Some of you may know that apart from dogs, I have a number of other passions!
One of those is gardening.
I absolutely love my garden. I spend every spare moment out there and I am inclined to stop only when the light fails or the rain is so great that I’m in danger of getting waterlogged myself.
I adore plants. I love their variety, the way they move, their light and shade and even the challenge of keeping them all happy. I try and keep up with their names too, although I’m finding that’s increasingly difficult with the sheer number I now have in my garden!
Thanks to an inspirational course that I attended a couple of years ago, I have fairly new addition to my plot – a cutting garden – and I fill it with annual flowers and foliage plants so that I have (literally) armfuls of flowers throughout the year to cut and bring into the house. My flower arranging is what might be (kindly) described as ‘wild’ but honestly, I rather like it that way.
To keep costs down, and to give me the wide variety of flowers that I like, I – like many gardeners – grow lots of plants from seed. I even have a greenhouse (which I share with my tortoises!) where I raise and nurture them from scratch, lovingly planting, watering and pricking out (yes, non-gardeners, that’s a thing) and dreaming of the fabulous displays that will be my reward.
So, you may be surprised to hear that, from time to time, I circumvent the whole seed-planting rigmarole, and treat myself to buying seedlings. Yes, seedlings sown by someone else. Someone else who’s job it is to expertly sow, water, nurture, prick out, pinch out, pot on, and attend to all the other little baby green’s needs.
Because, like everyone else, I have to decide where and how to spend my time (and money), and sometimes, just sometimes, although I would describe myself as an experienced and knowledgeable gardener, it’s quicker, easier and more effective to let a brilliant specialist do the job for me.
Why is this relevant? Well, for many years in the dog training world, us trainers (and I do count myself in this) have generally been rather disparaging about ‘done for you’ training.
And honestly, I can tell you why.Primarily, it is because we hear so many stories from owners who have sent their dogs for ‘residential training’ and described practises that were either below par, or, on occasions, simply appalling.
It was also because without knowing the ‘how to’ once the dog comes home, those owners can’t maintain their dog’s responsiveness to cues – making the whole thing a potential waste of time, and money.
But, times have changed, and like everything in life, I think we need to judge each case individually and with an open mind.
So, here’s a little story.
Some time ago, I had a call from a lovely lady that I had seen with her previous dog. That dog had needed behavioural help and she worked hard to achieve a good result. The dog had lived a happy, long life and had died at a good age, and now the lady had a new puppy. Of course, she had got the same breed (!) – a Bouvier des Flandres. Now, if you know this breed, you will agree that it is strong minded, and needs a ton of early socialisation and training if it is to be a fabulous pet later on. Having had one with a behavioural issue, this lady was clearly sensible enough to know that she would have to put the work in during those early weeks.
What she couldn’t have predicted though was that she would be diagnosed with breast cancer only two weeks after getting the pup. She called me immediately, and sobbed down the phone, saying that she needed the dog to keep her occupied and positive during her treatment – she really didn’t want to part with him – but that physically she just couldn’t get him out and about or do the training.
Well, what would you do?
Frankly, I didn’t hesitate. She booked me there and then to go round to her house twice a week and put into practice everything that she wanted and needed. We talked about how she might be able to do a bit each day to keep up the good work – but really I just wanted to make sure that she could keep the dog that meant so much to her at this awful time in her life. I totally appreciate that this might not have been the most ‘sensible’ plan – but I kept thinking that if this was me, it would be my dogs that would get me through.
So, how did it work out? Well, first and foremost, I can honestly say that I loved every minute of my training and social time with Hector – and I got paid for it too, (actually I would have helped her for free, but she insisted) after all, I love training dogs!
Of course, it wasn’t without its stresses. Most of the time Hector’s owner was too poorly to even get up when I arrived at the house. The idea that she was going to help with the training was completely impossible. She watched from the sofa while I did the training, laughed when it went well, (and when it went ‘off-piste’ too!) and cried when she needed to.
She encouraged me by saying she looked forward to the sessions as the highlight of her week, and she would watch the video clips I made for her when I took Hector out to meet the big wide world. Over a period of about 11 months, I came and went, and lo and behold, saw Hector turn from a ball of fluff into an adolescent that I was proud of – and he wasn’t even mine! Basically, despite my reservations about the process, it worked.
Of course, you will say, this is a one-off, a rare exception in a world where people who get dogs should make the effort to train them themselves. Possibly. Or possibly not. Perhaps there are other people and dogs that would benefit from expert help in their own homes too?
Here are some thoughts:
1. All dogs need training – and sometimes the owners can’t, or won’t, do it
2. In these cases, the dog needs training by someone who isn’t just a good dog trainer – but a brilliant one who cares deeply about the consequences
3. The dog will potentially suffer the consequences if it doesn’t not receive the training and socialisation it needs
So, my message is this. Sometimes there is a very good reason why it’s OK for a trainer to actually do the training. The dog doesn’t have to be ‘sent away’ – it can be done right there at home, where the context is most relevant, and the owner can learn the all-important ‘how to keep this going and progress things’ as well.
Being judgemental about the rights and wrongs is pointless. What matters is that the dog gets the best possible help so he can grow into a well-balanced, healthy and happy dog. If it takes someone other than his owner to do that, then so-be-it, as long as the methods used are top-notch.
Really, it’s just like me and my seedlings. Having been given a flying start by someone else with more time and more expertise than me – just look at them now.
If you would like more information on how to choose a good trainer to get your dog off to the best possible start, take a look at what our Clever Dog Company Method Licenced Trainers have to offer. Some of them also support owners with ‘Done for you’ training too.