The Dog Trainer With The "Bad Dog"

As you may or may not know, I am a dog trainer. I've been training dogs for about 12, nearly 13 years. I work primarily on basic obedience and some behavioral problems. I love doing what I do, and I actually don't charge for it any more. Ah, and there is the stunned look I usually get. I will explain this more later, but for now let's get back to the topic at hand: my bad dog.

She's not a bad dog. She's just a 9 month old pit bull puppy who needs to be trained. Yes, I said it. The dog trainer has a dog that isn't trained. Why? Because I slacked off. I was a bad dog owner and I let the training fall by the way-side in favor of other things. I know not to do this and yet I went ahead and did it and now I have a puppy who chews, jumps up, nips, and digs. I'm the owner I look at and shake my head. I think to myself when I see a person with an out of control puppy or young dog "If you didn't have time for a puppy, why did you get one?!" Now I can answer that question personally: I honestly didn't mean to.

I didn't go out looking for a new dog or a puppy. I even told myself when I found her as a stray that she wasn't going to stay with us, she would go into foster care and be adopted out. I waited several months telling my kids "Meg's not staying. We're going to take care of her until we find her real mom and dad" and they would understand because we'd fostered other dogs before. But Meg began to weasel her way into my heart and she captivated the kids. Before long I realized we had adopted Meg. She did well at first. She hardly ever had accidents, she was gentle with the kids, and she played well with Danny. But, as she grew, so did the problems. It was inevitable that she would develop bad habits without some one giving her the right habits. I didn't do my job. I didn't do right by her. And now my family is having to deal with a pain in the butt puppy.

But all is not lost. There is hope at the end of this tunnel. The hope is that I can see the error of my ways and I want to (and will) fix this. Her life depends on me at this point. If I let Meg continue down this path we will probably get to the point of her becoming a danger to other pets and kids. Not from her being aggressive, but just over exuberant. She would end up in a shelter or a rescue group (probably a shelter because, let's face it, no one takes on pit bull owner surrenders) and inevitably get put down. I can't let that happen. She is a smart, fast learner. She learned to "settle" (go to a bed and lay down) in 15 minutes. Now that I'm being much more diligent she's learning not to jump up and the nipping is getting better, too. This is all in one night. She can do this! I just have to help her.

Why did you stop charging?

Honestly, I can pinpoint it all down to reading this one article from Dog Star Daily.  I read this article and it really struck home with me because I knew, somewhere in the back of my mind, that a good chunk of blame for pet over-population does rest on the shoulders of dog trainers. I cannot tell you how many times I would get "Oh, you're a dog trainer! Boy do I need to hire you!" and when I tell them my fee (which was pretty low) I would get the response "Wow, I can't afford that. I'll keep you in mind, though" and they would be on their merry way. I knew that in a few weeks or months' time their dog would end up in a shelter or dead because they couldn't handle the behavior. I have the ability to help these people and these dogs. I have the ability to teach these people how to reshape their dog's behavior. I can teach them new behaviors and make them great family members; and I was throwing that all away over $50 an hour. I couldn't do it any more. I stopped charging and just offered any help I could. Yes, I will drive to your house in The Colony to work with your dog as long as you pay for gas. Yes, I will come over every weekend and help you get your dog to walk on a leash and I won't charge you a penny. All I ask in return is that you listen, practice, and ask for help if you need it. 

Resources for your rotten dog:

  • Don't Shoot The Dog! author Karen Pryor developed the clicker training method. She is my personal hero. Using this method of positive reinforcement training you can teach a dog (or cat, or bird, or horse, etc) just about any behavior. Using this method I rehabilitated my previous dog, Cooper (may he rest in peace until I meet him again) from being dog aggressive to a certified therapy dog and Canine Good Citizen. Visit her page and learn more about teaching new behaviors with a simple reward system.
  • Turid Rugaas discovered calming signals, which is the method dogs use to communicate with us and other dogs. Most people think dogs vocalize to communicate, but there is so much more to say than "Yip!" On Talking Terms With Dogs goes into what calming signals are and how you can use them to communicate with your dog and to better understand the messages they are trying to send. Visit diamonds in the ruff for an overview of the concept. 
  • released an article in response to so many people praising Cesar Milan's methods of "training" dogs. Cesar Milan is not a dog trainer. He's not a certified behaviorist nor does he have any formal training in canine behavior or modification techniques. How did he learn his methods? He grew up running around with wild packs of dogs on the streets of Mexico. Seriously. It's so outlandish you just can't make it up.


  1. Wow! Warms the cockles of my heart,I'm so proud of you.


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