I have been thinking a lot recently about the term ‘dog trainer’. I mean technically I can train a dog to do pretty much anything, but am I and my fellow ‘trainers’ actually dog trainers. Or are we something else?
The phrase dog training and obedience training has been around for probably as long as there have been dogs in modern society, but as with many things in the dog world, we have moved on. We have moved on from thinking that it is ok to let our beloved dogs roam the streets unattended (anyone else remember the upturned bins and garbage strewn everywhere!) to it being expected that you collect up your dog’s poop out on walks.
In the dog behaviour world, things have moved on too. We no longer accept traditional dominance theory, and it is preferable to try and understand the reasoning behind the behaviour and work with that rather than just look at the undesired behaviour in isolation. Having said that, I do believe that it is ok to modify undesired behaviours such as aggression and nuisance barking as long as you address the matter holistically and work with the root cause of the behaviour if you can, but that is another blog.
Many families see their dog as part of the family, dog ownership seems a bit harsh – after all, can we really own another living creature? Domestic dogs are dependent on us to have their basic needs met, and this makes us their ‘parents’ or guardians. I have for years now referred to a dog’s humans as the dog’s guardians. This conveys the responsibility of caring for a dog and helping it adapt to our human world with kindness, respect and understanding.
So what do we call ourselves these days: Teachers? Educators? Canine Guardianship Coach? Behaviourists? Dog Psychologists? Canine Communication Expert? I suppose that at the end of the day it probably doesn’t matter too much what the person helping you with your dog is called as long as we help you understand your dog and his or her behaviour and how your relationship with your dog can compliment, enhance and enrich both your lives, and how you can help your dog have a calm and happy life with you.