You can try to go it alone, of course, and you’ll probably make some progress. But I believe that you’ll get far better results if you hire a professional to help you. I know that might sound odd- after all, I write a blog with lots of “how tos” about reactivity- but my intention has always been that this information would supplement services from a professional trainer, not replace them. Here’s why:
|Working with professionals gave me this: a dog who can relax .|
The fact of the matter is, if you knew how to handle your dog’s behavior problem, you would have already fixed it. You need someone who understands the complexity of behavior. A good professional will understand things like psychology, ethology, pharmacology, and epidemiology, and how that applies specifically to your dog.
2. You need a trainer for her experience.
Being book smart is great, but if you can’t implement what you’ve learned, it won’t do you much good. You need someone who has worked with other dogs like yours, and who knows what worked (and what didn’t).
3. You need a trainer for her skills.
Good training requires some very specific skills, such as observation, timing, and ability to adjust criteria. These are things that are crucial to a dog’s success, and while you can (and will!) learn them, you need someone who can help you until you do.
4. You need a trainer for her fresh perspective.
Even if you are well-educated, experienced, and have developed excellent skills, you will still probably benefit from consulting with a professional. Sometimes all you need to break through a particular problem is a new way of looking at things. While you might be able to do this online, it’s much easier to do when you have a second set of eyes on your dog.
5. You need a trainer for her consistency.
Despite what television might lead you to believe, there are rarely quick fixes when it comes to behavior problems. In addition, there are so many competing ideas on the internet that do-it-yourselfers often jump from technique to technique and never give any one of them a chance to work. A trainer will encourage you to stick with a plan long enough for you to see results.
6. You need a trainer for her ability to adjust the plan.
At the same time, sometimes the particular approach you’ve chosen just isn’t a good fit for you or your dog. Stubbornly sticking with a poor training plan is just as bad as being inconsistent, so you need someone who is skilled enough to decide when you need to change the plan of attack… and what to change it to.
7. You need a trainer for her ability to set up effective sessions.
Anyone doing behavior modification knows how hard it can be to set up a good training session. Preventing a reactive dog from going over threshold can be difficult at the best of times; from loose dogs to sudden environmental changes to people who just can’t follow instructions, the real world is rarely ideal. Worse, it can set your training back. A professional trainer can help you manage all these variables so you can focus on your dog.
8. You need a trainer for her feedback.
Most people are incredibly unaware of what they’re doing with their bodies. A skilled trainer will not only notice what you’re doing, but how it’s affecting your dog. Having an external observer who can tell you about both your dog’s behavior and your own will allow you to be far more efficient with your training.
9. You need a trainer for her objectivity.
Whether you’re an eternal optimist or a terrible pessimist, you have an emotional attachment to your dog. I have been guilty of believing my dog is doing better than she is simply because I wanted so desperately for her to improve. I know others who feel so hopeless that they can’t see how much better their dog is doing. A good professional can help you see your dog as he is right now, not colored by your own dreams, expectations, or history.
10. You need a trainer for her encouragement.
This is possibly the most important reason of all. Having a dog with a behavior problem is hard. It can be frustrating and disappointing when things don’t go the way you hope. Having someone to cheer you on when it goes well and to commiserate with when it doesn’t provides you with the support system you need to keep working with your dog.
What do you think? How has working with a professional helped you with your dog? Share your comments below!