Every Pet Deserves A Good Home…

Therapy is for the dogs

Dear John:

What do you think about dog psychologists? Me? Not so much. –RNT


If you’re talking about someone who brings the dog into their office, sticks it on the couch and asks it if it hates its mother, then me not so much either. However, dogs are intelligent and anyone that has studied dog behavior in its nuances and variations in breeds and individual dogs might consider themselves students of dog psychology. Dog psychologist? A little self-aggrandizing, I think.

There are dog trainers that call themselves "behaviorists," and earlier in my career when I thought such a thing would distinguish me from the run of the mill dog trainer, I embraced the term. After a while, I thought it was silly and so now I’m just a dog trainer that believes in ethology with a strong emphasis on field observation, and has done a fair amount of literature study.

There is a branch of veterinary science now that certifies veterinarians as behaviorists. I believe their intellectual focus is mistakenly inverted when compared to that of a good dog trainer, with much more theoretical and laboratory emphasis rather than field experience. In my experience, they seem to have a poor grasp of the real world of dogs and their owners. I’m sure there are exceptions, but when it comes to actually training a wide range of dogs, as of yet I haven’t met one that seemed to know the difference between a scientific paper and a pee pad. They seem to think that saying "no" to a dog will ruin its self-esteem forever.

I recently learned of a new branch of the pet mental health services, and if anything has ever got anyone’s goat, my goat was got. On the truck radio, there was a pet psychic. I almost ran into the ditch. If I hadn’t been driving I would have called her to see if she could figure out what I was thinking. Vomit and the word charlatan would have figured prominently.

Outside of the world of fantasy, here is what you’ll find good and bad as your advisory options: people who have owned a dog or a few dogs. Their advice is often unsolicited. There are the "ignore bad behavior – reward good behavior" all-positive trainers – often "certified" – who think they’re training for obedience, but are actually not getting much past the trick level. Then there are balanced dog trainers that excel at obedience, teaching dogs to do practical things as if it was a job instead of a trick.

Then there are trainers that have personally trained a thousand or more dogs. They can consistently help teach a dog to stop doing something harmful to others or itself, or at least reduce the impact of the negative behavior on the dog and dog owner’s lifestyle. Or they can do what to me is the mark of a true professional: be honest and be able to explain why meaningful change isn’t going to happen.

Over the years, people interested in becoming dog trainers have approached me. They emphasize how much they love dogs, working with dogs, reading about dogs, etc. That doesn’t move me much. Loving dogs is easy. Whatever the other requirements, a good dog trainer must love people. Without that natural ability in the forefront, it won’t matter what they call themselves.

Pawsitively yours,

John Wade  -  Johnwade.ca

John Wade helps dog owners through his books, workshops and telephone consultations. If you have a question email him at johnwade@johnwade.ca.

And then there is that special trainer, behaviorist, psychologist or even a whisperer… or whatever you want to call them.  Any one who has watch Cesar Milan in action, live or on TV knows they exist.


Posted:  Just One More Pet


April 16, 2011 - Posted by | animal behavior, Animal or Pet Related Stories, Animal Related Education, animals, Dogs, Holistic Pet Health, Just One More Pet, Man's Best Friend, NO KILL NATION, Pet and Animal Training, Pet Friendship and Love, Pet Health, Pets, responsible pet ownership, Stop Animal Cruelty, Success Stories, Unusual Stories, We Are All God's Creatures | , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. The dog is a reflection of us,and when we have a dog that is not good means we are not good. When we alter a dog that is also not good. I can’t see a good owner doing anything to a dog that is not good. Have a bad dog is having a bad owner. The dog does not need help the owner does.

    The same goes with us, and our view of God. Have us think of God in the old testament not being the loving Jesus will make us the equivalent of being a bad dog with a bad owner.

    Comment by artiewhitefox | April 17, 2011 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: