Paul Hutton Canine Behaviour Centre

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Frequently Asked Questions?

“Thanks again for all your help and for being so generous with your time. I really appreciate it and am looking forward to continuing with ‘Krueger’s’ training.

Is a Performance Guarantee that important?

Answer: The recent worldwide proliferation of self appointed ‘dog behavioural experts’ has created a minefield for dog owners seeking help with their dogs. With no controls over expertise and skills it is extremely common for dog owners to find themselves parting with their hard earned dollars with little or nothing to show for them. Increasing numbers of dogs are unnecessarily destroyed on the advice of so called ‘behavioural experts’, for no other reason than they (the expert) didn’t know how to resolve the dog’s problems and therefore, according to them, nothing could be done for the dog. It is also an often-unrecognised fact that many of these inexperienced, unskilled so-called ‘behavioural experts’ reside in highly regarded Universities or Veterinary Clinics protected under the guise that if they are employed by a University, or they are a Veterinarian, then “they must be an expert”. Sadly this is, more often than not, not the case.

For all of these reasons and more, dog owners need to know that the ‘expert’ they are dealing with is competent, experienced and has the skills to perform the task required of him/her. The only way to do this in a totally unregulated field such as dog behaviour is to ask that ‘expert’ who is going to take your hard earned dollars for a guarantee of performance and total satisfaction and get it in writing.

What should I read into the fact that someone won’t provide me with a Guarantee?

Answer: There can only be one reason why someone would not do this. They don’t have faith in themselves to achieve a result for you or that you will be satisfied with what they have to offer you. There can be no other reason. And ask yourself this. If you went to buy a fridge or a computer for example and when asking about a guarantee you were told there is none, would you go ahead and buy from that person? Of course you wouldn’t.

Is a ‘Lifetime Guarantee’ (offered by some) the same thing as a ‘Performance Guarantee?

Answer: Most definitely not! A guarantee that you have contact with someone for life is not a guarantee of performance and satisfaction. Many have been fooled by such a guarantee, which is not what it seems to be. There is only one meaningful guarantee, a Performance Guarantee.

Is it a good idea to take my dog to ‘Puppy School’?

Answer: This is something for you to decide, but before you do that, here are some facts you need to know before you make a decision.

First and foremost you need to know that Puppy Schools are ‘all about’ teaching dogs using ‘food reward’ or to be more accurate…. bribery. They also subscribe to the philosophy, that by ignoring ‘bad’ behaviour and lavishly rewarding ‘good’ behaviour your dog will learn to only indulge in ‘good’ behaviour.

Sharlene and dog
“Thank you for your ongoing time, energy, commitment that you have put into our training. It is very much appreciated. Best wishes.

What’s wrong with using food as a reward to train my dog?

Answer: The problem with bribery training is that it is impossible to develop any form of reliable ‘real life’ control with this method. Only when the attraction of food is the best option on offer (and providing the dog is hungry) will the dog respond and in the ‘real world’ there will always be a million more interesting options on offer, rendering your food bribe irrelevant and to be ignored.

Another serious problem with bribery training is the creation of a relationship between dog and owner where the dog sees it’s owner as no more than a mobile canteen instead of someone offering leadership and decision making qualities to be respected. In short it is ‘feel good nonsense’ that simply does not ‘stack up’ and cannot work.

Not convinced? Then consider this for a moment. All of the dogs we admire most in society, dogs such as guide dogs, police dogs, sheep dogs, gun dogs etc, are NOT trained with the food bribery method. WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU?

But surely the ignore 'bad' behaviour and lavishly praise the ’good’ philosophy of Puppy Schools is the ‘right way’ to go?

Answer: Only if you believe in the tooth fairy! I’ll explain.

