puppy-trainingA common question I receive from prospective clients is “what training methods do you use”.

Displaying my characteristic ineptness in the niceties of double-speak and the various marketing mantras designed to dazzle, I resort to a radical approach and simply tell the truth. To wit; “Sir/Madam, I use the method that works for your dog.”

A moment of silence normally ensues as In this day and age people expect to be harangued by a slick sales pitch. I am not a salesman but an old dog trainer merely trying to center people on the bottom line goal that they should hope to achieve.

After spending a sizable portion of my life training and treating the behavioral issues of canines, I consider myself well versed on the many proposed methodologies. I consider myself a life-long student of canine behavior and intently study each new concept relating to my field. I incorporate good ideas and discard (sometimes laugh) at the bad ones.

I call “my” method Flow Training because my experience has to lead me to the strongly held belief that true dog obedience, canine contentment and a situation that results in a well-behaved family dog, all flow from the relationship the dog has with his human.

If the dog trainer employs brutish instruction, the dog will react by being frightened, depressingly submissive and possibly neurotic. Unfortunately, this was the norm in dog training for many years and dog training involved dominance enforced by methods that bordered on torture. As with all extreme methods, there was the inevitable extreme backlash. I now read of trainers who forbid the use of the word “NO” as being too harsh a correction.

Extreme positions tend to result in extreme outcomes. Where previously I encountered countless dogs that presented an almost neurotic passivity, I now routinely encounter the opposite effect in countless dogs who are so coddled and confused that they express this recent “positive training philosophy” by likewise presenting various forms of canine insanity; i.e separation anxiety, aggressiveness, and generally such bad behavior that their owners are on the verge of euthanizing their dog.

Gentle readers, I suggest and practice rejecting the extremes. You will not have a dog that is a lovable member of your family by whipping him into submission. Likewise, when you read of a trainer that adheres with slavish devotion to purely “positive” training you will have a dog that will only do tricks for treats and view you with more contempt than love and devotion.

A final thought to consider is that dogs are different. This is common sense but often ignored on the altar of promoting a current fad in training. Some dogs will need to be dominated to re-ground them in the concept that you are the master. Other dogs will need to be treated like fine porcelain objects that require the gentlest of interaction. But the overriding consideration for a truly successful trainer must be how to truly help the dog and family interact in a way that results in a joyous, loving bond that is neither based on fear or bribery. One size fits all methods simply are counterproductive and actually harmful. So any method of training that is based on a rigid ideology is unsound, ill-conceived and can result in both your total exasperation and possible harm to your dog.. If we do not adopt a flexible and individual approach to what will truly help make your dog the best that he can possibly be then we are doomed to defending theories rather than helping dogs.

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Sandy Finley Perfect Manners Dog Training

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