No choke chain? Get out of puppy class!

I met someone recently who told me a story that floored me. She approached me while I was walking my three dogs and asked if I was a trainer. She had heard that I was and had a question for me. 

She had a beautiful King Charles Cavalier puppy that was as sweet as could be. He acted like a normal 6-month old and approached my dogs with interest and a normal amount of hesitation when approaching my two big Collies and my Sheltie. 

The woman asked if I knew a local trainer that trained at a fairly new store not far from our neighborhood. I had not heard of him, and asked why. She had said that her puppy was kicked out of class and wanted my opinion about what happened.

She told me the following:

  • The trainer said her dog wasn't behaving and "must" have a choke chain. She did not want to use a choke chain.
  • Her 6 MONTH old King Charles Cavalier puppy in PUPPY CLASS wasn't able to stay for more than a few seconds when he (the trainer) worked with him. 
  • He told her that her dog wasn't trainable. 

Are you kidding me?

He then proceeded to tell her that "she should consider other training options." At first she did not understand his message. The message was nothing short of "I am kicking you out of puppy class!" (My words, not his). 

This is wrong on SO many levels. 

First of all, if you use a choke chain you are hurting your dog. Period. Oh no? You don't really "need" to use it? Okay, then get it off your dog! So many people say that their dog "just behaves better with it on". You know why? YOUR DOG IS AFRAID TO GET HURT! 

Especially a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel puppy. If you have never had the pleasure of meeting one of these dogs, they are generally the sweetest, little lumps of fur that you can find. Of course their are anxious, aggressive, barky Cavaliers out there. But, in general (having trained a lot myself) they are sweet. But, you know what? Even if this little "terror" was aggressive, I would STILL not recommend a choke chain. (Excuse my yelling ALL CAPS, I am upset.)

On any given day at least half of my cases are aggression. I don't use or recommend choke chains, prong collars, or shock collars for ANY dog. And, you know what? People tell their friends about me, not just because I sometimes make them laugh but because my humane strategies work for any situation. 

To tell someone IN A PUPPY CLASS of all places, that they MUST use a choke chain is asinine!  

I taught training classes for 2 years before I started strictly working with private dog training clients. I built my class schedule up to 14 classes a week with 10 dogs each. I trained a ton of dogs. In my private dog training practice I currently average about 17 appointments a week throughout the year, topping out at 22 on a super-busy week. I have been working professionally as of this writing for 10 years. 

Do you think I would be this busy if my training did not work? You know one way that I make it work? I motivate my clients to train their dog. I am really good at what I do, but I am only with my clients for about an hour or so a session. If my clients did not continue working with their dogs in between sessions, I would be out of business because NONE of my client's dogs would be trained. 

To tell someone that they MUST hurt their dog, and their dog wasn't trainable because he wouldn't stay is ridiculous. First of all, it doesn't matter how long it takes to train a behavior. If the person and dog are having fun, eventually the behavior will happen. 

What really is ridiculous is that he made her feel horrible, and I would guess that he stinks as a trainer. It sounds like he got frustrated with A PUPPY -- IN CLASS. Any trainer worth a piece of venison jerky knows that distracting environments are the worst place to start working on a behavior.

He should have taken her to a quieter area of the training facility, or demonstrated the strategies with another dog that was performing and recommend that she practice first at home. Maybe he could have enticed her with a surprise if she could get her puppy to stay for 5 seconds the next class (a reasonable goal for most puppies). 

For those of you thinking, "5 seconds, are you kidding me, that's it? I could get my puppy to stay for 2 minutes when he was 7 weeks old!" I sincerely say, "Kudos to you", but you have to realize that every puppy is different, every person is different. There are so many factors that contribute to a dog's learning speed including genetics, daily exercise, socialization, skill of the person training them, amount spent every day, etc. etc. 

Who cares if a puppy can "stay" for 5 seconds or 5 minutes as long as the person and dog enjoy each other's company. Of course an unruly dog isn't fun for anyone. I am not saying don't train your dog. I am just saying, learning happens at different speeds, and that is okay. 

To say that a puppy is "untrainable" is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. What is she supposed to do with that information? Stop trying to train him? Maybe he needs a different motivator, different exercises, a different puppy class teacher! 

After we said our goodbyes after that horrifying story I could tell the woman loved her little puppy whether he could "stay" or not. She and her puppy (on a nice, regular collar) walked away. His tail was wagging, and she was smiling. 

Need humane, private dog training with the best dog trainer in Cary, NC? Visit JeffMillman.com

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Comments 1

Penny on Sunday, 27 May 2012 03:41

I just posted to my facebook account about this article. Thanks for writing it. I agree with what you say and I like the fact that you don't beat around the bush. the info in article, in my opinion, is excellent. Reading the article was a pleasure. I have worked with dogs for years and it bothers be when trainers make ridiculous statement like "dog is untrainable" I have trained for years and never met a dog that was untrainable. Now, as for some of the owners, that's a different story.

Hope you write more. I'll follow your blog. Take care, Penny

I just posted to my facebook account about this article. Thanks for writing it. I agree with what you say and I like the fact that you don't beat around the bush. the info in article, in my opinion, is excellent. Reading the article was a pleasure. I have worked with dogs for years and it bothers be when trainers make ridiculous statement like "dog is untrainable" I have trained for years and never met a dog that was untrainable. Now, as for some of the owners, that's a different story. Hope you write more. I'll follow your blog. Take care, Penny
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