SDOS Episode 17 – The Problem with Dog Trainers

Episode 17 Why does Dom have a problem with dog trainers? Well there are loads of amazing dog trainers out there, many of whom we have had on the show and they do an amazing job for their clients. But some trainers get too bogged arguing with each other about technical dog training terms that pet dog owners couldn’t care less about. And instead of trying to ‘out positive’ each other they would be better off concentrating on helping dogs and owners. If your dog trainer thinks it’s more important that you saying ‘cue’ instead of ‘command’ than they are in helping you fix the problem then find someone else to help you with your dog.


[.55] Don’t mention the ‘C’ word [1.20] Talking about dog trainers [1.55] Why is Dom is suffering from Cephalgia? [2.55] The problem with dog trainers [3.44] Why you need to keep it simple [5.44] Pavlovas Dog [7.24] How to get your dog more interested in you [8.22] Why doesn’t Alex like green beans? [9.28] What is premack? [11.20] Why Dom doesn’t do buses [13.00] How you can use premack with your dog [16.46] Homework for YOU this week! [18.00] How you can teach your dog at home [19.00] How joining my Inner Circle will help you home-school your dog [19.53] Coming up next week.

Mentioned in this episode

Dom’s book How to Be Your Dog’s Superhero

Join Dom’s Inner Circle at

Full Transcript


Dom Hodgson:  So yeah I think it’s important that dog trainers understand that they need to speak to the pet dog owners in a way they can relate to, in a language they can understand and they’ll much easier get on board with what you want them to do with your dog if you speak to them like that.

Hello me bonnie bairns, and welcome to The Superhero Dog Owners Show. We are into episode 17 and it’s December, and it’s raining-

Alex:      You can tell.

Dom Hodgson:  … and it’s horrible, it’s cold. So we’re into December but we’re not going to mention the C-word, Alex.

Alex:      Oh.

Dom Hodgson:  Well we’re not ever going to mention that c-word-

Alex:      Oh, I was going to say …

Dom Hodgson:  I’m talking about Christmas. We’re going to leave that for a few weeks.

Alex:      Not quite yet, not quite yet.

Dom Hodgson:  No, definitely not quite yet. So today I’m going to do something a little bit different, yeah? We’ve binged on guests the last couple of weeks-

Alex:      Some brilliant guests the last few weeks.

Dom Hodgson:  Yeah, it’s been really awesome, but my ego can’t take any more competition, so I thought I would just chat with you today about dog trainers, really. Yeah, I’m going to try and be a dog trainer.

Alex:      What do you mean ‘try and be a dog trainer’? Are you not a dog trainer?

Dom Hodgson:  Well I am a dog trainer I suppose, yeah, but I like to keep things a little bit more simple than some dog trainers out there.

Alex:      That’s true.

Dom Hodgson:  Might be partly because I don’t know much of the complicated stuff, but part of it is mainly because I just think that pet dog owners, you know, they don’t need to know a lot of the complicated stuff and they don’t want to know a lot of the complicated stuff. Here’s an example for you, Alex. If I was to say to you that I was suffering, I’ve been to the doctors and I need to go to the doctors because I’m suffering from cephalgia-

Alex:      Oh, dear. I don’t know what that is. Does it itch?

Dom Hodgson:  No it doesn’t itch. I said, the cephalgia was so bad that I needed to be given a dose of acetaminophen-

Alex:      Ah. Good grief. Well it sounds serious, whatever it is.

Dom Hodgson:  Well it’s not actually, it’s just a headache.

Alex:      Oh is it?

Dom Hodgson:  Yeah.

Alex:      That’s the proper lingo?

Dom Hodgson:  Cephalgia is the medical term for a headache, and acetaminophen is … ?

Alex:      Paracetamol?

Dom Hodgson:  Yes! Good lad.

Alex:      Yeah, see?

Dom Hodgson:  Little bit of a druggie. Too much knowledge you’ve got there.

Alex:      I only ever buy two packs at once.

Dom Hodgson:  So yeah, that’s a prime example of, you know, there are some words that obviously doctors will use in their day-to-day doctoring business that they do, say it to the patients and stuff, but we as the general public, we don’t really need to know all that stuff, do we?

Alex:      No, we don’t. We know what it is, what it does, that’s it.

Dom Hodgson:  That’s all we care about. Yeah. It’s a similar thing with dog training, because I think a lot of dog trainers sometimes they get a bit bogged down with words and with explanations for things that pet dog owners – in my experience, certainly, and I’m sure a lot of other dog trainers will back me up on this – they don’t really want to know about, you know. Dogs’ owners aren’t bothered about, you know, behavioral quadrants or operant conditioning. They couldn’t give a monkey’s if you didn’t say cue or command. They just want their dog to stay next to them in the park. They don’t even want to train their dogs a lot of the time, but [inaudible 00:03:28] We’ve got a car, but I don’t necessarily want to know how to engineer the car, I just care that it goes, you know?

