No Funds for Training?
Academy trainers share advice for getting the help you need.
Anyone with a dog knows that dogs can bring unexpected expenses: veterinary emergencies, equipment failure, or even house repairs! Sometimes we can plan for and cover these expenses, but sometimes life intervenes and we find ourselves in the position of needing help. Although dog training may be considered something of a luxury by some, it can really matter to the health and safety of our dogs, our communities, and ourselves. The Academy’s community of dog trainers recognizes that not everyone with a dog who needs training help can afford this help at the moment it is needed. Our trainers have the following advice for people who are in this situation.
While there’s a lot of misinformation on the internet, there are also solid resources online for free. Many trainers write blog posts with practical advice, and YouTube can be a goldmine for demonstrations of good training. I especially like Kikopup on YouTube for the wide variety of easy-to-understand training videos that Emily Larlham creates.
Also free are good Facebook groups and pages such as Fearful Dogs run by Debbie Jacobs or The Muzzle Up Project by Michael Shikashio and his associates. Other trainers provide low-cost training options. If you have access to the internet, you can now take classes from highly-educated trainers who aren’t in your area (something almost unheard of just five years ago). For instance, I love the fun online trick training classes provided by Joan Forry’s at The Dog Abides. And for a fairly comprehensive dog training course, check out Jean Donaldson’s Dog Training 101 at The Great Courses (keep an eye out for their sales – it’s incredibly inexpensive when on sale).
I’ve listed additional resources on my website and you’re always welcome to check there (or to recommend that I add something). You’ll find my list here.
Put Out the Fire (aka Apply the Brakes to the Problem)
Whether your dog is snapping at your father-in-law, killing your neighbor’s chickens, injuring himself escaping from his crate while you’re away, or counter-surfing mid-day snacks, job #1 is to prevent that behavior from occurring again. Assume it will happen again. Don’t merely hope for the best or think that scolding will solve the problem. (I wager that if scolding worked you wouldn’t be reading this.) After all, you wouldn’t repeatedly let a toddler have free access to your china cabinet, power tools, cleaning supplies and electric outlets – scolding him after every mistake. Instead, you’d set up an environment in which problems are less likely to occur. Give that toddler things he CAN play with, block access to the contraband, and create a behavior pattern you prefer.
Circling back to your original problems – here’s how you might put out those fires:
- have your dog enjoy a chewie in the back room or on a leash when your father-in-law visits
- make your fence escape-proof or supervise your dog on a long line when he’s outside
- don’t leave your dog alone in a crate – or at all
- up your counter-cleaning game
You’ve probably already tried Google searching dog training and come up with more options than you can reasonably sift through in this century. A dizzying array of free resources is available online, but knowing which to trust can be difficult. As you scour the web for training help, search out trainers who use gentle, food-based training and avoid trainers who recommend training collars or leash pops.
Ok, but you want specifics? A couple of stand-outs come to mind. First, the Dog Training by Kikopup Youtube channel features hundreds of positive reinforcement based training videos. Professional trainer Emily Larlham offers step-by-step guidance on building all basic obedience behaviors using clicker training. And once you’re done with that, the sky’s the limit with her other fun videos on trick training and advanced skills.
Another excellent online resource specifically for owners whose dogs struggle with reactivity – barking and lunging on leash – is Care For Reactive Dogs. This free website offers a cohesive program to reduce reactivity humanely and effectively. Last, if your dog is struggling at the vet or groomer or suffering at home from fear and anxiety (or just an inability to stay still!) during baths, brushing or nail trims, a great starting point is the Facebook group Positive Dog Husbandry. This group’s resource library contains in-depth information on the science and specifics of how to resolve all sorts of wellness and husbandry related problem behavior. Plus, receive interactive guidance with trainers in the group as you go about the process – all for free!
It’s easy for us to notice the things our dogs do that we don’t like. Heck, it’s easy for us to notice things our human companions do that we don’t necessarily like too! But, a highly effective and often underrated method to eliminating pesky behaviors is to put energy and effort into noticing all the GOOD things our dogs (or partners… 😉) do.
Save empty glass jars, clean them thoroughly and then fill with some yummy treats & pop them around the house. Keep them at the front door, on the kitchen counter for easy access, and in the living room to reward your dog for doing anything at all that you want to see more of.
Doggo lying on his bed instead of chasing the kids? Treat! Doggo greeting you at the door with all 4 paws on the floor? Treat! Fido sitting on the dining room rug while you cook dinner? Treat! Dogs do what works and if we pay them for behaving in ways we like, they will spend more time and energy performing those behaviors which leaves less time for other, less desirable behaviors.
Need more support? More nonprofit dog behavior resources are becoming available than ever before. Keep an open mind and consider virtual training opportunities with a nonprofit like ours!
Changing a dog’s behaviour, particularly if the unwanted behaviour is driven by fear can be a lengthy process. Professional help can make the process more efficient. It is often a necessity if the unwanted behaviour involves aggression towards humans or other animals. However, professional help can be cost-prohibitive for some people.
