Many average trainers teach "average group classes," charge you an "average price" and have, well... that "average" knowledge and skill about dogs, dog training, dog behavior and canine psychology. Most owners who don't know better or who don't really care about these facts, just settle with such trainers and end up with "average results" or even worse-NO RESULTS-in training their dogs! In contrast, the Master Minds I'll be describing in this chapter aren't your average at all and are known to beat the odds.
So who emerges from the pack? There is an amazing energy and spirit about these individuals which you'll notice right away that goes far beyond dog training. In fact, they know it is much more than dealing with dogs, and this is where I'll open your eyes to the traits and qualities of the SMARTEST and the most successful dog experts in the business. Because of their knowledge, skill and persona, they are not only making it--but making it big with class and integrity. Again, don't forget that I'm referring to the SMARTEST, so you don't think that they just got lucky for being at the "right place," at the "right time" or by meeting the "right person." Even if that was the case for a few to some degree, before you know it, they took over and kept on paddling on their own.
I learned a long time ago that if you want to get better in anything, you have to put your ego aside and learn from much better and smarter minds than yourself.
Sometimes this simply came down to hiring the best expert money can buy. (I've also learned a lot from the worst-of-the-worst. After all, this is where you learn what NOT to do.) After studying those who were considered to be as the "real deal," I've noticed that they all came from a totally different class and mentality, and it's no wonder why their success rate was so hard to ignore. When put through the test, they all possessed these ten qualities about them:
- They Care about You, Your Dog and Their Reputation
You see, it's not always about how much you know or how great you are, but it is also about how much you "care." This simply means these trainers are truly nice people. The old saying, "nice guys finish last," isn't their motto. Studies have shown that nice people live longer, are happier, get more referrals, are always surrounded by friends and relatives, rarely get sued, and rarely get killed. Some may also have a great sense of humor. Sorry, only some. We all know someone with a sense of humor and know that this shows that they love what they do, don't let things bother them as much, and care to make others if not laugh, at least smile here and there. Why the majority of dog trainers are so rude, mean, and disrespectful and act like Mr./Mrs. Know-It-All, is beyond me. It's no secret that most of the time you can tell a lot about someone the minute you talk to them on the phone or in person. That again is, if, you are even able to reach any of them on the phone. Which brings up the fact of caring, once again.
Those who truly CARE not only will get back to you, but often try to reach you immediately. They know that you may need help right away!! You'll soon find out that most dog trainers leave you hanging and you start to grow gray hair waiting for a call back or an e-mail.
Once you are finally able to get a live person on the phone, make sure you get a good vibe from the very start, if not, why bother? This simply means no matter how good they may be, you will be stuck with a jerk, psycho, weirdo, nut job and the list goes on and on. Women are much better than men with their intuition. They say, "It has to feel right." Or "I didn't get a good vibe from him/her." If it the person makes you feel uncomfortable by being too pushy, rude, condescending, or there is something you don't like about him/her, then you could be stuck with this person in your home, in private, or for six to eight weeks down the line.
Top trainers usually answer your tough questions with patience and respect and don't mind or get offended by how much you challenge their knowledge or expertise. These individuals don't just deliver, but often OVER-deliver. This is because they care about their image and their reputation and truly want to stand out from the pack. They know going that extra mile WILL get them that extra attention. After all, how many times have you hired a painter, a contractor, an attorney, or even a babysitter who disappointed you with their poor work ethics? They did a poor job or didn't care much. As some say, "They just go with the flow," and never care about any constructive criticism from ANYONE. You simply don't see that "wow factor" or that "pizzazz" in their work. Noooooooo, I didn't say pizza again. So put down the Parmesan cheese.
If you've already hired a dog trainer in the past, you probably went out of your way to make sure you were hiring a "pro," just to find out that they were definitely a "pro" but also a pro in doing a lousy job or a pro in--"ripping you off!" How fast someone gets back to you, or even if, they even bother to get back to you are all the qualities you should look for. For example, a lot of group class trainers if they don't have a class starting soon, or their class happens to be full, won't even bother to call you back. They even get lazy to mention this on their answering machine. This would never happen with those who actually care about you and your dog.