Alex:      That’s true.

Dom Hodgson:  I know that when it breaks I need to take it to the garage, and if you want to get more hands-on then you can be, I always think you can learn more, but I think keep it nice and simple is definitely the way to go. I think if you speak to pet dog owners – who are our audience for the show as well – I hope I speak in a language that you can understand and the feedback certainly suggests that we do, you know?

Yeah, so I think it’s important that dog trainers understand that they need to speak to the pet dog owners in a way they can relate to, in a language that they understand and they’ll much easier get on board with what you want them to do with your dog if you speak to them like that.

There is a couple of easier words that I would like to explain and talk about today. Two of them are ‘consequence’ and ‘association.’

Alex:      Well they’re not so bad. I know what they mean.

Dom Hodgson:  Yeah, course you do. Do you know what they mean in terms of dog training?

Alex:      Well no, maybe not.

Dom Hodgson:  Maybe not. You might actually, Alex. You might actually.

Alex:      Okay.

Dom Hodgson:  Here’s an example for you. Beth likes to do a bit of baking – my Beth – you know she bakes cakes because I like eating cakes. She likes baking cakes and a few years ago she invested in a nice KitchenAid mixer, it was quite a lot of money-

Alex:      Although other mixers are available.

Dom Hodgson:  Definitely yeah. Still no sponsor.

Alex:      or anything.

Dom Hodgson:  So she would make the cake in the KitchenAid mixer, and it has a nice kind of whirr. Like a rrrrr-rrrr-rrr. Just in case you didn’t know what a whirr was. What used to happen was when she finished making the thing and there was a little bit of stuff left in the bottom of the bowl, she used to give it to Barry.

Alex:      I bet he loved that.

Dom Hodgson:  Well yeah, you can imagine, can’t you? What used to happen was, as soon as she used to crank up the KitchenAid and start making stuff, Barry used to be all on that kitchen like a shot, you know, after a couple of times. Barry would associate the noise with him getting a little bit of treat, you know?

Alex:      Fairly simple, isn’t it? One thing happens and then you expect another.

Dom Hodgson:  Fairly simple. Exactly, yeah. It’s more kind of pavlova’s dog than Pavlov’s dog.

Alex:      Very good. I like that.

Dom Hodgson:  Thank you. What I think that applies to pet dog owners is that if you think about the places where you have the most problems with your dog, probably usually going to be when you’re out in the park and stuff like that, aren’t they?

Alex:      Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dom Hodgson:  Certainly a lot of people we speak to, they have more problems in the park than they do in the house. The dog’s normally pretty well behaved in the house, but at the park … Less control, he’s interested in other things, and that’s because often the dog associates going to the park with doing things that don’t involve the owner.

Alex:      Of course, yeah.

Dom Hodgson:  It doesn’t take a dog – and certainly it doesn’t take a puppy – very long, even, to get the idea that going to the park means that he can chase leaves, or run after pheasants, or play with other dogs, that kind of thing. In and of itself there’s nothing wrong with any of those things, if you’re fine with it, if you have pretty good control of your dog as well. I think a lot of the problems that I see, and a lot of my dog training colleagues see, are problems where the dog is overly interested in the other things. He’s far too interested in them. He’s pulling the owner to get to the park too much because he can’t wait to get to the park to have that fun, you know?

Alex:      Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dom Hodgson:  Part of what I teach in my book – pass me the book please Alex – part of what I teach in the book is all about getting the dog more interested in you. How to Be Your Dog’s Superhero. This is my bestselling dog training book. Well, it’s my only dog training book, but it was a bestselling dog-training book on Amazon.

If you’re in a situation with your dog where you feel like you’re out of control, you feel like you could do with having more influence over him but you know, you’ve tried dog whispering with him and you’ve tried shouting at him and none of these things are working, you can actually influence your dog and teach your dog that you’re the most interesting thing at the park. You’re the most interesting thing at the beach. You’re the most interesting thing at the woods. You will be the thing that the dog will want to be with when you get there.

Takes a little bit of time, which is why in the book I give you like a six-week program to work through slowly, so that you can gradually build up the distractions and all the while making sure that your dog is interested in you all the different places. That’s a little bit about association.

So the next dog training term that I’m going to talk about is called ‘premack.’ Have you ever heard of premack, Alex?

Alex:      Don’t think I’ve heard of Premack, Dom

Dom Hodgson:  Right, well, is there a vegetable that you don’t like eating?

