I am a tool junkie – specifically, kitchen gadgets. In dog training, there are also plenty of tools. Some people feel that the more tools a trainer has, the more problems they are capable of solving. That would be wrong.
Bear with me for a moment while I go back to cooking…..
My ability to cook is not tied to my tools. Give me wood and a pan, and I’ll cook you something so good that you’ll go weak at the knees. If you like a nice ceviche, you can even skip the fire. Someone has serious technical skill when they can take the cheapest, toughest piece of meat and turn it into something succulent. It’s all about having mad skills.
If you are good at what you do, you don’t need a whole toolbox of tools.
Realistically speaking, I don’t want to whisk egg whites by hand, so I have a stand mixer. However, I don’t need one to have success. The act of buying a thousand dollar Robot Coup will not magically transform someone into a cook. Nor will it result in an edible meal.
Many tools that I have bought fall into the miserable uni-tasker category. Meaning they do only one thing, or aren’t worth the time or money. They wind up in the trash. They are too frustrating and aggravating to drag out of the back of the pantry when a decent chef’s knife will do.
You can also waste money on dog training uni-taskers. Introducing the Dog-a-matic 6000. Fast results. So easy!! Anyone can do it just press the button for instant results. Money back guarantee if you’re not 100% satisfied.
It’s a bit of a money grab in my opinion. That’s not my real beef. An editor’s comment is. There is a screen shot circulating on social media. It’s allegedly a snapshot from Dog’s in Canada Magazine – the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) publication. It states:
“Purely positive trainers…are limited by their personal training philosophies, leaving them unable to fix difficult, long-term behaviours in a timely manner. A balanced or integrated trainer may be more likely to have a variety of skills and methods to fix problem dogs because they have a wider set of TOOLS and approaches…..” (Caps added)
Excuse me – but a plethora of tools is just a bunch of gadgets. The only tools a trainer really needs sits squarely between their ears. It’s called a brain.
Just as I do own kitchen tools, I do own dog training tools. I use a clicker. Do I need it? Heck no.
Without timing and skill, that clicker won’t give effective results. Neither will prong collars, shock collars, chock collar, leash correction on any kind of collar or using your hand to poke, swat, hit or otherwise punish the dog. (None of those I use.) If you’re struggling with the timing of food rewards, then you’ll also struggle with the timing of corrections. It’s a hand/eye co-ordination problem. How is it fair to use the dog as a guinea pig while you learn to use pain?
Some tools do more harm than good. It’s like driving a nail with a sledgehammer. It might be possible, but it’s a little crazy to think you won’t damage the wall. Greater power does not always equal better results.
Plenty of dog training techniques come with a bunch of side effects, creating other problems in the wake. According to research, some techniques trigger aggression. Retaliation toward discipline is the number 2 trigger for dog bites to children. Pressure on a dog’s neck has been tied to eye problems. When you’re playing with life and death outcomes, asking about potentially negative fallout matters.
When it comes to some of the gadgets such as shock collars, electric fences and citronella collar – they come with a manufacturer’s warning that says, “Do not use on aggressive dogs.” According to the makers, don’t even use them on dogs prone to aggression. With restricted use, having these in a toolbox doesn’t seem to offer any benefit.
At the end of the day, I don’t NEED to buy a sledgehammer to drive a nail. Frankly, I don’t WANT one either. I don’t NEED a Robot Coup to make a puree. I WANT one. I really don’t WANT the latest Dog-a-matic 6000 gadget because it’s a cheap piece of marketing nonsense that will end up in the garbage. Waste o’ cash.
Call me really old school if you like. I believe in technical skill and practice. I don’t NEED to use any pain or fear. I don’t NEED any tools that cause pain or fear. I don’t NEED silly gadgets. That old school attitude does not at all compromise results because a multitude of gadgets and tools will never make up for lack of technical skills.
If you have solid technique, you never NEED a full toolbox to get results.