In today's abbreviated world, LOL (laugh out loud), BFF (best friends forever) and my personal favorite BBILFM (be back in like five minutes) get a lot of screen time, even beyond the private AIM (AOL instant message) chats of pre-teen girls. TMI (too much information) gets a lot of press, too. But unfortunately, its cousin TLI (too little information) gets far too little.
As the number of dog owners steadily rises, so does the number of people deciding to scrap it all and "do what they love."
What do they love? Dogs! What do they want to do? Train dogs! What qualifies them? Nothing! Why should you care? You shouldn't! ... Until you have a real problem with your pup and need it solved. TLI on the part of your trainer can be a VBT (very bad thing).
The advent of televised dog training, which uses the magic of editing to make cajoling the most unruly of beasts into blissful submission look as easy as eggs on toast, has helped push the number of people calling themselves dog trainers through the roof. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, that number has tripled since the year 2000, making dog training among the most popular second-career choices, along with winemaking and sportscasting.
So what's the problem? After all, we're just talking about a little Emily Post for pups, right?
NOMW (not on my watch).
As dog behavior expert Brian Kilcommons put it when interviewed by The New York Times for a recent article on the onslaught of dog trainers: "This is a profession where you are making life and death calls. The dog who isn't euthanized and needs to be could hurt a person. On the other hand, a dog that has solvable problems but proves beyond the skill set of a trainer might end up in a shelter."
By the time they call me, most people living with canine behavioral problems have let those problems go on too long. Which means they're bigger and more difficult to solve. In other words, the problem is now over the head of someone who hung their dog-trainer shingle based on having "grown up with dogs." An abbreviated text message is one thing; an abbreviated education in your field of expertise is quite another.
Recently, I received an e-mail from someone citing "37 years experience working with Labs, including basic and intermediate obedience training." This person went on to diagnose their 3-year-old Lab rescue as having been "seriously abused; beaten, tortured, the works." This diagnosis was made three days after bringing the dog home, and this person has been living with these problems for the last eight months behavioral problems that, in my book, could be attributed to any number of things, all of which should be explored. An excerpt:
"He walks around and pees in zigzag lines like he doesn't realize he's doing it. He has access to the outside 24/7, but won't go out without permission. He holds it all night and day, but when he seems to be fine and happy, he starts walking through the house peeing all the way. If left alone he won't drink all day. He flinches at the slightest sound. If you raise your voice at all he starts peeing.
If I take him to the park he's wonderful: social, outgoing, obedient. He just does this at home. He doesn't have any of the normal crazies like barking, chewing or digging.
"I need to know how to help him get over this constant fear and to get him to stop walking through the house peeing. I'm afraid of any corrections because I don't want to perpetuate his abuse. Please help me with Toby. He's a wonderful dog and just wants love and to please."Not having spent any time with Toby, I can only speculate as to what the underlying causes might be: improper socialization, phobias, incontinence, nerves, submissive wetting or possibly the residuals of prior abuse. This person is clearly a dog lover who has grown up around dogs. But that's not enough. If you get a rescue, you've got to believe it will have some issues. And you've got to know it will take more than love to solve those problems. Unfortunately, LALOLUV (lots and lots of love) can't make up for TLI.
Dog trainer Matthew "Uncle Matty" Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series "WOOF! It's a Dog's Life!" Send your questions to [email protected] or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619. © Creators Syndicate Inc.