When you see pictures of dogs performing these behaviors what goes through your mind?? You might think “How’d they get the dog to do that”? or “Wow, that’s a really well-trained dog”! I have to admit, these are really cool tricks! But do you really care if your dog can climb a tree?
I talk to dog owners every day and what I’ve discovered is that they want a dog that is a part of the family, a pet. They want a dog they can walk, without being dragged around the neighborhood. They want a dog that doesn’t jump on people, destroy the house or dash out the front door. In all my years of dog training I’ve never had someone request that I teach their dog to perch on a pedestal!
So why do I bring this up? Well, I’ve been to several events this year where I’ve seen other dog trainers demonstrating dog training by having their dogs perform things like you see in the pictures while people stand around oohing and ahhing. It reminds me of the old snake oil salesmen. You know, the traveling salesmen who went around to small towns and rural areas using charm and showmanship to sell supposedly miraculous elixirs and powders to the public.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not calling these dog trainers “quacks” or “frauds” – they may very well be great dog trainers. After all, they were able to teach a dog to target its back feet to a tree. What I’m objecting to is the way they sell themselves. It feels like smoke and mirrors. Show me that you can teach a dog to come away from a distraction, or sit politely to greet someone. Show me a dog that can lie quietly on a bed while I eat my lunch, or wait at an open door until released to go through.
While I love to see dogs performing cool tricks, If I were shopping for a dog trainer I’d want to see real life behaviors – but, maybe that’s just me.