Alex:      I’m not really a fan of green beans. They’re not my favorite.

Dom Hodgson:  Okay, okay. What have green beans ever done to you? I’ll not go into that. That’s all right. Let’s think of an example in the past where you sat down to a nice Sunday’s lunch at home, your mam’s been grafting all morning making this nice Sunday lunch, and she’s also made a pavlova for afters. She’s been talking to Beth, she got the recipe. Barry didn’t finish licking the bowl so that’s okay.

You’re finishing off your meal and she left you green beans, and she says to you, “Are you going to eat them green beans?” You say … ?

Alex:      “No.”

Dom Hodgson:  She says, “Well, if you want to have some pavlova, then you need to eat your green beans.”

Alex:      “… got to eat green beans.”

Dom Hodgson:  Yeah? That’s what premack is. Okay but another way of describing this would be in a little video that I actually made myself.

Alex:      Oh, okay.

Dom Hodgson:  Yeah, I’m not going to sack you or anything like that, you know? I had this opportunity a little while ago to explain what premack is, so I thought all right, okay, we’ll try a bit of vlogging. You’re always telling me to try a bit of vlogging.

Alex:      All right yeah, that’s true.

Dom Hodgson:  I took the camera out with me, and this is what I came up with. This is my little premack story.

Alrighty, Beth and I are off on a night out tonight. As you can see I’ve got my glad rags on. We’re going to see a comedian in Durham. Beth works in Crook, which is the yon side of Durham. I’m going to meet her there so we don’t have to take two cars, which means I can have a pint and she can drive us home.

I live in Sunderland, so to get to Durham I have to take-

It’s time. Okay, getting on the bus


Speaker 3:           Durham?

Dom Hodgson:  Yeah. Durham please

Thanks buddy.

So what’s this got to do with dogs? Well, what I’ve done tonight quite nicely demonstrates the premack principle. The premack principle says that a person, if they’re going to do an activity, then they’re likely to perform a less desirable activity to get to do the activity that they really want.

In my case tonight, yeah I got the bus through from Sunderland. I don’t really do buses normally. Actually today’s bus was all right I just read my book, last time there was people eating all around me, somebody behind me was dying of tuberculosis, and it wasn’t a very pleasant experience at all. I still did it again tonight, because I knew that I could get to Durham, meet Beth, have a nice meal, and have a pint before she gets here.

So what’s this got to do with dogs? Well the premack principle applies in dog training as well. To find out an example with a dog I’m going to have to wait until I get home and pick up my dog. I’m off to have a good time now.


So today we are in the park. We’re back from the night out. We’re in the park with Barry and little Sidney. We’re talking about the premack principle and how it applies to dog training. Just to recap a little bit, the premack principle says that you will perform a less desirable activity to get to do the activity that you really want to do.

If you think back to instances in your life, this can happen all the time as well, like when your mam told you to eat your vegetables before she gave you a dessert, or, “Do your homework before you go out and play” that kind of thing. That’s premack. With me, when I went to Durham, yeah I had to get on a bus in order to get there and have a pint, which was a real hardship I know but I managed to pull it off.

Dog training’s very very similar. It’s mainly about getting your dog to do stuff. It’s getting your dog to do more stuff for you. You can start off with something really really simple, like eye contact from your dog. Barry? Good boy.

I asked Barry to do something, even though he’s looking over there at something that he wants to look at, he chooses to look at me and then I give him a little reward. If you have something that your dog likes playing with, like a toy, or eating food, or something like that, you can ask them to do stuff before they get their reward, yeah?

Sidney, here. If I wanted to teach Sidney to walk to heel, then I can try and tempt him into a heel position and I can walk along with him a little bit, good boy Sidney, and then he can have the toy. This is just me making my dog do stuff before they get the reward that they desire.

You can do this in the house, you know, if your dog likes getting cuddles off you on the settee, you can ask him to do a ‘sit’ or a ‘down’ before you invite him up on to the settee. If you’re feeding him his food, you can ask him to do a ‘leave it’ or something before he gets his food, and I like to keep it nice and simple with the premack so you’re getting your dog to do stuff all the time. This is how I see it, is that it’s getting the dog to earn his rewards. You’re making your dog work for the things that he likes doing.

Reward is very important because you need to think about what your dog likes. It’s pointless me rewarding Sidney – Sidney, down. Sidney, down – rewarding Sidney with a piece of hot dog, because he’s just going to ignore it if he’d rather have his toy. You need to be aware of what – [inaudible 00:14:44] Sid, come on – you need to be aware of what rewards your dog likes, and then you can use them to get him to do stuff for you, which is going to elevate you in your dog’s eyes. You’re going to become more important because you control the rewards and it’s something that all the dog trainers do. It’s something that as a dog owner you should do because if you’re your dog’s owner then you’re also your dog’s trainer.

