Let's face it: we live in an era where everything seems to come with some sort of guarantee, from coffee makers to faucets, to offers that promise 100 percent money back if customers aren't entirely satisfied; however, when it comes to dog training offering a guarantee may not be as good as it may sound. Sure, there may be legit and ethical dog trainers who offer certain types of guarantees, but if we're talking about the type of "we'll fix your dog’s problems in one session, money back guarantee" type, this is a red flag often denoting a lack of fundamental understanding about what truly goes on when it comes to training dogs a new skill or changing dog behavior.
Dog Behavior Problem Guarantees
Your plumber may be able to fix your clogged toilet in one appointment and your mechanic may change a tire in just about an hour, but dog behavior problems cannot be "fixed" in one behavior modification session.
It may sometimes appear so, but it takes much longer than that, especially if we're talking about certain behaviors that have been rehearsed for quite some time and are have become quite established in a dog's repertoire of behaviors.
Statements and promises such as ''your dog will be cured from aggression'' or ''you'll have a totally changed dog in this "x" amount of time" or " we guarantee instant results" should raise a bright, red flag.
The truth is, a dog behavior consultant who is able to "fix" a problem in just one session is often using harsh, punishment-based methods. What looks like a "fix," as often seen happening in TV shows where dogs are magically transformed in just a half an hour program are just dogs responding to harsh methods which aim to suppress outward manifestations of behavior problems rather than addressing the underlying, internal issue (an issue of emotions).
Dog Training Guarantees
Sure, a dog can be trained to sit in one, single training session, but is the dog really "trained?" It depends on how you interpret the word "trained."
If you mean that your dog will sit when you move a cookie from his nose to the back of his head in an upward motion, then, yes, your dog is "trained" to do so," but if we're talking about training, where your dog sits upon hearing the verbal cue sit in any place and any time most of the time, we're a far cry from reaching that goal.
Training a dog takes time, as muscle memory sinks in and behaviors become more and more fluent as dogs are exposed to increasing levels of distractions.
Is a dog really ever fully trained? Most likely not. A dog is always in training as he's constantly learning and improving in a never ending journey throughout his life.
A Matter of Ethics
Offering guarantees is not only unrealistic, but it is also unethical too. According to the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers Code of Ethics, certficants must "refrain from providing guarantees regarding the specific outcome of training."
According to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers members must "refrain from giving guarantees regarding the outcome of training, because there is no sure way to guarantee the cooperation and performance of all parties involved and because the knowledge of animal behaviorists incomplete. This should not be confused with a desire to guarantee client satisfaction with professional services."
The Pet Professional Guild, an association for force-free pet professionals, claims "A professional force-free dog trainer will not guarantee their training results. There are too many variables involved and a professional dog trainer cannot control these...The results will be dependent on many things, including your level of commitment and compliance to the recommended program."
"It against the code of ethics of several noted dog-trainer associations and organizations for trainers to offer guarantees for your dog's behaviors. This is because the trainer won't be living with you, can't make you do the homework necessary for success and cannot control your home environment.~"Teoti Anderson, The Ultimate Guide to Dog Training
The Bottom Line
Training a dog a new skill or tackling a behavior issue is not something that can be accomplished overnight. The saying "too good to be true" also applies to the world of training dogs and changing behavior. If you expect your dog to magically change at the touch of a wand as seen in a Hollywood makeover, think again: this is likely not going to happen.
Also, dog owners should remember to read the fine print. Often, what is being guaranteed is not the outcome of the dog's training, but the client's compliance in following the instructions provided in the training lesson. Therefore, the guarantee is no longer considered valid when owners fail to follow their training program to the letter. Dog owners should therefore be wary of unrealistic promises such as "instant results," "guaranteed results" or "lifetime guarantees " and should read the fine print.
Flickr Creative Commons, Ged Carroll, 100% happiness guaranteed, CCBY2.0