Whatever Happened to Training a Dog?

I've noticed a disconcerting trend on the professional email lists lately. It seems that whenever someone asks a question regarding an unwanted behavior, all of the answers tippy-toe around various ways to manage the issue or how to prevent the dog from engaging in it rather than ever giving any solutions that might actually resolve the problem. Don't get me wrong - every trainer *should* know how to prevent and manage all sorts of issues, this comes right along with being a competent trainer. But shouldn't they also know how to use training to hopefully resolve the problem as well?

For example, just recently a question was asked regarding a large adolescent dog who was randomly jumping up on the back of his elderly, medically compromised owner: not a good thing. Something that could, in fact, result in that owner not being able to keep their dog. The responses ranged from:

a) tether the dog on a bed with a chew toy

b) tether the dog to something so that it cannot reach the owner

c) increase the dog's exercise

d) ignore the dog when it does it

e) mark and reward when the dog is calm.

None of these are "bad" suggestions at all! But none of them gives detailed advice on how to stop the dog from jumping in the long-term. Could it be an example of the emperor wearing no clothes? No one wants to be the one to suggest any sort of correction for this behavior? Or any training plan that would actively teach the dog *not* to jump anymore? I find this very worrisome, on many levels. There are many non-forceful ways to train this dog that there are household "rules", one of those rules being that you are not allowed to jump on your owner from any direction: front or behind. For example:

a) trainer takes the dog to their home for training - uses set-ups to catch the dog in the act before body contact and let that dog know in that instant that this will not be allowed

b) if owner does not want to send dog away, then trainer does the same thing at owner's home and instructs that dog is to be confined as above until behavior is successfully modified.

c) since this is an elderly woman with medical problems, trainer may implement a device such as remote vibration collar to help dog understand

d) actually train the dog to have self-control in the face of distractions, build bond between owner and dog, teach owner how to work with dog in various situations to build quick response. This will naturally lead to a more obedient, calmer dog.

These are simple ideas that might or might not work for this owner. But then that's part of it: figuring out what *will* work for each owner and providing a professional solution rather than trying to stay within the bounds of a politically correct answer.

Another aspect that is of concern as well, is the tendency I have noticed to instantly suggest referring nearly everything to a veterinary behaviorist. Veterinary behaviorists are a necessary and important resource and every trainer should be aware of them and understand that it is important to consider the physiological, medical aspects of behavior problems. However, a qualified trainer should be able to discern when a behavior is severe enough to warrant veterinary intervention without thinking that anything beyond basic obedience requires a trip to a veterinary behaviorist.

I find it very worrisome. If trainers begin to refer many cases away unnecessarily and thereby cause owners to feel that perhaps this expense and trouble is more than they can bear - what may happen to all of these dogs? I'm talking about cases which are not beyond the realm of rather basic behavior modification but which contain some element of anxiety or slight aggression. Shouldn't a good professional trainer/behavior counselor be able to handle such a case?