Dog trainers and plumbers: Is day training such a big no no?

A food-for-thought blog post questioning the implicit ban on day training by force-free trainers
By Laure-Anne Visele, May 2015

About the author: certified dog trainer in The Hague


Canis bonus: Laure-Anne Visele

My name is Laure-Anne and I help with dog behaviour problems around The Hague (Canis bonus). I am also Head Trainer at OhMyDog! (dog training school in The Hague). I graduated in Zoology, and am a certified dog trainer and applied animal behaviourist. If you live close to The Hague and are getting worried or annoyed about your dog’s behaviour, tell me about the problem. I’ll get back to you within two business days. You can always read up a little on how it works first if you’re not sure.

Are dog trainers plumbers?


Maybe we can take a lesson or two from Mario’s business model

I was at a Nando Brown seminar the other day and he said something that stuck with me: “If we were plumbers,” he said, “and a client called in a panic with water running down their wall, how crazy would it be if we told him it would take a few weeks, as we needed to first show him how to fix it himself?”

He went on to say this: “We want to make a mini-me out of each client, we try to make dog trainers out of them.”

Sure they should have called before water came running down their walls, but that’s the nature of our job. We are crisis workers. That’s the nature of our industry. Our clients tend to wait until a problem is deadly serious before they call. That’s just how it is. In these cases, a quick fix isn’t some dodgy marketing tool; it’s the only thing standing between the dog and the euthanasia needle. It’s ugly and it’s unfair, but it’s true.

Training transparency comes at a cost

Trainers who come from my cultural corner – force-free and evidence-based – go through great pains to be transparent about their work. Speaking for myself, I am obsessively worried that I could be suspected of using compulsion-based methods. So I feel obliged to invite my

Absolute transparency is laborious and doesn't always add value

Absolute transparency will bloat your project

clients to watch every moment of training.

But this is more of a PR gain than an efficiency one: ever tried to demonstrate something AND look at an animal’s micro responses at the same time? It’s hard, it’s slow, it’s inefficient.

I used to do it all the time because of this implicit ban we have on day-training (when the trainer, rather than the owner, conducts the majority of the training). Imagine teachers refusing to look after your kid alone in case they get accused of something untoward?

And how about this: have you ever put a serious behaviour case in the hands of an amateur? Because it used to be my modus operandi. I have since come to realise that laying down the foundations myself gives these cases a boost and improves the dog’s chances. So more and more often, I start by patching the major leaks myself before handing over the training reigns to the owners. Sure I give behavioural first aid advice on day 1 (to prevent things from getting even worse, and to manage welfare/safety concerns); and of course I’ll hand over the necessary knowledge to the owners once I’ve pre-trained the dog. But I am doing more and more of the technical training myself.

Big Brother

I would love to be nanny-cammed while I work.

To address the transparency thing, I am more than willing to be nanny-cammed while I work.

Mmmmh… Come to think of it, am not sure I can take the ridicule of people finding out how much I talk to their dog when I think no one is watching…

Illustration credits

No changes were made to any of the illustrations.

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