All over social media you hear stories of people whose dogs end up starved, hurt or "broken" in the hands of professionals. And most of it occurs while the owner is standing nearby. Why? Because they believe that this trainer is doing what is best for their dog because they are the professional. But that is not always the case.
A few weeks ago I was talking to a client and she told me a story that she has given me permission to share with you. And I have to tell you--I was so very proud of what she did and how she handled herself that I immediately congratulated her on her willingness to advocate for her dog.
She was in my basic foundations class and her dog is a puppy--a typical happy, bouncy excited puppy. She is a great dog and so very smart and responds very well to positive reinforcement. To help her walk better on leash, we started using an Easy Walk Harness and they had seen great improvement in her. They were happy. The dog was happy. I was happy.
But, apparently, someone wasn't.
The owner and her family were going camping and they knew that their puppy wasn't quite ready for that yet, so they decided to board her. They researched facilities and the weekend before they were leaving they took their dog to the facility they had chosen to introduce her to the surroundings. The person who runs the facility is also a trainer. When they arrived they had their dog on her Easy Walk and one of the first things the trainer does is reprimand them for chosing that walking aide for their dog. Told them they should put a choke collar on her and that would be better. Before they knew what was happening, this trainer had a choke collar on their dog and was walking her around. She did okay (not great). Then, as they were standing and talking and this puppy was simply standing there, the trainer gave a harsh leash pop and collar correction. The owner saw nothing that warrented any type of correction and immediately told the trainer to take the collar off her dog and give her back. And they quickly left. As they were leaving the trainer said "So, I'll see you guys next week." He didn't see anything wrong with what he had done.
She and her husband were furious. When we talked she said "If he was willing to make that harsh of a correction when I was standing there, I couldn't imagine what he was willing to do if I wasn't there." She also said that she was upset that he was offering unsolicited training advice since she was there for boarding. She knew that there was no way they were leaving their dog at that facility for a week. But they also knew they were short on time.
They spent their entire day going around to various facilities in the area looking for another option. Please keep in mind that they had already planned to leave their puppy in the hands of the trainer they had just left--but they knew that they would not feel safe or relaxed if they did. This family gave up their whole day in order to make sure that their dog was happy, safe and unharmed. They found a facility they liked and their dog had a great experience and they had a wonderful vacation.
And this is what I mean by advocate for your dog. The owner told me that she was uncomfortable from the beginning and although she went into it with an open mind, she knew that this facility was not right for her dog. The atmosphere felt wrong and the training went against what she felt was right for her dog. Was it convenient for her to give up a whole day? Of course not. But, did she do what she knew was right for her dog? Yes. 100% yes.
Never second guess that feeling--you know what is best for your dog. You know your dog better than anyone. Just because someone is a professional does not mean that they know your dog better than you do. Ask questions. Be informed. And, most importantly, be your dog's advocate. They will thank you for it.