When I started out training years ago, developing a solid training philosophy seemed really important to me. I wanted to be fully prepared for the question “So what’s your training philosophy?”. Many years, clients, dogs, and bizarre behavior problems later, the question seems less relevant.
I imagine it as relevant as asking a doctor about his philosophy on treating cancer. “Um… do the thing that makes the cancer go away or get as close to that as we can?” I seem to be caught off guard by the question now and want to respond “Um… do the thing that resolves the behavioral issue in the quickest, safest, and most efficient way possible” Just like there is a standard in human medicine for how best to treat a problem and that standard continues to evolve as we learn more, so is there for dog training. There may be those out there who call themselves doctors who do not abide by that standard but, just like unqualified dog trainers who follow a unfounded philosophy rather than researched and tested behavior modification techniques, those people are to be avoided.
Good training is based off a solid understanding of animal learning theory which, thankfully for all of us animal trainers out there, is the same for every animal, hermit crab to dolphin. Animals do what makes them feel good and safe and avoid what makes them feel bad, scared, or in pain. No amount of fancy theory mumbo jumbo will change this.
When a dog caretaker employs a trainer to help them tackle a behavior issue, it is our job to use our expertise in reading and understanding dog behavior along with our experience in resolving behavioral issues to find the simplest, fastest, and most direct path to changing the behavior. We are also obligated to tell you how difficult or realistic our goals are and how long that process will take. Just as you would expect a vet to give you concrete details regarding options for medical relief, we will try our darndest to give you concrete details as well.
My “philosophy” is shared many other qualified dog trainers: to use proven and tested animal learning theory, years of experience, and a flat out obsession with consuming as much information about dogs as possible to form a plan for modifying a behavioral issues in the most efficient and effective way possible.