Once you get to actually talk to these individuals, you can't help it but notice how honest, caring, genuine, and professional they come across.
Whether it is in person, on the phone, or by e-mail, the ones who know they are on top of their game never sound pushy or desperate. In fact, they know not everyone recognizes, appreciates, or even deserves the very best. This is just a fact of life. Those who are among the best-of-the-best in the world of dog training, are considered to be as remarkable teachers/counselors and don't get mad when I add this-even great therapists. The truth is, that the majority of dog owners have no technique, get nervous, act tense, are too harsh with their dog, get too loud, or they can't get firm enough if and when needed. And what's even more sad is none of the trainers who they even hired in the past, bothered to point out their GOOD qualities either. Everybody knows it's not that hard to point out someone's weaknesses. What makes a good trainer brilliant is his/her ability to praise the owners' good habits while correcting their mistakes in a courteous manner. Unfortunately the majority of dog trainers lack people skills and are famous for treating the owners like dogs. I had to learn this the hard way. So the ones that DO make a positive impact among dog owners are the ones that know there is a difference between insulting someone and giving a critique.
You see, there are thousands of great "trainers" out there, thousands--but only a few great "instructors!" Training and teaching the owners is where lies the real challenge.
- Their Training Method Is Backed by Common Sense
As a writer I hate saying this, but please don't believe everything you read-especially things that just don't make any sense. If you don't see any logic or rationality behind it, how do you suppose your poor dog is going to make any sense out of it? Here's an example. I have a client who owns a Cocker Spaniel that was vicious toward dogs and children. The behaviorists advised her to do lots of parallel walks with bag of treats to use when she ran into other dogs and kids. The dog would stop eating the treats and STILL lunge at any dog they encountered. I guess he saw them as a dessert after those yummy treats. Again, there was no common sense behind the behaviorist's advice, was there?
When in doubt, always ask yourself: Does this seem rational? Am I getting anywhere with this? Are people going to laugh at me?
Even with what you read in my book or on my website, observe it with an open mind and maybe TRY it first, and then be the judge. Once you try something, then you can be certain whether it did or did not work for you and your dog. Otherwise you are just relying on assumptions instead of facts. The same rule applies if you are instructed by your trainer, see it on television, were instructed by your trainer in a group class, or even if it comes from someone with a Ph.D. you need to stop and ask yourself where's the logic and practicality behind their advice? Be smart about it and don't let others brainwash you by trying methods that have no rationality to support them. Smart trainers don't mind asking you, "Does this make sense to you?" or "Do you see the logic behind what we are trying to accomplish?" Again, if it doesn't make any sense, please don't make a fool out of yourself.
Smart Dogs - Dumb Trainers:
Trainers who recommend that you should bark at your dog, growl at your dog, yelp like a dog, or ignore your dog's bad habits such as jumping up on you, barking at you, don't make sense and their tactics won't work. If they do, knock yourself out. Folks, we were taught to use common sense from a very early age in kindergarten. In case you forgot, the teaching was:
"Stop and Think." It wasn't "Go for it Chopper! Then we'll think of the consequence." (Now for some of us, getting the lesson afterward works much better. I guess as long as we "get it" that's all it really matters, doesn't it?)
- They Have an Uncanny Ability to Pay Attention to Details
Yes, details my dog-loving friend. These experts are like a sponge and absorb everything and hardly miss even the smallest details. ( I've been told that I'm like that. Just in case it will come as a shock for those of you who prefer to hire me in person.) Whether people request that I go to them or if they prefer to send their dogs to me to be trained or rehabilitated, like a skilled crime scene investigator, I'll ask questions and then observe everything for myself, and I do mean EVERYTHING. By now, you should have gotten an idea of what I'm referring to by paying attention to details. If not, please be sure to read the chapter on (Questions you need to ask before hiring ANY expert.) But let me be a bit specific. I observe your technique, your posture, voice tone, attitude and overall perception. Are you firm, easy-going, loud, harsh, stubborn or depending on your mood, a mixture of all? How about too nervous, scared or maybe you think that saying "NO" to your dog might hurt his feelings and we may never see that tail wag again?
