A Dog’s Eye View: Train like a TV star
May 31, 2012
At about this time a year ago, I attended the annual conference for the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Those three days of amazing presenters included Bob Bailey, one of the world's most famous animal trainers; Dr. Frank McMillan from Dog Town USA; and others. We also were privileged to meet and hear Victoria Stillwell from Animal Planet's "It's Me or The Dog."
Stillwell took us through the very fascinating process of creating her television show. She and her camera crew spend up to three weeks filming life and interactions with the featured family. Many hours of training are recorded in that time. Then the editorial staff takes over.
She explained that the job of the film editor is to create a package that sells. It's about the ratings and advertising dollars. To that end, the content was sometimes skewed to create an entertaining episode where the problems were quickly brought under control and the family lived happily ever after. Other contributing behavior issues and training solutions were cut out to condense the process and fit the time slot. And don't forget about those advertising dollars. Commercials can take up to one half of that hour. The final presentation does not reflect the true time and training effort to get the final "good dog" behavior.
Often, TV shows like "It's Me or the Dog" or Cesar Milan's "The Dog Whisperer" do not generate the authentic long-term results of the training put on display in these one-hour episodes. It's unfortunate that we, the television audience, are led to believe that amazing results can be obtained in just one hour. But wait, there's more. Unless your training program is well established in your daily life, the behavior fix will break down and the old, bad behavior likely is to emerge even stronger than before. This is where the not-so-noteworthy real work takes place. Only your continued effort to manage and change the behavior in the environment can have lasting results.
A course of action with a real plan to help you improve your dog's behavior during the long haul is up to you. A behavior consultant or professional trainer can help you set up a proper plan for training and management of more serious behavior problems. In real life, there is no one-hour fix that maintains or improves the wonderful relationship we desire from our companion dogs.
Dog training is like a good exercise program. If you commit the time and effort, you will see results. You get out what you put in. If you stop and expect your program to maintain momentum without your continued effort, you will be disappointed.
We like to tell our students that "training is a process not an event." Just like any good relationship, it requires patience, communication, consistency, hard work and respect for the animal.
Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with 25 years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC in Northwest Colorado.