While many trainers abhor the idea of using force to train dogs, ... well, they insist on a single approach to training the dog. The "my way or the highway" approach.
This leaves the learning human with two choices:
- The trainer's way Which I don't understand, don't like, or find ineffective, inhumane, or unwieldy, or have some other problem using.
- The highway A free-wheeling bad time of seeing all other approaches as roughly equivalent. My aunt, my neighbor, the breeder, the vet, this guy I met, this TV show I saw, a thing I read in a forum online ... These sources now all appear to the struggling owner to be equally good.
3. Recognizing and discussing the learner's options.
Those options, while you (as the pro) may rule them out, appear very real to the learner.
Many beginning dog pros don't believe that other methods work or appear to work. They aren't well-versed enough in what options are even out there, because they focus on studying their philosophy of choice.
They also don't realize that certain approaches will naturally make more sense to a (human or canine) learner than others.
By learning about methods you don't ever intend to use, you can guide the learner's decision-making process. Your argument can be better than, "Oh, that doesn't work." It works -- or appears to work for someone -- that's why it is used!
Beginning trainers (owners) will often mistake irrelevant items for causing a behavior. If the dog did this, we'd call it "superstitious". They want the specific kind of collar or treats or toy or leash or "stuff" their source uses. "My neighbor uses this for his dog, and it works." "I saw Victoria Stilwell or Cesar Millan using this on TV."
All of this behavior points to an overall lack of understanding (or denial) of how things actually function.
- Know and be honest about what you are using. Clearly identify what the dog may (or may not) understand as reward and punishments. Identify what are acceptable and unacceptable rewards & punishments.
- Don't argue with success. A sitting dog is sitting, no matter how he got there. Explain what you like or don't like about various ways to elicit the sitting behavior.
- Identify indicators of a dog's reaction -- the chart in every dog training book of "dog body language" is so painfully rudimentary!
- Define success & failure. Owners need to understand what are realistic expectations, given their dog, their time, their physical limitations, even their financial limitations. Anything is possible, but what is probable?
At some point, punishment-only methods use rewards. Why do these methods seem so successful for working dogs? Hunting, protection, guide work, etc. are contexts the dogs it works for find highly rewarding! Just because "it works" for that dog and that handler in that context -- doesn't mean it will work for you!
By functioning as a sounding board, the effective dog pro will enable the learner to make decisions.
Be supportive through bad decisions (we all make them): "Bought wits are the best kind, as long as they don't cost too dear". Sadly, sometimes bad decisions DO cost very dearly, when they result in injury to ourselves, our dogs, other dogs, other people.... I wish dog training was not such a high-stakes business.
Be encouraging of good decisions, even if you don't find them to be the BEST decision. If it's good enough to meet your client's goals, and it's not detrimental to the dog, isn't that good enough?