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The Falconer's Apprentice

(Today is the Tihar Festival in Nepal: they take a whole day and honor their loyal canine friends. Got Treats?)

Ahh, the look of the wild dog, presented by the Dog Falconer… or a welder (I’m trying to make this subject nobler than it actually is!). I took this photo in the UAE a couple of years ago, during an exhibition on Falconing at the Al Ain Zoo, and this one of Louie, one of our friends’ dogs (no, Louie did NOT go with me!). The reason this came to mind was a story related to me recently by a client who had a “dog trainer from a major company” come out to help with her puppy. So what’s the problem, you ask? The puppy was not what dog the “trainer” kept focusing on. It was the other small dog similar to old Louie here… in fact, at 13 the dog was much older than Louie is at 10.

Once again, here’s a client who tells me that a so-called dog trainer told her the dog is aggressive and therefore showed up with a falconers/welders glove (forearm length leather) and suggested she buy one “that you can get down at the hardware store” so he won’t bite her (by the way, not a problem that she encountered). Numerous times on numerous days, this owner reminded him that he was not there for the dog that is old, grumpy, and very manageable. Still, this person – with a “sorcerer’s apprentice” in tow – continued to poke at the little guy’s face in an effort to get him to bite the glove. Why? “So that he can learn that biting isn’t going to make me back away.” After that didn't work to his satifaction, he suggested an e-collar for the 10 pound guy.

She paid a lot of money for this, and told him not to come back (I’ll bet he won’t put THAT on his testimonials page). She also said that her little guy REALLY didn’t like him at all, on three visits to her house for the other dog. Why am I relating this to you? She told me this while I am petting her “monster falcon” and he’s curled up on the floor next to me. Can you say, “EGO PROBLEM”? And dog illiterate? By the way, did this little guy bark at me and posture when I came in? You bet he did, but I’m not the other guy, either.

Just as I would not go into the restaurant business because I once ate at a restaurant, owners who want their money’s worth when they might be at their wit’s end and feeling hopeless with their dog might want to do a little digging into what a person’s background in dealing with dogs REALLY is. Don’t just read the marketing. There are many YouTube videos and segments of Cesar Millan available and just because they’re watched doesn’t make one a “dog expert” simply by deciding to change professions on a whim. It is similar to someone looking at YOUR job position and deciding, “I can do that,” with no experience or well-placed dedication.

Please don’t mistake this as a commercial for me – there are many different methods and, as we tell our tactical officers during training, “It’s not THE way, it’s A way.” However, just as in tactical training, there is a lot riding on the fact that people are going to pay for and then use what you teach them and it has to fit that individual or process. If not, for dog/people training anyway, it could mean the end of the dog’s life, or a shelter existence which may mean the same thing.

The mantra is the same as always: it’s not about you, it’s about the dog. So, until next time, stay calm, take the emotions out of dealing with your dog, and do your homework when selecting a professional!

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