Selling Dr. Doolittle

dr. doolittle rex harrisonA question was posed on a dog training forum about how we, as dog trainers, could teach the general public to be more critically minded when it came to choosing trainers. My immediate response was tinged with disbelief, how do dog trainers teach people critical thinking skills? Why should that be what we are spending our efforts on? Face it, most people come to us to help them get their dogs to stop barking at the neighbors, not how to sharpen their analytical skills. I understand the point of the question, but the answer, in my mind is not how to get pet owners to think about dog training, but to get them to buy what we’re selling. It is after all the American way isn’t it. And we’re not just trying to sell ice to Eskimos (or Native Alaskans) and we are selling more than just a way of life, we are selling a life, a life of freedom, respect and fun for dogs.

It is we my friends, all of you intimidation/force/coercion-free, reward based, positive reinforcement, often unbalanced trainers who, along with Paul Owens are the true Dog Whisperers. But we are also the Dog Singers, Crooners, Poets & Artists. We are the Dr. Doolittles of the world offering English as a second language classes to dogs and Berlitz courses on ‘dog speak’ to people.

We do not offer ‘secrets to training dogs’ or ‘guaranteed instant success’ to pet owners, we offer something more, we offer them the opportunity to become their dog’s best friend. To become the most special, anticipated, and loved person in someone’s world. Not content to only teach their dog to come when called, but to come with so much joy and enthusiasm that the owner’s brain will be flooded with so much oxytocin they won’t know what hit them. We won’t just show them how to get their dog to sit until told they can move, but to have their dogs wagging their tails eagerly awaiting ANY request made of them.

If someone can convince us we need to buy ‘quilted toilet paper’ there is no doubt in my mind that we can convince people that training without fear is the best way to go. And there will be no clean-up needed afterward.

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11 comments so far

  1. Terri Klimek on

    Wonderful article! I sometimes do feel like I’m teaching a foreign language and feel so good when the human “gets it.” Love seeing that light bulb go on.

    • fearfuldogs on

      It opens a new world to everyone involved! We should feel good about doing it.

  2. Gwen Matear on

    A great article Debbie.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks for saying Gwen. Appreciate it.

  3. donnaandthedogs on

    I wish it were that easy. I’m not a trainer, but I do try to sway people to use positive methods – which is no easy feat. But then, even IF I can convince someone to try it, they would have difficulty finding a positive trainer here on Long Island – which really stinks for people like me who actually want to use one. I have found exactly three, one of which ONLY teaches agility, one has very FEW classes which are only at the beginner level, and the other is VERY close minded about her technique (her way or the highway, and yes this can be a problem with + trainers too). And forget about finding a positive trainer to help with competition obedience or rally – they do not exist here. I don’t know why that is. I think maybe people here want immediate results, or they are afraid of change, or they are so focused on the ribbons they don’t care about the means to get them. It stinks for the dogs, and it stinks for the owners who actually want to use these types of methods to succeed beyond agility or a simple CGC. I think it would be a very hard sell to get the customers in my area to change, otherwise there would be more positive trainers in business here. 😦

    • fearfuldogs on

      It is true that as fabulously compassionate and caring humans can be there are big gaps in our ability to do what is best for others especially when it is not necessarily easy or convenient for us.

    • lauren @ life with desmond on

      hi there! i’m a long island dog owner who is just about to start school to become a dog trainer. 🙂

      i am 100% in favor of +R methods, and i very much hope to accomdate the community of dog owners who are missing this service in long island.

      a few months ago, we hired a trainer for our dog–very expensive one-on-one at-home sessions–who definitely used bullying methods, and the whole thing was semi-traumatic for me (i’m in the process of blogging about it, actually).

      debbie’s post here really captures exactly why i want to become a trainer. it’s all about making the lives of dogs and their people better than they could have imagined it. and, of course, about helping get dogs adopted into their forever homes.

      i really can’t wait to start this journey!

      • fearfuldogs on

        Have a great time with it Lauren. The trainers with the best skills usually use the least amount of force or ‘bullying’. IMHO

      • donnaandthedogs on

        Sorry you had a bad experience with a local trainer here. A while back I did too, which is why I only use positive methods now. It is a shame what is done to some dogs in the name of ‘training.’ Good luck with your endeavor!

  4. Jen on

    I do always wonder, why do people want their dog to fear them? I mean, yes, there are times you want your dog to listen “because you say so” about things like, say, sitting instead of running into the road. But fear is a reason to doubt “because I say so”. Ugh.

    • fearfuldogs on

      I’m going to make a guess and say that I don’t think people want their dogs to fear them but have the concepts of respect and obedience screwed up into the picture and can’t see the fear for what it is. We change behaviors in dogs using either reinforcement or punishment, of one type or another. But it often seems that dogs are living a version of a Dickens’ novel with rulers, rods and whipping sticks for achieving the behaviors we want. I’m also going to stick out my neck and say that for most pet owners trying to get behaviors, or stop behaviors, that there are other ways and there are better ways, than the ones they are using. Especially all those folks on Long Island 😉


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