I have had a number of guardians contact me requesting help who have been unable to afford the assistance they need. Where aggression is concerned, people are often desperate and the stakes can be high. These guardians often have a genuine commitment to resolving their dog’s behaviour. In these cases, I try to avoid lack of funds precluding them from receiving help. However, the reality is that I have a mortgage and bills to pay and I need to eat! It isn’t possible to help everyone for free.
In many cases, the solution has been a ‘skills swop’. The enquirer and I have agreed an exchange of services or time. In the past, guardians have volunteered at my training classes or workshops. This has involved ‘Meeting and Greeting’ participants, showing them to the room and cleaning duties for toileting accidents etc. Also, I don’t love ‘tech’ and so if enquirers have skills in this area, this is a bonus! In the past, I’ve negotiated video editing and Word documents being converted to more professional looking handouts.
So, don’t let lack of funds be a block to getting the help you need for you and your dog. Have a think about the skills that you have or the time that you can offer, then contact the trainer. Explain your situation. They will be pleasantly surprised that you are offering to help them in return for their professional expertise. If they aren’t able to assist you themselves, I’ll bet they’ll be willing to refer you on to one of their colleagues.
The first and most important advice a qualified trainer gives is usually management: how do we prevent this unwanted behavior from happening? With a little thought and observation, you may be able to come up with a few ideas on your own. Start by identifying the problem behavior and when/where it occurs. Next, come up with a plan to be proactive to prevent your dog from making these mistakes. Management solutions often involve tools such as leashes, gates or crates to prevent your dog’s access or avoidance of certain situations where your dog struggles. It may not feel like you’re making progress but simply stopping a behavior is an important first step in any training situation and provide relief from stressful situations.
I’m heavily immersed in the animal welfare sector, where the need for training and behavior support is often at odds with available funding for non-profit rescues and shelters. This scarcity of funds was made considerably worse by the Covid-19 pandemic. There are only so many hours we can reasonably afford to commit pro bono, and so having quality resources to refer fosters and volunteers to is important.
One of the absolute best is the Pet Professional Guild’s Rescue Resource site, which was created to help organizations support the dogs in their care with humane, efficient training plans and protocols. I was honored to take part in the development of this project, and I regularly direct folks there.
Another resource I commonly refer to, for both non-profit volunteers and everyday dog owners, is the Academy for Dog Trainers’ Husbandry Project. This free program provides well-vetted training plans to teach dogs cooperative veterinary care and includes a track for dogs already struggling with fear and anxiety in this context. Teaching dogs how to participate in their own care can be life changing, and it’s something near and dear to my heart.
I’m so grateful to my colleagues for their dedication and compassion that went into the development of these programs. Creating cost-free resources and making them accessible to those who have the desire to help the dogs in their care is truly a labor of love; and what an impact these efforts have on animal welfare!
If your dog is upset about something and is acting accordingly (which may look like ‘acting out’!) then the best bet is to help them avoid the thing that causes them to act out. If it’s strangers, avoid allowing strangers to approach, which protects your dog and the people around you. If it’s the vacuum, avoid vacuuming until the dog is out of the house for a walk. There is also another technique you can try in addition to prevention: provide a food treat–something really delicious and noticeable!–after the scary thing happens. After the stranger walks by or after the car backfires, dish up a handful of amazing treats. It feels like you’re rewarding bad behaviour because the dog probably just barked or otherwise reacted, but we are actually getting at something even deeper than behaviour here: emotion! If you play your cards right and always give a handful of delicious treats after the scary thing happens, your dog may start to anticipate delicious treats when it happens, and…voila! A new emotion, which can help to smother the fear. Get in the habit of carrying delicious treats wherever you’ll need them, and your dog (and your peace of mind) will benefit.
Low cost dog training classes to the public with a sliding scale pay what you can, in Calvert County Maryland: http://wagworkshops.org/
Self-paced online course for resource-guarding prevention exercises: https://myfantasticfriend-onlineclassroom.thinkific.com/courses/happy-to-share-help-prevent-resource-guarding
Comprehensive work-at-your-own-pace dog behavior and obedience training course: https://www.thegreatcourses.com/courses/dog-training-101
Financial assistance for 1 on 1 virtual training: https://www.freetobedog.org/
Self-paced courses and webinars: https://academy.doginspired.ca/
Online self-paced courses. Two are free: https://www.wagthedogandcompany.com/online-self-paced-courses.html
The Humane Alliance of Rescue Trainers is a nonprofit organization that connects animal rescues to credentialed, professional trainers that use humane training techniques: https://rescuetrainers.org/services/
Pro-Bono/sliding scale dog training services: https://www.mywoofwisdom.com/
Training membership for fear/aggression/reactivity: https://www.dogkindtraining.com/reactive-dog-academy
Online reactive dog class: https://www.dogkindtraining.com/RDSG
Online course for jumpy and mouthy dogs: http://www.kristibenson.com/calmcoolcollected
Online course for house training: http://www.kristibenson.com/housetraining
Financial scholarships available for The Pawsitive Post newsletter: https://www.companionanimalpsychology.com/p/the-pawsitive-post.html
Online Real World Manners Training with trainer feedback: https://learn.handsfulldogtraining.com/
Online course on canine dental care: https://www.dogkindtraining.com/healthy-smiles