The Puppy School philosophy of ignoring ‘bad’ behaviour and rewarding ‘good’ behaviour to train dogs defies all commonsense and has no chance of working in the ‘real world’. Put in human terms it is as ludicrous as it would be if the traffic police decided to ignore all drivers breaking the road rules and instead giving chocolates and praise to law abiding motorists. Or the Inland Revenue ignoring non-payers and instead sending out thank you letters to payers. It is simply too silly for words and not worthy of wasting a single second of your time and energy on. If you want to stop ‘bad’ behaviour you must correct it, not ignore it. Pretty obvious really, don’t you think?

And again, guide dogs, police dogs, sheep dogs, gun dogs etc, are NOT trained using this Puppy School concept. AGAIN, WHAT DOES THAT TELL YOU?

But isn’t it important to go to Puppy School to socialise my dog with other dogs?

Answer: Put bluntly, no. Socialising has become a very misunderstood procedure. It is important to understand that the successful socialising of a dog with other dogs takes place over a period of many months and is successfully achieved by ensuring that in ‘every day life’, your dog only mixes with other dogs that are ‘good for it’ and that they interact in a controlled way, avoiding any ‘rough and tumble’ or ‘loony chasing’. (i.e. Controlled socialising). It is not the quantity of dogs that your dog mixes with when it is young that matters, but the quality of that mixing. The promotion of playgroups with other dogs when they are young as a vital ingredient for successful socialising is naïve and quite misleading.

So, are you saying that it’s not good for young dogs to ‘play’ with other dogs?

Michelle and Grant
"Thanks for all your help with Wellington. We are now able to win the battle of wills."
Michelle & Grant

Answer: Firstly, dogs don’t in fact ‘play’ when they are engaging in ‘rough and tumble’. They are competing to see who is the strongest. (i.e. juvenile fighting) Such behaviour is best described as uncontrolled socialising, the very ingredient that has a high potential to cause aggression problems in the future, dog chasing problems and over excitement problems around other dogs.

You may also be interested to know that one of Americas leading behaviourists, W. Meisterfeld, roundly condemns this Puppy School practice as being a major contributor to dog/dog aggression problems. He says…

“By encouraging pups to run-play, wrestle together, pinning one another down and to bite each other, we actually support the conditioning of a primitive aggressive-dominant behaviour. The playing of dogs with each other is always a practicing of aggressive dominance: Who is the stronger? And they use their teeth to prove it.”

Makes sense when you think about it, doesn’t it!

So really what you’re saying is ….there’s no point in going to Puppy School?

Answer: Only if you believe in the concept and theories that they represent. But keep in mind, the Canine Behaviour Centre is constantly inundated with calls from dog owners who after following the Puppy School philosophies, have only an ‘out of control’ dog or/and aggression problems to show for their efforts.

So why do so many people and particularly some vets strongly promote Puppy Schools?

Answer: Because it’s the latest ‘fad’ in the dog behaviour world and they are unaware of the facts I have just outlined until, (in the case of dog owners), they find out through experience or by word of mouth.

I quote again W.Meisterfeld from his book “Psychological Dog Training” (in reference to Puppy Socialisation Classes) …..

“Scores of immature puppies are thrown together to ‘socialise’ in order to ‘support the development of a healthy, normal social behaviour and a sound temper’ as videos, books and other advertising material promise. Because experts made them believe so, these owners are convinced that by ‘socialising’ their puppies nothing can go wrong anymore with the behaviour of their maturing dog and that they will now have a sound tempered dog. However, the continued uncontrolled, free interactions of the puppies practised in these classes can increase the flaws in their personality make up.”

Are there times when it is appropriate to use food to control my dog?

Answer: Yes there are. For example it is a good idea to use food if your dog is a little ‘up tight’, say when being treated at a veterinary clinic or when you want to make a possibly unpleasant experience more pleasant such as grooming or other such things. In these cases it is not bribery just a mood changer.

What do you mean by ‘silent language’?

Answer: Simply, communication by ‘actions’ and ‘manner’ as opposed to verbal language. Skilled horse riders provide a good example of this form of communication with animals. What you see is, little or no voice but extensive use of non-aggressive physical actions combined with a calm confident manner. (Not to mention a confident, self assured animal that actually understands what is wanted.)

