Dog trainer warns pet owners of scam that’s ‘getting bigger and bigger’
A Cheshire dog trainer has warned pet owners of what he calls the ‘dog trainer epidemic’. Steve Moran has worked with dogs for over 30 years and currently runs Stublach Training and Boarding Kennels in Byley.
He first started training hunting dogs – dogs used to hunt and fetch game as part of filming – before starting to work with other animal owners. Over the years, his clients have included footballers, television personalities and other high profile personalities.
But Steve contacted Cheshire Live to raise concerns about the state of the dog training industry. He believes clients are being ‘ripped off’ by trainers taking advantage of the pet ownership lockdown boom, with some claiming to be accredited despite the lack of an official governing body in the UK.
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He also believes trainers are using methods that do little to stem the rise in dog attacks. He was particularly critical of those who use a one-size-fits-all approach, including “non-strength training”.
Steve said: “The way I train a German Shepherd may not be the way I train a Labrador. The way I train a Labrador may not be the way I trains a Chihuahua. But now they’re all doing things like “tricks for treats” – that’s not dog training.
“What it is is a license to print money. It’s a scam and this scam is getting bigger and bigger.”
He talked about how dogs, especially working dogs like German Shepherds and Border Collies, have prey – the natural instinct to chase prey. Steve said activities like throwing a ball activate this prey drive and encourage the dog to hunt.
And he said that’s part of the reason why some dogs get out of control when chasing things like sheep or other dogs while on the loose. He said: “Anything that moves activates its prey and it has already been trained to hunt. That’s where the epidemic of dog trainers comes from – they’re not dog trainers, they’re not trained What they’re doing is cashing in on a post-lockdown cash cow.
“A lot of that is ‘no-strength training’. Basically, you can’t leash a dog or yell at a dog, but these people have no knowledge of working dogs.
“And if you threw a ball to get the dog’s attention – when you let that dog out into a field and there’s a flock of sheep, bingo, you’ve got two dead sheep.”
He also explained why he thinks the ‘tricks for treats’ method also doesn’t work for all dogs: “If you hold a treat for the dog and he starts barking, people who train think “oh, they’re enjoying that” when in fact the dog is frustrated and actually says “give me the treat, I don’t want to sit down”.
“So what’s going on? The dog, especially something like a German Shepherd or a Border Collie, chews on the hand of the person feeding it to get to the treat because it doesn’t want to go around.
“They train with these techniques which aren’t good when you let them go. They have no call backs so the dog won’t come back when you call them unless you have a treat.”
Although he criticized the coaches for only using non-strength training, he said that didn’t mean he was using strength. He reiterated his belief that there is no single method that works for every dog and trainer.
“It’s subjective – there are no ‘experts’ and I’ve been doing this for over 30 years. It’s about being able to read the dog, but instead there are trainers who say this way is the right one,” he added.
“People are looking for a dog trainer and if you go online you will find more dog trainers than pebbles on a beach. Many say they are a ‘certified’ dog behaviorist. There is no such thing , but people will see that and think ‘they have to know what they’re doing’.
When asked what advice he had for clients, he said to make sure they research trainers carefully. One thing Steve said he does is post before and after videos of dogs in his care.
Steve’s concerns come after dog ownership figures skyrocketed during the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. The percentage of households owning dogs rose to 33% in 2020/21, after remaining constant at around 22% for the previous 10 years.
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