The importance of such details is why I cannot emphasize enough how crucial working with an expert in "private" really is. Because of my attention to details, even if I train your dog WITHOUT your involvement, I'll still manage to accomplish much more compared to a group class full of twenty dogs.
All the topnotch trainers you study, you'll notice that every single one of them have trained their own dogs WITHOUT any distractions first. So why should it be any different with you?
Top trainers always introduce distractions to their dogs systematically and this is why you truly see a huge difference in their dogs' performance and command response. They strongly believe that it's not fair to expect you or your dog to learn properly in an unfamiliar setting with lots of different distractions, and anticipate seeing a real difference in the dog's learning progress. It's even worse in group classes where there are lots of other dogs distracting you by constantly pulling on their leashes, barking, whimpering, lunging, or acting hyper around each another. Bottom line, by working in private, you'll see things from both the owner's and from the dog's perspective. Hiring an expert in private is the only way you'll be able to ask questions that pertain "specifically" to you and your needs. Top dog experts know this approach is THE BEST and fastest way to get maximum results and swear by it.
- They Will Make Sure You Don't End Up With a "Half-Trained" Dog
This means you see a "practical" approach behind their training technique. Remember, your method has to work anywhere and anytime, or else you're wasting your time and setting yourself and your poor dog up for a failure. Allow me to clarify. These trainers will make "sure" that your dog is NOT just another half-trained dog. You know the ones that:
- Mind their owners in a group class, but act like idiots at home.
- Listen perfectly when you have treats, but ignore you otherwise.
- Listens only when the trainer's around, but hardly at all at other times.
- All training goes out the window when you run into strangers or other dogs.
That's what I mean by a "half-trained dog." Elite trainers always prepare you and your dog to become street-smart. Competition training, show confirmation, agility training and making your dog do tricks sure look cute and are even impressive, but are not applicable out in the real world. The majority of dog owners do not seem to really care for them anyway. Always remember this: If your training technique can't be applied in your home, in your neighborhood, or on your day-to-day routines, sorry, you can't refer to it as "real-life" dog training. This means you've been wasting your time and money with the wrong method, wrong trainer, or with wrong group classes.
You see, if a method is effective, you'll see it working immediately, and if it's just nonsense-- you'll see it too. This is how top experts often deliver jaw-dropping results within seconds.
I always tell my clients: "By the second lesson, we could talk about how bad your dog used to behave, and how he has changed for the better already." If you've paid attention to my video clips on my site, you may be surprised to learn that most of those dogs have been trained by me in matter of minutes. I get the dog under control immediately and make them mind me on the spot. The rest is just polishing up, and making sure the dog obeys the owner. After all, it is NOT my dog and the dog should obey the owner.
- Their Training Method Even Works from a Distance and Off-Leash
Only a few get to this level. You want to eventually have COMPLETE CONTROL of your dog without even being leashed anywhere, anytime and in front of the most tempting distractions the outside world throws at you. This means across the room, across the street, in the backyard, front yard and even from far away with just the tone of your voice. I said your voice, not screaming from the top of your lungs. Top trainers proudly advertise this specialty and can pull it off with their own dogs. Only true professionals can deliver such results. You'll find that most trainers are considered as part-timers and hobbyists. That sad truth is, amateurs rarely are able to get your dog reliably off-leash trained.
It's no secret that there is a leash law. Which is why having your dog completely
"off-leash trained" isn't just cool these days, but a NECESSITY!
You and your pooch need to be prepared for that "what if" moment. What if your dog bolts out the door, manages to slip out of her collar, lunges and breaks her collar, attacks a dog, a cat, or maybe everything was fine and your dog was running free enjoying herself, when all of sudden ________ (you fill in the blank). The fact is, no matter how careful or responsible you may be, your dog will STILL GET LOOSE and will make a fool out of you. Only a very small percentage of trainers have the expertise to teach you the true art of off-leash training; make sure you look in the right places. A huge list of my clientèle includes those who are dying to get their dogs completely off-leash trained. This is because the trainer in which they've worked with, didn't have a clue on how to get his/her own dog off-leash trained--let alone be able to help someone else with it. Or, you see the trainers' dog was truly the only real "trained dog" in there, but they just can't get the poor owners to achieve the same results with their dogs. How sad and pathetic!
