It’s easy to assume that all Austin dog trainers might be cut from the same cloth. This couldn’t be farther from the truth!
Austin has a diverse array of philosophies and practices when it comes to dog training. Here’s our guide to the Austin dog trainer scene to help you make the right choice for your dog.
Who To Watch Out For: Aversive Dog Training In Austin
There are different types of dog training schools – those who rely on positive reinforcement based training only, those who claim to teach “balanced” training methods, meaning they use both positive and negative reinforcement, and then there are training schools who lean all the way to the “dark side” of training – using aversive methods like shock collars.
Unfortunately, right here in central Texas, there is a “balanced” school that teaches their students to use outdated, inhumane, and inefficient aversive methods to train dogs, which often creates even more behavioral issues without resolving any of the original concerns. Not only is their certification process more about money than it is about actual hands-on trainer experience, they subject dogs to force-based training in order to control them instead of actually teaching dogs and their trainers to learn together and enjoy the experience.
This school focuses on equipping its trainers with harsh tools and methods to force dogs to do what they want rather than teaching dogs to make positive choices for themselves. One issue with aversive-based training is that while it’s absolutely detrimental to dog’s emotional and psychological well being, it can be very reinforcing for the human. If you yell “no!” at a dog that is barking, he may be quiet for a moment. This is strongly reinforcing to the human as the unwanted behavior is ended for the moment, however, techniques like this create other issues such as fear, anxiety, and even aggression. From now on, the barking dog may run and hide from his owner, or even react aggressively the next time it feels cornered and is yelled at.
While some training schools may begin with positive methods, as soon as they encounter any difficulty, they teach to resort to aversive techniques, and could very well teach you the entirely wrong way to train your dog – controlling and forcing compliance and severely damaging your relationship in the process.
It’s not a surprise that a shock collar company funds this school. They teach their students the “right” way to use harmful devices like:
There is NO right way to use these tools. Ever. They “work” because they hurt your dog, and often don’t even “work” at all. A stressed dog feels less pain and sensation, and can literally choke themselves out without responding to the “tool” being used. Creating a relationship with your dog based on fear and mistrust is not what anyone wants and produces dogs who are anxious, aggressive, and neurotic.
A certain training company that has to do with “sitting” has their own line of shock collars as well. Regardless of the actual behavioral issue, these trainers slap a shock collar on your dog and hand you the remote.
If anyone recommends that you place a collar on your dog that vibrates, pinches, shocks, or hurts them – run for the hills! This person does not understand dog behavior, psychology, or emotion, and will only damage your dog in their attempt to train them. These tools are a crutch for lazy, impatient, or inexperienced trainers and they WILL harm your dog, whether you can see the effects or not.
Big box pet store trainers may or may not use aversive methods, however we do not recommend them unless their trainer is accredited by a positive reinforcement based training school. Any advice you may receive from a pet store trainer may be inaccurate, too basic, or may leave out important information.
What Kinds Of Trainers SHOULD I Look For In Austin?
Look for a trainer who is certified by either the Certification Council for Professional Dog
Trainers or the Karen Pryor Academy. Certified Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT) are all over the country and generally do great work. The Karen Pryor Academy is a 100% positive, reward-based institution and their graduates are quickly growing in number! These institutions base their training methods on real, scientific research and knowledge of animal behavior.
Make sure you do your research before hiring a trainer - 90% of CPDT Trainers use positive methods, but there are still those 10% who could resort to aversives.
Another fantastic resource for you is the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Members of the PPG promise to use force-free methods with your dog. Force-free trainers will only use reward-based methods with your dog, and never aversive.
Watch out for trainers that call themselves “balanced”. This means little more than they know how to use positive methods, but will fall back on aversive methods when they can’t get results.
We’ve been doing reward-based training in town for well over 20 years, and we pretty much know everybody by now. Feel free to contact us if you want recommendations, advice, or help researching a trainer. We’d love to use our expertise to help you make the right choice for your dog.
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