Karen and Gary hosted joint seminars and made clicker training technique a resounding success.
By the 1980s there was a diametric shift towards more constructive than destructive methods in dog training. As mentioned above, merely a couple of decades ago, many trainers felt that canines had to be broken in order to be trained. However, By the 1980s positive behavioural procedures were commonplace in both dog training and human services settings. During the decade, professional trainers started realising the significance of operant conditioning. It was hardly a new technique as it was the reincarnation of dog training principles from nearly a century ago.
BEHAVIOURAL DOG TRAINING TODAY
Today, dog training techniques are as similar as chalk and cheese. Most dog trainers agree upon the notion of professional training. However, they differ considerably as to the execution of the training. The biggest question in dog training is whether to include fear and pain as a channel of motivation or not as in the last 20 years the focus is on using minimal pain, or intimidation – or none at all.
It is pertinent to mention that the punishment-free movement has been partially driven by value-added communication from the top. Today, those with advanced degrees in behavioural sciences – applied behaviourists – and those specialised in veterinary behavioural problems – veterinary behaviourists – are in greater numbers than in the previous decades. Also, there is significantly more cooperation between these disciplines and trainers on the front lines.
Furthermore, at the grassroots level trainers have discovered more gentle and refined tools by brushing up on applied behaviour science themselves. This is because seminal books like Karen Pryor’s Don’t Shoot the Dog vociferously made the case that a dog’s behaviour can be modified without exerting any force whatsoever.
Principal dog training techniques in vogue today:
- Reward based training
- Scientific training
- Operant conditioning
- Pack leaders
- Positive reinforcement
- Dominance theory
It should be noted that while many different dog training techniques exist, they are all fundamentally composed of just a few basic concepts. This is how a dog trainer blends all these techniques and expected behavioural modification is what sets him/her apart from the rest of their ilk.
THE DOG TRAINER
A professional dog trainer is equipped with vocational teaching in training canines on a one to one basis. The focus is on the instructor’s skills capacity to work in any environment with any breed of dog. Moreover, a professional trainer should be armed with business management skills that are critical to the systematic planning of the training sessions, deploying horses for courses strategy (of course, metaphorically), book-keeping as well as marketing and advertising their craft. The branding part is also important as being able to address the public is a much-desired competency today. Often professional dog instructors have to give public talks about the different aspects of dog training.
As a dog trainer of any level such as amateur or professional, adult dogs or puppies, we are continuously measuring what we are doing when we are carrying out that act. Specifically, a professional would start training a dog with a predefined training approach and the smarter ones would alter their coaching in line with the responses that animal is offering. For instance, occasionally, they would change their dog’s position or posture, or the rewarding force (toy, food, and affection) or the equipment used.
Another role of a professional dog trainer is that of a reflective practitioner. It is mandatory for a dog trainer to understand that they should be simultaneously reflecting back on their experience of training dogs in the past while focusing on the canine in front of them. This is because a dog trainer cannot grow professionally without experiential learning as it is impossible for two dogs to be the same with their reactions.
Although trainers do it subconsciously, the significance of reflective-learning at work and process-awareness should be acknowledged by a professional dog instructor to eke out any self-accreditation through the work based learning scheme. This is because irrespective of the importance of theoretical and technical competency there is no substitute for hands-on practical learning.
Another key aspect to remember is the subtle distinction between knowing-how and knowing-in-action. The latter refers to being tacit and intuitive, rather than only textbook knowledge acquired through classroom learning. The underlying notion that real world problems are plausibly more complex than straightforward makes a habit of knowing-in-action all the more critical for professional dog trainers.
Lastly, behavioural problems with canines tend to occur in spurts and not in some systematic predefined manner as narrated in many dog training manuals. This is why some problems would be unique to that situation and may not fit the pre-established theoretical framework. Therefore, when something unforeseeable does happen it is admissible to reflect on what is going at that moment while being in the activity itself. The outcome of this process is known as reflection-in-action. More elaborately, it is thinking about what we are doing while we are doing it and changing our course accordingly.
The Dog Training Behaviour Assessor
The emphasis is on identifying dog behaviour problems within the class situation, private training, or socialisation settings. It also makes a dog’s behavioural assessment different from training and educating the animal. Moreover, early identification and rectification of problems such as aggression and fear would have more impact on the assessor’s success than leaving the problems as they are to become an embedded part of the creature’s psyche.
A professional dog training behaviour assessor would continue to add to their repertoire of behavioural modification techniques by perfecting the problematic conducts. For instance, with the passage of time, the assessor would be able to establish the link between the way a dog is behaving at one moment and what they will potentially turn into if not fixed. Moreover, through experience, they would also know how to spot a behaviour that needs immediate referral to a dog behaviour practitioner for thorough assessment and detailed time specific behaviour programme application.
At the last drop, it is essential to know that pets in the UK are protected by the Animal Welfare Act 2006.