- Your Dog's Age NEVER Matters to Them
Whether be a ten week old pup or ten years adult dog, your dog is smart enough to learn what is right and what is wrong. What is acceptable and what isn't. Your dog's annoying bad habits such as: Barking, Jumping, Growling, Snapping, Bolting and Not Being Fully House Trained, along with any other bad habits or even responding to your daily commands aren't impossible tasks for the real experts to overcome. This means that they are well-educated and experienced in solving your dog's day-to-day issues and love to take on the challenge. Why let your older dog or your young puppy run your life for you, when you are the one who is paying all the bills and providing everything else? The least your dog can do is to respect and obey your commands and respect the rules of your house. Is that too much to ask?
- They Gladly Accept Even Hard-to-Train Breeds
Real experts in dogs are skilled, versatile, and welcome the challenge of working with stubborn AND dominant dogs. It doesn't really matter to them whether your dog is labeled as aggressive, un-trainable, red zone, or hopeless. They are willing to accept the risk and give you and your dog another honest chance. Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Akitas, Dobermans, German Shepherds, Bull Dogs (English or American), Chow Chows, Shar Pei, and those giant breeds that look like Pit Bulls on steroids. I am talking about: Presa Canario, Cane Corso, Argentino Dogo and Kevin Salemo, are just to name a few among the hard-to-train breeds. You may find this hard to believe, but even Labrador Retrievers can be a challenge to train. This is because they are known to be very strong, hyper, over-friendly and easily distracted.
You see, when a dog expert is willing to accept a case of an aggressive, sensitive, overprotective, excessive barker, whiner, or even one that's a bit unpredictable, that's when they HAVE TO rely on years of experience, knowledge, skill and even their instinct. This is because they are a true dog lover and don't discriminate against certain breeds and experienced enough to take on any challenge. Small, big, scary, wussy, mixed, pure breed or not, it doesn't make not one bit of difference to them. A dog, is simply another dog to them.
- Their Method Might Be Firm, but It is Also Kind
Let's face it. No parent can ever raise a child properly without being firm and kind. Firm alone may still get you some results, but that "kind" is what makes it more of a loving and healthy relationship. I met a trainer years ago that had a super dog. This dog was one of the most well-trained German Shepherds I have ever seen. The sad part is, when his trainer would release him and send him off to play, the dog would still stand there and look at him for another command. Yes you guessed it. The dog became a soldier, a robot that just couldn't have fun anymore. He wouldn't even want to or even knew how, to play with my dogs. How sad. I told the trainer that you are definitely this dog's master, but not his best friend. He shrugged and said, "Kevin, you can be his best friend. I don't really care about stuff like that."
In order to make sure you don't end up with such a dog, you need to make sure you are also your dog's "buddy." When your dog makes a mistake, you need to correct it at that "exact" moment, and also praise and reward it lavishly on the spot. As long as you don't confuse firm with harsh or abusive, you should be fine. Just don't forget. Firm could be a simple as tugging on the leash when you catch your dog misbehave, and follow it with praise and affection when you see him obey or stop an unwanted behavior. It could also be to stop your dog's lunging, jumping, barking, snapping or even crotch/butt sniffing. Just holding tightly on your dog's leash for your life isn't training, that's called restraining. Do you want to train your dog or restrain it? That's what I thought. Now you'll always know when you see a true pro. They make working with all dogs seem so easy, that you swear they can even do it blindfolded. Your dog will listen and obey them without any yelling or the need of excessive force.
You'll see the smoothness and the flow in their technique, as your dog performs at his best right before your eyes--as if it is "their" dog and NOT yours.
This simply reflects the fact that they've worked with thousands of different breeds of dogs, have years of hands-on experience, and possess that amazing ability to accurately read dogs' temperament and body language with no effort and be able to apply their training technique on your dog. Their uncanny ability to read dogs so well and have the confidence and the skill to back it up, is why they are so well known for delivering such outstanding results.
