In this article I give you 7 tips to help you ensure that when you are wanting to engage a Dog Whisperer to help you with your dog and any issues you may be having, you are getting what you pay for. I’m not against dog training itself, and think it can be very effective and useful as part of an overall balanced plan to keep your dog mentally stimulated, add variety, maintain social skills, bond with your dog and keep you both physically active.
I liken obedience classes as similar to sending your kids to hockey or to learn a musical instrument. It is a great addition but will never replace good parenting and cannot be relied upon to fix anxiety, aggression or a disrespectful attitude.
Even if you are not experiencing behavioural problems, having a dog whisperer spend some time with you and your dog is a fantastic way to learn the language of your best friend. The more you understand each other and the more effectively you communicate, the deeper and more fulfilling your relationship will be.
We find that most dog owners don’t realise how much more they could be enjoying their dogs and how much more they can expect of their dogs, as they don’t have a reference point. Once you experience a deep connection and see what is possible, you won’t look back.
7 Tips to recognise a Dog Whisperer
1. Do they focus on pack leadership?
This understanding is fundamental to the art of dog whispering. If they do not recognise pack leadership and hierachy in a dog pack and its importance to your relationship then they are not a dog whisperer. Your dog needs a clearly defined role and job description and needs to know who you are (are you more powerful or are you weaker) to know how to behave around you. If you are perceived as more powerful, then they will expect and accept you making the decisions, but if you are weaker than them they will feel they are entitled and EXPECTED to take control, protect you, and choose if and when to listen. Getting angry at or trying to control a dog who you haven’t established leadership with is totally counter productive – at best will have you going in circles and at its worst can be dangerous.
2. Do they use or encourage baby talk?
High pitched voices and baby talk project weak energy and is not how a pack leader communicates with other pack members. If your trainer encourages you to talk like a baby to your dog they do not understand the importance of energy and body language when communicating with a dog. If you are trying to get the respect of a room of high school students, talking to them in a high voice and trying to be nice isn’t going to get you great results.
3. Do they concentrate on obedience exercises?
If your trainer focuses on teaching repetitive obedience-style exercises like long stays, come and sit, long downs etc, they are not practicing dog whispering. This is not how to train a dog and rarely will this influence problem behaviours.
4. Do they rely on treats or promote “positive only”?
If they are constantly using treats to teach ‘exercises’ this again is dog training. Dog whisperers rarely require (and definitely don’t rely on) treats. Approval from someone they respect, the release of pressure and affection (at the right time) should be positive reinforcements for your dog. Your emotional energy (or Heart energy) is more rewarding and fulfilling for your dog than any treat or baby talk.
Despite its huge promotion and use throughout puppy schools and many obedience clubs today, I stand by my opinion firmly. Positive only is unbalanced and is not in the best interest of the vast majority of dogs. Dogs don’t use this approach with each other and if you want to establish genuine trust and respect, neither should you. I have written another article on Positive Only Dog Training so if you are still unsure, I encourage you to have a read. Enough said.
5. Do they use a holistic approach?
A Dog Whisperer will fix behaviour problems by using a holistic approach to address the core issue and not just fix the physical symptoms. There are many factors that can contribute to problem or unstable behaviour. These include your own behaviour, your relationship with your dog, your emotional state and suppressed emotions, and fulfilment of your dogs needs for exercise, affection and psychological boundaries. If they do not consider or address all these issues they are not taking a dog whispering approach.
6. Are they confident and consistently calm and assertive?
Dog whispering requires a calm, assertive approach. If your dog whisperer does not project a calm yet self assured character they do not understand how to interact with a dog and should consider another occupation. They should never get angry at either you or your dog or display the following – anger, frustration, submissive behaviour (trying to please or be liked by your dog), bribing or distracting your dog with food, using intimidation or fear, or avoiding the problem behaviours (such as crossing the road when a dog becomes aggressive). It is also very important that they don’t have a one size fits all mentality, they should understand that every dog is different and that what works for one dog doesn’t mean it will work for another.
7. Are they focused on educating you just as much as the dog?
Aspiring to be a (loving) leader first requires you to be worthy of following. Most people don’t consider this, but once they hear it, it seems so obvious. It is not about simply teaching your dog a heap of commands and exercises. A good dog whisperer will help you realise what messages you are sending to your dog through your own behaviours (or what you are failing to do) and help you to develop more constructive behaviours, habits and qualities that will impress and motivate your dog and make them happy to co-operate.