Why Do People Resist Hiring Dog Trainers?

Obviously he loved his dog. But the dog’s behavior had changed recently and he didn’t know why.

The vet said there was no medical reason for the change.

My new friend described the history of his dog’s behavior and interactions with others in the family. And then he asked me, “What do you think I should do?”

I have a big fuzzy blind spot. Do you?

The answer to all problems is a quick game of tug.

Of course I suggested he hire an experienced, compassionate, positive dog trainer to help him help his dog. And luckily, just such a person with years of experience helping stressed shelter dogs become more adoptable worked near his house. I offered to write her name down so he could look up her website when he got home.

Nope. He wasn’t interested at all.

Why do so many people resist hiring dog trainers to help them?

And can I argue them out of their resistance? Probably not. But I have to try.

Reasons Not to Hire a Dog Trainer

Here are a few excuses I’ve heard from people who resist hiring a dog trainer.

Too Expensive

If you’re struggling to make ends meet in a tough economy, I understand. Head to the library and look for books by Patricia McConnell, Pat Miller, Ian Dunbar, Jean Donaldson, Suzanne Clothier, Karen Pryor, Nicole Wilde, Debbie Jacobs, or Emma Parsons.

But if you have more money then you need and then some, ask yourself how expensive an unhappy, bored, or untrained dog can be.

I Can Do It Myself

Oh yeah? Then why haven’t you?

Listen, I’m a DIY girl myself. But I came up with 7 Reason to Hire a Trainer in a DIY World. You might want to check it out.

My Dog Is Too Crazy

Okay, your dog is beyond help? But dogs raised and tormented by dog fighters can become trusted family members?

Makes me think you don’t know how powerful love and positive training can be.

Honey the golden retriever with her Solvit telescoping pet ramp.

If my trainer hadn’t taught the woman how to make me comfortable with a ramp, I would have missed out on my fun sailing vacation.

Don’t Know Any Good Trainers

I guess you’ve never heard of a little thing called the internet, huh? The Association of Pet Dog Trainers has pages of resources, including a discussion of why trainers who claim you need to dominate your dog are wrong.

I knew of Honey’s trainer from his work for a service dog organization. But I confirmed his credentials as a trainer when I used the search tool at the Karen Pryor clicker training site.

Don’t Have Time

Really? But you have time to replace torn up furniture, clean up potty “accidents,” or in the worst scenario, take your kid to the emergency room?

When You Resist Hiring a Dog Trainer

As I watched his eyes glaze over, I realized my acquaintance didn’t really want to help his dog. He just wanted to complain and express his puzzlement.

He’ll have to pay the price by cleaning up after his dog’s behavior issues. I don’t think he’s the kind of person who would ever get rid of his dog over this.

But I keep thinking of that poor dog.

Changing his behavior may be his way of showing discomfort or stress. And why wouldn’t someone want to help his dog feel better?

There’s no shame in asking for help. And even wonderful people who work very hard to manage their dog’s issues on their own sometimes reach out for other opinions and help.

Maybe, someday, this man will too. Until then, I’ll be thinking of his dog.

Thanks for letting me share my frustrations. My first reaction, to shake some sense into this person, wouldn’t have been good for either of us.

Your Turn: Are you strong enough to resist giving unsolicited advice? Any tips for dealing with someone who doesn’t really want to solve their problem?

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  1. Margaret T says:

    I think it’s much like parenting–you’re supposed to know these things. You do what your parents did. “I turned out fine, so my parents must have known what they were doing.” For some reason, people are suspicious of those whose professions make them expert on raising children or dogs, maybe because it implies that they are not doing things right, and that’s awfully hard to admit.

  2. I find the same problem and feel the same frustration. I consider myself an experienced dog owner, but when we got Jack…one day in I knew he was beyond me and hired a trainer. Thanks god I did or he might be back at the shelter or worse.

  3. I think a lot of it stems from just plain ol’ laziness. Ours is a quick fix, take a pill for it, society. It’s easier to deal with the consequences than put the effort/time into the fix.

  4. I think the biggest thing is most people don’t want to admit they can’t handle their dog on their own, and then they think a trainer will be a huge time commitment and expense. Many people think training a dog is easy and training is just a money making scheme. I liken it to realtors. Everyone thinks they are over paid for doing nothing special. They don’t realize all the things that go into selling a house and in this case, training a dog. People are strange as they will give out $100 for a bottle of wine for one night, but worry about $50 for a bag of dog food that will last 1-2 months, no logic, but it is the way many humans think.

  5. Maybe your advice will sink in to that man eventually. I think that some people don’t understand that taking responsibility for their pet’s behavior is part of the responsibility of having a pet. There are also less expensive group classes that can help, and the trainers often take time to help with individual questions and problems after the class.

  6. I’ve read a few books by those authors and they are very helpful. Patricia McConnell is my favorite.

    I’ve used (and continue to use) three of the above excuses. Being too expensive used to be a very real concern for me. So long as someone loves their dog and is responsible about their proper care, health, and safety, they shouldn’t be looked down upon for not having the money to hire a dog trainer. Not knowing any good dog trainers is my current excuse. I’ve heard of people going through several dog trainers, despite thorough researching, before finding the right one. People can put anything on the internet but what you read is not always what you get. And researching to find the right one among thousands of self-proclaimed dog trainers is not easy. I’ll check out the website you referenced above to see how it can help. My third current excuse is that I think I’m doing a pretty good job at working with Pierson’s dog aggression issue on my own. I’ve read and have been implementing BAT as well as Patricia McConnell’s book, “Feisty Fido”, with some positive success. It’s possible there is a perfect dog trainer out there who will provide some insight that I haven’t already read about or thought of, but how many trainers will I have to pay before I find them?

