What does a dog trainer do all day??

I get this one all the time…..You Train Dogs for a living?? Are you serious?

What exactly does that mean? Well, I kind of thought today would be a good day to just run through what I did with clients all day long. It was an average day though a little short for most, this one was only eight hours long (just like the old office job). But, I tell all my clients and friends, it sure beats the heck out of working in a cube all day long.

So, here goes:

First Client:

A 16 week old labrador retriever puppy from very fine blood lines. Her parents were field trial champions so we can assume that she’s a pretty high strung and ACTIVE puppy.

In any case, her owners have done a remarkable job on working with her on the basic obedience stuff (sit, down, come…) but they were having a problem with the crate training. This little girl just didn’t want to go in the crate and certainly didn’t want to stay in the crate. She was also showing some signs of separation anxiety in the mix.

Off we go to the crate. We work for almost a solid hour on getting her to run in the crate, sit down, lay down in there and basically calm down in the crate. We used several little dog trainer tricks (Treats!!!!) to accomplish this, but we also showed her that we weren’t going to leave her in there forever. She started getting the idea and her owner called later in the afternoon to tell me that the pup had actually taken a nap in the crate which was a first.

The we started working on the Bed command where we teach her to stay on a dog bed until released. This worked like a charm in the lesson and it’s the tool of choice for initial and low level work on separation anxiety. Great command for all dogs to learn but particularly with this girl.

Off to the next client:

Second Client:

Young Corgi that was about 1 year old and showing pretty pronounced fear symptoms. This dog had been subjected to another trainer that tried to yank it into doing stuff with a choke collar. Not the way to go with a scared dog and I would love to get that choke collar on the previous trainer but that’s another story.

Anyway, we spent the better part of an hour building up trust with the pup so that the owners could even catch her. We started playing some very calm training games using treats to get her to come to us and allow us to reach out and touch her collar. She did great and her two young owners (age 9 and 10) were fantastically patient. By the end of the session we had her outside and she would come to us from several feet away. Another first for the owner.

Off to the next client:

Third client:

A one year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever with a counter surfing habit and the turbocharged desire to jump in the pool every time the back door to the house was opened.

First we worked on the “snatch the food” habit.

Interesting story here. The kids that own this dog go to a school that send home bread with them every Friday. So every Friday this dog knocks the five year old down when he comes through the door and snatches the bread. Not a very good habit in a dog if you ask me.

I appropriated the loaf of bread in question, which didn’t get snatched this week, and we started to work. I unceremoniously dropped the Challah bread on the floor ( I hope that didn’t horribly violate some sacred Jewish tradition) and started to teach this guy that he just wasn’t going to get that lovely Jewish delicacy ever again. It worked. By the end of the session I could hold the Challah up and our old bread snatching buddy would move away from it as I held it closer to him.

Next we went to the pool. This one is a hard one. Chesapeake Bay’s are bred, born, selected, and ordained to jump in any body of water that presents itself. Anything from a thimble to a water bowl to the backyard pool. I mean, we’re working with genetics here, I’m not the dog Whisperer or anything.

After a bit of modifying how this guy approached the pool we managed to get him to sit unattended at the edge of the pool and actually turn away from it as the owners walked up to him. I kind of took it as all in a days work but the owners said they wouldn’t have believed it if I told them it could happen.

Now for the hard part:

Just because I worked with all those people today and got their dogs to DO what they wanted, those dogs are still not trained. It’s going to take hundreds and hundreds of repetitions for all of these folks to get where they want to go with their dogs. It’s grunt hard work.

The beautiful thing about what I do though is I get to come in, show them how to accomplish it, and usually get their dog to a better place. They they get to do all the hard work!

Thats a day in my life.

Steve Haynes
Austin Dog Trainer
Fidelio Dog Works

Technorati Tags: ,