- They Let You Experiment with the Use of Different Training Tools
You can gather the best dog experts in the world, don't provide them any leashes, no collars, no harnesses, no whistles, no ropes, no toys, no treats and no tennis balls--they might as well be in their swimming suits. Then throw in some unruly dogs in there. You'll see that there won't be much that anyone can do. Unless one of the possess some kind of mind control like Criss Angel over the dogs and people, which I really would like to see for myself to believe, there isn't much any of these top experts can do without the right training tools.
Think about it for a moment. Can you do YOUR job without your pen, paper, phone, a desk, your vehicle, your computer or the certain tools and equipments that make your job run easier and smoother? Maybe you can. But you might as well be traveling back in time with your time-machine hundreds years back. Don't you agree that certain tools DO work better and faster? It's not much different when it comes to dog training tools. If there is a tool that works best on your dog, these trainers will let you try it. They truly use every weapon they can get their hands on and make sure you are able to control your dog in ANY situation and are happy with your results. This is because they always think outside the box.
Diverse Trainers know from experience that there isn't that "one magical tool" that works on every dog, every time. They improvise to make sure what works today, also does tomorrow!
After all, why use a tool that stopped working, was never effective in the first place, or doesn't even seem to faze your dog when you REALLY need it to work? Again, I am referring to see if that tool of your choice is truly as effective around strangers and the dogs in which your pooch is not familiar with. Let's not forget the cats, kids running around, or the joggers. Every one of these examples are considered as your daily distractions, don't they? Most trainers these days will have a nonsense tool that might have worked with a smaller, less dominant, less hyper and not as aggressive dog, hoping it will have the same effect with a much larger, stronger and far more aggressive dog. It reminds of "Bringing a knife to a gun fight." What's sad is that the majority of these trainers will stubbornly refuse to let the poor clients be diverse by trying a different tool. This especially doesn't make sense to me when you've exhausted the use of many different training tools up to this point and are desperate to try anything that would work.
In conclusion, this all comes down to finding a tool that is a best match according to your physical strengths, limitations, coordination AND your dog's size, speed, breed, prey drive and how much your dog responds to you with and without challenging distractions.
- They Rarely Give Up and Follow a "Diverse Method"
Topnotch trainers never believe that your dog cannot be trained. Their way of thinking is completely different. They focus more on HOW they can help you train your dog. This means they are willing to explore different methods if and when needed. In a nutshell, what makes these trainers brilliant is their ability to mix different methods of training to custom fit what works best for you and your pooch. All that really matters to them is making sure that the method works-and it works "every-single-time." Sometimes this means you need to get firm with your dog, and sometimes you should ease up and cut him some slack.
There you have it. Now do you believe me? Didn't I say that they truly make only one percent of the dog experts in the industry?
You'll agree with me that, there are many trainers out there, but only a few masters. These are the true qualities of the legendary dog trainers. Such greatness is extremely hard to come by. As I mentioned earlier, I strongly believe that they make less than one percent of dog experts in the industry. They are surely the most highly paid canine experts money can buy. In meeting these individuals I found them to be amazing. They were excellent trainers and amazing instructors. They were extremely confident, and sometimes even a bit cocky--but always backed it up with their knowledge and skill. This reminds me of my what I always say,
"It's good to be humble unless you are pressed against the wall and only then should you be able to CRUSH your competition." Or, "Act strong when you're weak and weak when you are strong." ( That last one isn't mine. I borrowed it from a boxing movie.)
Most of these individuals have dedicated years of their lives in making a difference by helping dogs, dog owners, and even other dog trainers. Remember, there is a big difference between having a well-behaved dog and possessing the technique, the knowledge, the patience, and the proper communication skills to TEACH it to others. These experts have mastered all of ten of these principles! This is why they are incredibly successful and come highly recommended by everyone. If you are a trainer reading this, to become one of the greatest, you need to improve in all of these ten areas. That's right. Not just good, better, or excellent, but to be among the greatest icons, dog phenomena, and the true legends. Teaching group classes on the side every Wednesday night at seven won't do it.
Is there a legend in your town? Maybe, maybe not. Most of my clients travel hours to work with me. Some even have me fly to their city and sometimes even COUNTRIES because they weren't impressed by any other expert locally, or were told that their dog was hopeless.