Good canine trainers Vs. bad canine trainers

On “graduation day” of our Puppy kindergarten class, my weimaraner puppy snatched our “graduation” certificate from the trainer’s hands and shredded it.

Right there in front of everyone.

She still passed us.

“Sporting breeds are slow to mature,” she said, trying to reassure me.

I really appreciated her for saying that.

A few months later, at our first canine Obedience class (at a different club), my now 6-month old puppy was on his hind legs, jumping towards our new trainer at our first class.

Poor behavior, for sure. but also pretty typically of an excited, young dog.

“I bet you wish you’d taken a puppy class,” the trainer said, unimpressed by us.

“We did,” I said.

“Where? Petco?” (Some canine trainers are snobby and look down on Petco trainers.)

“Hidden Valley Obedience Club.”

“Oh … huh. They’re typically pretty good.”

I should’ve left her class, but we stuck it out for the six weeks and got the most out of it, working on the basics.

From there, Remy and I have had other instances like this, over our 5 years together. Let’s just say owning a weimaraner has been very humbling.

Just last summer, Remy and I were at a bird canine training day. This was our very first summer training on birds ever and my canine and I were brand new to fieldwork and hunting.

One of the trainers pulled me aside.

“You’ve got to get that canine under control,” he said.

He was referring to my dog’s excitability, yet again. and how Remy was very much running all over the damn place instead of methodically using his nose to search for birds. (Because he did not know he was expected to look for birds!)

The trainer pointed out how my canine wasn’t coming when called, would not heel and wasn’t even paying attention to me. This was all very true in that moment.

But the thing is …

All of the trainers I mention above were seeing Remy in his worst, many explosive moments.

They had no idea how hard we’ve worked, how far we’ve come.

We have our challenges for sure, and Remy will always be an excitable, goofy individual. He really does try, but he’s also … let’s just say, a “free spirit.”

Yet, Remy is a very good dog!

I’m very happy of what he can do. He’s becoming very focused in agility, for example. He follows my lead, for the most part, pays attention and listens. We earned our first two titles this year, and I expect we’ll earn numerous much more in the future.

Why do I mention all of this?

Because you’ve got a good dog, too!

Your canine is a good dog, and you are a good handler and trainer.

We all have different challenges.

We all work at our own pace with the time we have and the resources available. and with the canine in front of us.

We’re all improving overall, and we all have ups and downs as we go. canine training is not a clear path.

But I will be a better canine trainer one year from now than I am today. and so will you, if you keep on learning.

Good canine trainers vs. bad canine trainers

A good canine trainer knows how to work dogs – that’s easy!

You know what’s hard? working with people.

No canine trainer ought to ever make you feel bad about your relationship with your dog.

I say this because I’ve been there so numerous times and it really sucks.

My first canine Ace was always the best behaved canine so I know what it’s like to have the rockstar in the group – the canine who makes you look good, the canine who always obeys, who does not challenge you, who remains calm and stable even when another canine is lunging or tearing around off leash.

I worked really hard with Ace and I’m happy of what he and I accomplished. He was the best boy!

But I’m also happy of Remy, probably even much more so because he’s much more challenging.

There is no way Remy will walk at a ideal heel off leash in a park with other dogs around as Ace could do. Not yet, anyway.

Remy is not capable of remaining in a down/stay while I greet another canine as Ace did with no problem.

Heck, I’m glad if Remy comes when called 50% of the time.

But I put in the work and we make a great team. in some cases we disagree on who is the “team captain” but the point is we’re making progress.

What good canine trainers do

I’ve been lucky to work with a lot of really talented, inspiring canine trainers over the years too. I don’t care if they call themselves “positive only” or “balanced” or what kind of tools they choose as long as they are being fair and consistent with the dog.

Here are a few things good canine trainers have taught meor said to me:

1. good canine trainers comment on improvements we’ve made.

For example: “Remy is really focused tonight.”

Or, “Remy is really following you well.”

2. good canine trainers encourage me to push my comfort zone.

For example: “I think he’s ready to trial.”

Or, “He’s ready for the Canine good citizen test, absolutely.”

3. They single us out when we do something well.

“He’s really calmed down this year.”

Or, “Remy always comes running to Lindsay because she’s enthusiastic.”

4. They offer suggestions without criticizing.

“Try returning to him sooner to reward him for staying.”

Or, “Make sure he waits until you release him. He doesn’t get to decide.”

5. They have their opinions but listen to mine.

“I don’t use e-collars but he’s your dog, so if it works for you, that’s fine.”

Now, I’d like to hear from the rest of you…

How do you define good canine trainers vs bad canine trainers?
If you’re a trainer, how do you inspire your clients?

Let me know in the comments!

Additional resources:

My canine got kicked out of class!
Why is my canine so hard to train?
Training my weimaraner 2021 goals
What to expect from group canine training classes
Trainers share their puppy training suggestions (Wag A Bond blog)

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