    I believe there are many many people who use these excuses for just the very reason you said… they just want to complain and aren’t really looking for an answer to their problem. But sometimes there is a little truth to the validity of these excuses.

  7. Another reason may be skepticism. I’ve met many people who said they were a “dog trainer” yet had no real credentials. I’ve also met people with credentials that I wouldn’t trust with a pet rock.

  8. The answer to your question may be the second word of your post, “he”…just saying.

  9. Or maybe he doesn’t want to become one of those “crazy dog people” that pick up after their dogs, give their dogs quality food, exercise them, and (gasp!) take their dogs to a trainer.

    I’ve had this experience myself and it’s just frustrating. I just shut down and stop listening because the main goal of that kind of conversation seems to just be venting and not actually wanting a helpful solution/suggestion.

  10. I generally bite my tongue, because once I start talking, I end up saying a lot more than I really should.

  11. I recommended a good dog trainer who is not cheap to one of my friends and she took my advice and hired the trainer. She really enjoyed the trainer and the advice she received and later started taking her dog to group classes. The funny part of all this is while she and her dog did well with the trainer and in class she never followed through on any of the advice afterwards and just reverted back to bad habits. Unfortunately, her dog has the same behavior issues she had before working with the trainer.

  12. I’m like Dawn. Cost is a factor. If the trainer is recommended to be good, I’m concerned she’s too busy or too costly. If a trainer is cheaper but not as well known, I’m not sure if it’s worth it. And of course, I’m part of the research, read it up and test and learn crowd…

    And I guess mainly Donna is a very well behaved dog on her own so we don’t have dire problems that would drive us to seek out a trainer.

    I read somewhere that every dog owner thinks they know dogs better than everybody else. It makes me irritated when somebody thinks they know my dog better than me when they don’t even try to understand her background, circumstances and context. So I try to keep from giving unsolicited advice. It can be kind of hard though. 😛

  13. We live in a rural/tourist area and there are very few dog trainers/behaviorist. Out of the two closest to me, one kicked Brut and was more interested in selling herself than helping us. The other told me my situation was impossible and I’d have to get rid of a couple of dogs. Doesn’t sound like much but that was when I gave up. I’d been doing it on my own this far, I decided I would keep doing it.

    Understand your frustration. I never get asked advice, so I don’t know what I would say.

  14. Is it a man thing? And I don’t mean that to sounds sexist but I know my ex wasn’t keen on taking BD to a trainer and it was only after lots of persuasion from me he finally took him. However only once, wouldn’t do a repeat training class . I don’t know why he couldn’t admit he needed help??!

    • By man I mean some men. Not all men – just to clarify. Do they think they look weak by asking for help and admitting they can’t do it?

  15. I am rarely strong enough to avoid unsolicited advice. It’s something I’m working on.
    I’ll never get the resistance to hiring dog trainers. I am all about learning things from experts.
    But I wonder sometimes if it’s a culture gap? If people grow up with “farm dogs” or have had dogs all throughout their lives, they seem to think it’s unnecessary or that they can do it themselves. Often, this do-it-themselves technique is… I’ll say “old fashioned”. In my experience. Just like I think nail polish on dogs is ridiculous and unnecessary, they come from further down the spectrum, thinking hiring a ‘fancy’ trainer to tell them things they already know is a waste. It’s not, but I’ve seen that attitude many times having grown up in rural Alberta and knowing many people who also did.

  16. When I run into people whose dogs are a bit ‘out of control’, who complain about it, I usually ask if they’re taking a class. I try to make it more of an ‘oh, I like to hear how different places nearby are, in terms of classes.’, but it usually opens up a conversation about dog training, even if they aren’t in a class. And once the conversation is open, I can ‘casually’ mention that the classes offered through parks and rec in the city are $85/10 classes… less than 10 dollars/class, and did a great job for Gwynn. It frustrates me when people have no interest in trying to fix the issues they complain about – for anything, really.

  17. You make a lot of really great points in this post. Were you able to get through to your new friend?

  18. Love this post! Hiring a trainer for our rescued dog was the smartest thing we did. If we hadn’t, I couldn’t imagine how we would have been able to keep her with us, since I had no experience with a dog, and Gracie was a high-energy gal. Training her has changed our lives.

  19. I think there’s been a shift over time in attitudes toward our pets, and what to expect of and for them. Many people just aren’t “there” yet. There’s also a genuine ignorance about dog trainers – for many, that conjures up an image of some unreachable professional who charges more than lawyers for their services. In fact, most of the people I know around here who have hired a trainer have plenty of spare change in their budget.

    Then there’s the plethora of trainers. The market is saturated with Cesar Milan wanna-be’s, certificate-wielding newbies that haven’t a clue, and even plenty of trainers who tout themselves as “positive” – but in fact are not. So many people who hire a trainer end up going through a series of them, in a desperate attempt to find one that finally works well with their dog (and not against them). In the meantime, the dog ends up with more issues thanks to the incompetence of those prior trainers. It can be a minefield in the training world.

    There needs to be better oversight, stricter guidelines, better/clearer representations of these trainers. As long as there is such diverse opinions and methods in the dog training world, though, I doubt that will happen.

  20. Yes, yes, yes! I mean, no, I don’t know why, but YES this is fabulous post! I’ve fallen into the “I’ll do it myself” trap and realized, eventually, that I wasn’t actually doing it! So, going to a trainer really helped. And, no, I can’t keep my opinions to myself about these things. What I’ve suggested to a couple people who brought up the cost issue: Skip one date night/night out this month, and hire a trainer for a single session. You don’t have to enroll in a weeks-long program or group class. Do one session to get the strategies and techniques, and use the last 10-15 minutes of that session to write out a plan that you will DIY! Also ask the trainer for recommended resources to continue your own study.