Tails From The Field” is a series of true stories from Chad Culp’s experience in the field of professional dog training. Some details, such as names and breeds, may have been changed for privacy protection.


I had seen this client previously. I can’t remember for sure but I think we had only done one private lesson and things went fairly well. I hadn’t heard from them in about a year, so I assumed that no news was good news, but that was not the case. They had contacted me to come back for a follow up because the dog had bitten seven people.  The conversation went something like this:  

Chad: “Let me ask you, how long have you been brushing your own teeth?”

Client: “Oh, about 26 years or so.” Looking puzzled by the question. 

Chad: “You’ve been brushing for 26 years, so you must be pretty good at it?” 

Client: “Yes, I suppose.” Continuing to look at me suspiciously. 

Chad: “So, If you don’t mind my asking, how often do you go to the dentist?”

Client: “Every six months.” 

Chad: “Hmm, so even though you have been caring for your teeth on a daily basis for 26 years, you still get help from a professional twice a year?”

Client: “Yes.”

Chad: “Even when your teeth feel fine?”

Client: “Yes, just for a checkup and cleaning.” 

Chad: “I see. So why has it been a year and seven bites since you’ve seen your dog trainer?”

Client: “Money has been tight and we have been doing all the things you showed us.”

Chad: “Hmm.” While looking at them kind of suspiciously. 

Client: “Ahh!” 

I know, it sounds crazy but I am paraphrasing what was part of a very profound conversation which led to a light bulb moment for my client. You see, I was just trying to find a way to get them to think in terms of checkups and maintenance regarding their dog. I had seen them before but they didn’t follow up with more lessons and allowed things to get way worse before reaching out again. Why would an intelligent, organized, employed person do that? Was it really about the cost of a one hour lesson? No. There was clearly a deeper human psychology that needed to be reached in order to get them to commit to learning how to train and control their dog. 

Putting On My Dr. Phil Hat

Why would a person get professional help for caring for their teeth when, for all intents and purposes, they are already an expert at brushing and flossing, then, when it comes to something they have zero experience with, such as rehabbing an aggressive dog, they think they can do it themselves or that one lesson should last a lifetime? It is totally illogical but it’s also something I see happening over and over with client after client. There must be a reason for this. Let me put on my Dr. Phil hat and psychoanalyze this: 

Disclaimer: I am not an actual psychiatrist, it’s just a hobby I picked up while helping people train their dogs.

Let me ask you some questions: 

  • Do you think they were really doing all the things I showed them and only the things I showed them, or do you suppose they forgot a few things? 
  • What are the odds that they also tossed in a few things they got from the internet? 
  • What are the odds that they can’t remember which things they heard from me and which they heard from random trainers on YouTube?  

Let’s assume they were such amazing clients that they actually did everything I showed them…perfectly…exactly the way I showed them…AND, they did this consistently…AND they never added anything that they found on the internist. (Quick, call all the Vatican because that would be a bonafide miracle!) Assuming all that to be true, do you think it’s possible that I am such an amazing dog trainer that I can give people all the information they need to rehabilitate an aggressive dog in one lesson or do you suppose I would need to do some follow up lessons to make adjustments as we make progress?

What? You do believe I am so amazing? Ah shucks, I’m blushing. HOWEVER, I hate to disappoint you but, if I was such an amazing teacher, then we wouldn’t be having this conversation because the dog wouldn’t have bitten seven people since I last saw them. 

As soon as the dog bit one person, it should have been obvious that either my dog aggression rehab plan was wrong or incomplete or they weren’t following it correctly. But they allowed an additional 6 bites to occur over the course of a full year before contacting me again. What’s more is that this sort of hesitancy is surprisingly common. Hence, my strange dental question and the need for a deeper analysis. 

Why is dog training hesitancy so common? 

There could be many reasons. For example: We’ve all seen ill-behaved dogs that have had tons of professional training and well-mannered dogs that have never been trained at all, right? Well, that could lead a person to believe that dog training is bogus. However, I think any logical person would realize that it could also be a matter of genetics or the owners lack of follow through on the training they received or many other lifestyle factors that affect dog behavior. In other words, I don’t think the hestation is well reasoned. I think there is something happening that goes way deeper than the logical mind.

I think there is something in the mass consciousness that resists the idea of professional dog training as if there’s some sort of shame in it. I think we have developed the sense that bringing a “fur-baby” (a.k.a. predatory animal) into our homes should either 1) require no skill or effort at all or 2) these skills are some sort of God given talent that we all should naturally possess. I don’t know how this thinking has seeped into our consciousness but it could not be further from the truth. 

Raising and training dogs is so far from natural to people it’s not even funny! In fact, almost everything about dog training is counterintuitive because dog psychology is not the same as human psychology. Sure, some people have better skills than others but even those with “natural talent” still need to learn, practice and develop that talent. This is true of all talents on planet earth and dog training is no exception. 

Moral of the Story: 

There is no shame in taking lessons in anything that you would like to be good at and that includes dog training. Even things that people have done for millennia such as raising children, cooking, fighting or even the simple act of speaking can be done to varying degrees of proficiency. Most of these skills have traditionally been passed on from parent to child but we are not always lucky enough to have parents with high level skills in all areas. Or, we may have parents who have those skills but lack the time or patience to be a good teacher. We might not even be lucky enough to have parents at all but what we do have are professional teachers and coaches for almost anything we want to learn. Raising and training dogs, like learning to play a musical instrument, is simply a skill that needs to be developed and there is no shame in taking lessons. 

As a dog trainer I spend a surprising amount of my time dealing in human psychology, which sometimes leads to odd questions like “How long have you been brushing your own teeth?” 

Chad Culp – Certified Dog Trainer, Canine Behavior Consultant, Owner of Thriving Canine. 

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