"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

"Ask the Dog Guy" with John Wade

Puppy and Obedience Training Without Food or Fear

The Dog Training World

– Posted in: Columns

Hello John,

We are feeling as though we are at a loss with our 6 (1/2) month old Silky Terrier.  He has had training at one of the box store pet supply places, as well as a new franchise in the area.  They sent someone to our home that sounds similar to your approach.  They come into the home, do not use treats, and base the training on natural dog behaviour.

Apparently Dickens (our dog) is one of the few who won’t change using their basic approach.  We were told to use passive leadership in an attempt to gain dominance (basically, ignore Dickens when he initiates), and then the trainer will return.  So far, passive leadership has only caused more barking and destructive behaviour (chewing rugs, getting into garbage or laundry).  I guess I just wanted another opinion.  We really need things to change soon! Our main issues are; -excessive barking (especially if someone is at the door, or if he is ignored), chasing our cats, to the point that they can’t get a drink of water (one is disabled), unreliable ‘come’, baring his teeth if you try to take something out of his mouth that he shouldn’t have. He is also a little dominant with other dogs (bares teeth sometimes, or mounts the other dog).
Is there hope? – Lola

Hi Lola,

Don’t let the diminutive size of this toy breed fool you. Using the wrong approach with any terrier can quickly turn the breed from Silky Terrier to Silky Terror. If the trainer came to your home, doesn’t use treats and bases his or her training on natural dog behaviour, then it does sound similar to my approach. There’s just one thing though. There’s nothing natural about passive leadership. At least not in the way it has been described to you, that being “ignore Dickens when he initiates.” Particularly in situations like barking and baring of teeth. Dickens is only 6 ½ months old his mom would be on him like paparazzi on a celebrity scandal and he’d stop as quickly as a bug hitting a windshield. Well maybe two or three windshields, he is a puppy after all. There is no such thing as ignoring serious behaviour in nature, in hopes that passivity wins out. Passivity kills in the wild. Down the road, the same can be true with companion dogs that bite when someone tries to take something out of their mouth that isn’t good for them.

A lot of dog trainers get their start by working for corporate stores, but as a rule the more experienced and better trainers find they can earn a better living running their own show. Corporate trainers can still help a lot of people but in spite of the volume they handle they’re rarely equipped to do deal with dogs that are a real handful. Dog training is like any profession. Book learning is one thing, natural ability and years of experience is quite another. I think the rule for any profession is 20/80 or 2 out of 10 excel. I’ve met lots of trainers that belong to many professional associations and have certificates from a ton of courses and yet haven’t been able to translate that into good handling skills. Come to think of it, I’ll bet that would work out to 8 out of 10. Doesn’t mean they don’t love animals. Just means they shouldn’t be training them.

The reality is that dog training is a very difficult profession to earn a real full time living at. You have to be very good at it. For many, it is supplementary income doing something they love. That’s how I started over 20 years ago, part time. Fortunately, some natural ability combined with some self education and healthy dose of luck, I have been blessed to enjoy a long and successful career. From what you’re saying the trainer you’re working with has been better practically equipped through his or her corporation then many other corporate run operations do and I bet he or she will help lots of people. But I also bet five years from now if he or she is still around “passive leadership” won’t be in his or her vocabulary. See what happens after the next appointment. Who knows, maybe not giving Dickens the dickens will work? Stranger things have happened.


– John Wade the Dog Trainer 

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