Beware of the experts!…

I am, again, minded to write about ‘experts.’  The dog training/behaviour world is poorly regulated and allows, pretty much, anyone to call themselves a trainer, master trainer, or a renowned canine behaviourist. Many people don’t seem to question the qualifications of people offering them help with their dogs.

Of course, there are many very good people out there with excellent experience and qualifications to allow them to offer a good service to dogs and their owners.  Unfortunately, there are many that don’t, often to the detriment of a dog that needs help.

I see a lot of ‘problem’ dogs who have been to ‘experts’ yet still exhibit problem behaviours.  The latest example is one of a dog walking with 3 others dogs that, it clearly knew and was moderately comfortable with.  As Clint (my rescued Lurcher) approached at distance (Clint was on the lead) from the rear, this dog immediately adopted an aggressive stance that also caused the other dogs to react badly. The owners admonished their dog and, vigorously dragged it in another direction, together with the now excited group. I changed direction and left them to it.  I could hear the same scenario happening whenever this dog and its group encountered any other ‘strange’ dog.

Returning to my car and putting Clint in the back, I stopped to have a chat with the dog’s owners who was struggling somewhat.  The owners had got the dog as a puppy and it was now around 7 years old. It had always exhibited aggressive behaviours towards other dogs as I had just witnessed. Their lives had changed, they told me when they took the dog to a lady who specialised in this breed and, in fact, ran a rehabilitation centre. She took the dog for a period of time to ‘fix’ it. This ‘expert’ told them that the ones she couldn’t ‘fix,’ she kept. This was evidenced by the large number of dogs at her centre when they dropped their dog off with her.  This fact alone would have given me pause for thought.

I visited this individual’s website. She currently had about 100 dogs in her ‘pack.’  This lady, again, appears to have no qualifications, whatsoever, besides having been doing it for around 30 years. Reading through her single-page website, her ‘method’ was outlined. Another individual pushing pack theory. She would take a dog, usually for a number of weeks, sometimes months. The dog would, immediately, be introduced to her large pack. In my opinion, a very dangerous idea, particularly with a dog showing aggression toward others. She would then ‘fix’ any behavioural issues. All of this with no evidence of any qualifications whatsoever.

Oddly, the owners described their lives as having been changed. I can only imagine how bad it was previously. They still, however, had a dog with some serious issues and were not doing anything to help it, except keep it away from most other dogs. From my perspective, it can be difficult to help people when they believe they have already received informed advice from an ‘expert.’ Any number of properly qualified canine behaviourists could help this dog.

Finally, again, I would stress checking the qualifications and experience of those that purport to be ‘experts.’ They, of course, maybe, but equally, they may not.