Your dog’s learning all the time, you’re the one who’s got to teach him right from wrong, and a great way to do it is to ask your dog to do stuff for you all the time before you get to the things that he likes, gets his rewards.

Sit. Sit. Good boy, Barry. Good catch.

Here, here, good lad.

Think about the rewards, whatever reward your dog might be interested in. Your dog might want to go sniff a lamppost, you know, but first, before he goes and sniffs the lamppost, you could ask him to come back and do a little ‘sit’ for you, maybe if you wanted to. Some people do it for when your dog’s meeting another dog, you know, they like the dog to come and sit down and then they let them go and greet the other dog. I think it’d be better if the reward is something you can control.

If you can find something that your dog really really likes that you can control, then obviously you’re going to have much much more control of the dog, yeah? If your dog’s thing is going to go off and see other dogs, then he’s going to obviously be reactive to other dogs coming all the time, and I like to be in control of the things my dog likes, because then I know that I can give them much much more freedom. I can enjoy them much more because I know they’re always going to be looking at me.

So that’s it from me, Barry and Sidney in the park. I hope you learned a little something about premack that you can implement straight away with your dog. That’s it from us, and it’s back to you Dom in the van studio.

Now you understand what premack is.

Alex:      I do.

Dom Hodgson:  Yeah?

Alex:      Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Dom Hodgson:  I had to travel 20 miles on the bus just to bloomin’ explain it to you. I hope you’re very grateful. What I think a little bit of homework for the people watching this would be is I’m always talking about trying to find the dog’s kryptonite, and find out things that your dog likes, but once you’ve discovered what it is that your dog likes – and you should have a pretty good idea what that is now – I would like you to think about what you can possibly make your dog do to get the rewards that he likes. Even if it’s things that your dog might not want to do really.

Things like we talked about at the start. When you take your dog to the park and he’s more interested in playing with something else, is there anything you can use to make your dog more interested in you, so that he does the thing that you want him to do rather than doing the thing that’s going to cause you to lose control of him in the park? Most of the dog training problems that you can solve on your own, you’re going to be able to solve by stopping your dog doing the thing that you don’t want him to do and teaching him something else to do instead.

Obviously you’re going to need a dog trainer to help you with, if your dog is aggressive and stuff like that and you’re worried for your own safety or your dog’s safety or the safety of the general public, then yeah, definitely you’re going to have to get some help from a professional dog trainer. Basic things, if you’re a bit more proactive and you use stuff that you know that your dog likes, then you can teach him to do something else instead, teach him to do something that’s safer for you than the thing that he’s doing at the moment.

That’s exactly the kind of thing that we teach inside The Superhero Dog Owners Inner Circle,

Alex:      All right.

Dom Hodgson:  The group’s grown quite a bit since we launched it. Just to tell you a little bit about the Inner Circle, when you join you get a welcome pack which contains a book, a DVD which has a copy of my £40 How To Be Your Dog’s Superhero mini-course, you also get some audio training, and then once a month you get a copy of The Canine Coaching Chronicle through your door, and that’s a 5000 word newsletter that goes deep into one particular aspect of dog training that you might be suffering from. You get access to all the videos in the online area, of which there are very many-

Alex:      There are.

Dom Hodgson:  … shot by my good friend Alex the video guy. We have masterclass training in there as well from some of the world’s leading dog trainers. We have a private Facebook group where you can ask me any questions and get help and be among pet dog owners who are suffering from exactly the same kind of problems that you are. The cost is £39.99 a month, and if you would like to join the Inner Circle you should go to and you can join up straight away, and as soon as you hit ‘Go’ we will send you login details, links to the Facebook group, and you can get your welcome pack sent in the post. You can have all these things for Christmas if you feel like treating yourself.

I said I wasn’t going to mention it and I haven’t, really-

Alex:      It was heavily hinted at, I think.

Dom Hodgson:  … but that’s it for this week’s episode. Next week we’ll be back with another guest. Two guests, actually Alex.

Alex:      Two guests?

Dom Hodgson:  Our first double guest. We’re going back Stateside and we’re going to be talking to Leah and Justine from The Family Dog. They’re doing some absolutely awesome stuff, really looking forward to talking to them. We’ll see you next week. If you’ve enjoyed the podcast, please leave us a review and a rating on iTunes, or tell your friends about it.

If we don’t see you through the week, we’ll see you through the window.


Meet the Author

Dom Hodgson