Is this something new?

Answer: Certainly not. Those who understand the limitations of communicating with animals using verbal language have been using it since the beginning of time. However, it has become an ever-decreasing art form in modern times as dog owners incline toward the convenient, non-skilled and often lazy practise of using the voice in a myriad of tones and volume strengths to try and have their dog understand them or/and do what they want.

But, don’t you need verbal commands to control dogs?

Answer: In many situations, yes you do, but these commands are only a cue for a required task. What I’m saying is that the task itself is best taught using the tools of ‘actions’ and ‘manner’. This is how you achieve high responsiveness levels from dogs without having to raise your voice, get angry or repeat yourself over and over again.

Are there any dogs that can’t be trained?

Answer: No. All dogs are trainable. Some just require more skill to control than others because of their ‘personality type’.

What’s the difference between ‘training a dog’ and having ‘control of a dog’?

Karen and Brandon
"Thank you so much for your commitment and passion for helping us with ‘Sirius’. With sincere thanks.
Karen & Brandon

Answer: Training means teaching your dog what you want. (That doesn’t mean it will do it, it just means it understands what you want.) Having control means you are able to influence you dog to do these things, when it doesn’t want to. Many have been fooled by the notion that once they’d trained their dog it would dutifully obey them for the rest of its life. Dream on! That would be like the traffic police believing that once we knew the road rules we would always obey them. Yeah right! So let’s be quite clear.

Why? Simple! None of these things produce the one vital ingredient necessary to achieve control. What is that vital ingredient? RESPECT. Respect for the fact that it is an inevitable fact of life, that in the many ‘real life’ situations of conflict between you and your dog that occur in a typical 24 hour period… always get your way.

Only when you change your dog’s attitude to you in these situations of conflict, from disrespect to respect by being more important to ‘listen to’ than the attraction of any distractions and temptation, will you achieve the control you are looking for. There is no other way!

Are some dogs easier to handle and control than others?

Answer: Yes. You’ve almost certainly seen (or previously owned) a ‘well behaved ‘ highly responsive dog, that required little or no training and that was very easy to control. And conversely, you’ve almost certainly seen (or maybe own now) a ‘not so well behaved dog’ that required a lot of training and that was not so easy to control.

The truth is, just like people, no two dogs are the same. Some are boisterous while some are placid. Some are strong willed while some are biddable. Some are excitable while some are calm. Some are confident while some lack confidence. Some have strong ‘prey chase’ drive while others don’t.

Why is it that my dog can be so easy to control sometimes and yet so difficult at other times?

Answer: Dogs can be extremely easy to control when:

Why is it that the same dog will perform well for one person and yet not for another?

Answer: Controlling a dog requires know-how and handling skills. Know-how and handling skills that must be learnt as with any other practical undertaking you wish to succeed with. In the same way you need know-how and handling skills to control a car, ride a horse, shape clay on a potters wheel, operate a computer etc, you need know-how and handling skills to control a dog.

That’s why dogs behave differently for different people.

They quickly recognise when those qualities are absent or deficient and simply take advantage of the opportunities provided to do their own thing.

Actually, I could’ve saved all that waffle and just said…. they know a dummy when they see one.

But, does it really matter if my dog doesn’t always ‘listen’ to me?

Answer: Yes, yes, yes!!!!!! A dog that ‘listens’ selectively is only pleasing itself. If you accept this as your standard, (even once), then the message you’re giving your dog is that you don’t mind being ignored. It is then totally unrealistic to expect your dog to respond in situations, that you deem of great importance or emergency, when you’ve allowed it to ignore you in other situations you deem of less importance.

Is there anything wrong with using a raised/sharp voice with my dog?

Answer: Used sparingly, in situations of emergency, a raised/sharp voice can be a very useful tool, but remember:
The less it is used, the more effective it will be when it is used. The more it is used, the less effective it will be when it is used.