“I can walk 10 dogs at one time”, and other feats of futility.

Posted: August 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

Recently, a trainer on Facebook opined that the ability to walk 10 dogs at one time in a so called “Pack walk” was a hallmark of a good trainer.  My working compadre’ and I discussed this at some length, as  he replied to the post.  It got me to thinking that this is good fodder for the blog, and I spent the remainder of the work day masticating thoughtfully on the subject…

 

 

Ten leashes, ten dogs.  A trainer in the middle looking just a bit smug about the feat of “pack-walking” the lot down a public street.  People with little background in training dogs look on admiringly, opining that, “That guy must be a REAL DOG-TRAINER!!!”

Those who choose to ply their living as professional Dog-Walkers in metropolitan areas, can certainly see the value of the ability to manage such a Mongrel Horde  at once.  Ten dogs @ $25.00 per dog per hour…That’s not a bad hourly wage.  Done 5 or 6 hours per day…hmmmm.  That’s some nice income.  For them, it would be a handy skill.  But the truth of the matter is that those people are not Training ten dogs at once.  They are leading them…So why would a trainer feel the need to do such a circus trick?  Maybe gimmicky self-promotion?  Ego inflation?  I can’t think of any other benefit.  At least for the dogs…And isn’t THAT the whole point of training a dog?  Helping the individual dog to a better way of life by being obedient, and maybe even useful?

The majority of trainers in my circle work on one dog at a time.  Training, practicing, and proofing the skills that the owner deems necessary or desirable.  There’s no NEED for assembling a twisted helix of leashes, attached to 10 different personalities and temperaments, all with differing motivations. There’s no point in it.  And it certainly shouldn’t be considered a defining skill of a “real dog-trainer.”  Because it isn’t.

Human beings have an ever present need to impress other human beings with various “skills” and accomplishments.  More than a few dog trainers are caught up in the old paradigm of proving that they are “Better than that other trainer”, by virtue of their own skill set.  Again, what is The Point?

Could a trainer that has trained hundreds of individual dogs to titles and awards and Good behavior, each in it’s own turn and time, walk a large group of dogs in an orderly fashion?  Maybe.  Or even probably.  But, in the contrast, could a Dog-Walker that can manage all of those leashes simultaneously, necessarily be able to Train individual dogs to the highest levels?  In a few cases, yes.  In the larger scheme, no.  The goals of the two are very different.  Both are skilled in what they need to do their job, and they have differing ends to achieve.  Opining that a “real” trainer must be able to walk a large group of dogs is simply looking beyond what is truly “safe” or “prudent” in public.  If a 110 pound lady is walking  multiple dogs on a busy street, she might find that if one of those individual dogs decides it “Go Time”, she would be in very serious trouble.  They call it a “Nantucket-sleigh ride” with contusions, bruises, and serious road rash.  Not to mention injured dogs if traffic is present.  Is such a stunt really worth the liability?  Even if it takes place in a rural setting, one could lose substantial layers of skin should an unexpected prey-animal cross your path.  A group of dogs suddenly inspired and driven to run, is not going to hear your pleas of “Whoa! Stop! Whoa! Stop!!”

On the other hand, should a trainer enter a training arena with a baker’s dozen of German Shepherds, all off-leash, in an evenly spaced, single file row, and all of them perform a perfect auto-sit in unison, I will more than enthusiastically call that person a very skilled trainer.

I must make one proviso to this discussion that I have observed personally. My work puts me in place to observe, each day,  a large group of dogs (12 to 25 or so at a time) all released into an enclosed play area. Lots of room to run, grass to roll in, holes to dig, and not one on a leash.  The dogs rarely fight, play well together, and tire themselves out.  Usually, a single person(a human)  controls the group behavior.  Now THAT’s  a skill I can admire.  The ability to be calm, collected, and in a position of Leadership over the group.  In control of your own emotion and energy, even when the dogs begin to raise their levels of behavior.  Now that describes a good trainer…

 

 

 

Advertisements
Comments
  1. Alex Susman says:

    Cool, yeah I know my worth and the last thing I wan’t to be associated with is that. Dog training offers so much depth. I am proud of that skill, it makes me employable easily and people trust me with their dog wholeheartedly because they see if I can walk that many dogs with ease then their one dog will be just fine and safe.That’s really the only bragging right it gives you, is the safety factor.

    Trust me, I’d rather be bragging about my auto-sits, heels, and recalls…:D

  2. Alex Susman says:

    Hey!

    So I want to make sure I am not the person you speak of.

    I have claimed to walk more than 10 dogs at a time. I have walked up to 18+ and there was no pulling on the lead and NONE of them would be able to chase what they may want to because I am paying attention and would be able to prevent such a thing from happening.

    At the same time I believe I am not the person you are speaking of because I would never go as far as to say that makes someone a “real dog trainer”. Whoever said that has a lot to learn! Do you care to say who it is, you can tell me directly, I think I have a feeling on who it might be actually.

    It takes profusely more skill (and real knowledge) to train a dog to heel, auto-sit, and complete all competitive obedience behaviors than it is to walk a group of dogs in my opinion.

    Even though walking a group of large dogs is a skill on it’s own, it does NOT make someone a real dog trainer, I certainly agree.

    I wanted to make sure, because as of late I have been sending resumes to shelters, most of which who practice the “pack” ideology of rehab, even though it really isn’t the best practice. Even with that being said that I know it’s not the best practice, it’s what they are looking for. So it’s an easy way for me to get the job being that I do have experience in that facet. I wouldn’t want to be associated to that type of thinking, simply cause it is not the truth, something we both agree on.

    Once I get the job and achieve some leg room, trust me I will implement better strategies that deal with each dog individually. I will probably do some “pack” walks just to show that I can do the job that was asked, but I will be sure to show more efficient ways of training and rehab, ways that specifically mean working with each dog individually. I know from experience a good tug, and some good food, as well as a motivated dog is a surefire way to train/rehabilitate a dog way more EFFICIENTLY and that you couldn’t compare such a thing ever to just walking a dog in a group of other dogs. Hopefully I’ll be able to teach others the same.

    Thanks for posting this!!! Great point!!!

    • Alex I highly doubt you were in question here. In fact, I also doubt Robert is bashing anyone for walking a group of dogs. It is by all means a skill, requires reading the dogs, and the environment. It surely takes discretion of the “pack walker” to determine what to face and what to avoid in the name of prevention. Dogs trained to a level to be reliable on a walk in a group is honorable by all means. It looks like you have the right perspective. I think the main point was, pack walking says very little of your skill as a trainer, nor should it define you as a trainer. There seems to be a notion that is popping up more and more in the training world that somehow walking ten dogs makes one an above average trainer. Nice skill, sure! Maybe even one to be recognized as a portion of one’s training ability. But, a small portion still.