Transformative Dog Training in Salt Lake City, Nashville, and Charleston, SC

Understanding the “Sandbox”


Every dog trainer that has been in the business for a while has probably created their own “sandbox.”

What on earth does that mean? Well, if you have your own sandbox, you get to determine how people can play with it. Perhaps you only play with one kind of toy in this sandbox, or have to follow a set of rules in that sandbox.

I’ve found that among dog trainers, as in any skill-based profession, there are a lot of disagreements. This arguments tend to revolve around methodology and identification of problems. Some trainers are adamant that one training method is the best, while others will swear that another is ideal. I’ve realized in the past few years that if a dog trainer is trying to achieve a certain goal with a dog, then the training program that they put together toward that goal is probably the correct one.

When we’re training dogs, we like them to behave in a calm, supervised, structured way while they are indoors. That’s why we have dogs do down stays while we eat dinner or watch TV, and why we ask them to follow us from room to room. As time goes on, that method changes to be a little less structured. But we’ve already set up our sandbox with the expectation of a certain type of indoor play. Other trainers might like their dogs to have more freedom. They might use doggy doors so that the dogs have the freedom to wander around the house. Neither method of training is wrong, but one might be preferable to you while another is more preferable to me.

Some trainers set up their walking “sandbox” by asking their dogs to heel directly beside them the entire time. Other trainers might allow the dog to walk ahead of them as long as they don’t pull; another trainer might even allow the dog to pull quite a bit. Again, none of these methods are necessarily wrong, but the end result will be different depending on what the trainer’s “sandbox” looks like.

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As you’re looking for a trainer and thinking about who might have good advice for you and your dog, understand that no one is wrong. Every trainer is setting up a different “sandbox.” You mostly want to observe the product of the training. While the methods that get the dog to that place are important to understand, the end result should be the most important consideration.
Ask yourself: which training program has created the “sandbox” that creates the best end result?

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