I got this in my mailbox this morning:
And these are a couple I got earlier this week (also for Obedience 1):
It is brilliant that you are seeking professional help for these: they are, after all, really annoying problems. The thing is, though: you are registering for an obedience solution for what is a behaviour problem. In the eyes of a dog trainer, that is a little like signing your kid up for karate classes to help his reading skills.
You are not the only one, though. Pretty much only dog professionals are aware of the distinction. As dog owner, there is no way you would know about it. Well, until you have finished reading this blog post, of course! Keep reading to find out the differences and why it matters.
Ask a dog professional and they’ll say that a dog suffers from a behaviour problem if it either comes from a strong emotional response and/or if it takes an extreme form (e.g. lunging, escape attempts, extreme barking, etc.)
So what is a behaviour solution, then? We tend to recommend a desensitisation programme: carefully teaching the dog to react less intensely to the problem situation in a very precise and controlled environment (definitely not a group course).
A beautiful Sit (obedience solution) won’t get you very far with a behaviour problem.
Behaviour therapy can be quite involved: a long diagnostic and advice conversation, a thorough history behaviour intake, a multi-step training plan, and much more. Definitely not something you can do during a quick question round in the group.
Group courses – except for specialist courses, of course – are generally not designed to deal with complex behaviour problems. Not if you want it tackled responsibly, at least.
OK, so you still went for it. What now? Not only are you disappointed (and you have wasted your money on the course), but you may have even worsened your dog’s problems (this is often the case with fear / aggression issues). To force your dog into the problem situation will, more often than not, backfire on you. A process called ‘sensitisation‘ (article in Dutch) often gets in the way of your hope to get your dog ‘used to it’ purely by exposing him.
Don’t get me wrong: most common behaviour issues have a tried-and-tested solution that we can quickly suggest (we call that ‘behaviour first aid’.) A good dog trainer should be able to quickly sketch out the essentials of a solution.
At OhMyDog, for example, all trainers must first learn behavioural first aid so that they can help you with these questions (do you want to come work for us as a trainer? Check our vacancies page – in Dutch). If the problem is not too deeply rooted or complex, you can often get quite far with just quick behavioural first aid.
If you complete the form transparently, we can help you work out whether the problem is a small behaviour problem or whether we recommend behaviour therapy. This is the little sentence you will see on our form:
Before you press ‘Send‘, please read the Behaviour problems section below (***).
Please be truthful in this form, and share your dog’s possible behaviour problems honestly.
Some dog behaviour problems get in the way of a positive lesson experience, and can even lead to the advice of stopping with the course (for animal welfare and/or safety reasons). That is a waste of your money.
Think, for example, of dogs who:
Please share any concern you might have with your dog’s behaviour whilst registering, so that we can help you pick the right course.
Ideally, we find out before you start your group course. If you only find out it was a mismatch after your course, you leave angry and your dog is not better. Best be transparent before your course so we can advise you better.
This course selector can help you. You can use it in its broad lines regardless of which training school you are contacting.
Now that you know which service to sign up for, we want to wish you a fun and successful course!