When dog trainers are faced with challenging dog behavior cases paired with unrealistic owners, we sometimes joke among our colleagues and family about “oh, let me bring my magic wand/magic fairy dust”. Recently, I had another epiphany about positive reinforcement training. Maybe scientific methods really do give us “magical” results.
When providing a service, happy clients don’t happen by accident. Clients have high expectations of results, outstanding service, empathy, moral support and hand holding, so it is incredibly important for dog trainers to manage client expectations before taking their money. Because positive reinforcement training involves teaching clients to manage their dog’s environment, it is crucial that dog owners understand that their active participation in a training or behavior modification program is key to the program’s success.
Sometimes phone consultations with dog owners are a rude awakening that it takes some effort to be a responsible dog owner.
For dog owners that take on positive reinforcement training, the experience and results are very rewarding. The effectiveness of using positive reinforcement training could not be more evident than with my recent clients, Patti and Steve, and their dog Dexter. During my phone consultation, Patti described her Morkie, a rescue from Animal Aid, as a “wack a doodle”. After discussing their role in the program, we set up an appointment to begin to tame this little “wack a doodle’s” behavior.
When I arrived, I observed that this super active little Morkie with a bark that could shatter glass, had Patti and Steve well trained. Even I was a little frazzled after their first lesson. Patti and Steve bravely accepted my challenge and did their reward-based practice sessions and studied their science-based handouts.
Here’s the irony of it all.. after all of my talk about “there is no magic fairy dust”, doing just one week of practice was like someone waived a magic wand over little Dexter! I walked into lesson 2 and found a dog that was kind to my ears and was incredibly well mannered! After discussing the “miracle” with Dexter’s amazing parents, it was obvious they read their handouts. I guess the joke is on me. Sometimes science based training produces “magical” results! Go figure.
Dexter has moved on to advanced recall and other advanced behaviors using shaping techniques. Kudos to Patti and Steve who were the real magicians in this case!