I recently asked my local pet parent community to help me with some market research on dog behaviour and training.
My aim was to get to know more about dog behaviour and training needs in my local community so I created an online survey thanks to Survey Monkey and shared the questionnaire in my local dog park’s Facebook group. Over one week, 18 members responded out of 143 – that’s a 12.5 % participation rate, which is about the average response rate to online surveys. The results of this survey are by no means a reliable indicator of the general public’s opinion and experience, but it gave me a good indication of local dog issues and attitudes towards dog training.
The survey says…
According to the questionnaire, 61% of the respondents attended puppy preschool, 33% went to adult dog training classes and 28% trained their dog themselves, which means some owners did both puppy and adult dog training too. Good on you!
I was interested if other pet parents shared my theory and first-hand experience of the juvenile and adolescent age group proving to be a challenge… And very interestingly, they did! Only one person said that they didn’t have any issues with their teenage dog.
The main issues included pulling on the lead, jumping, chewing, not responding to requests, nipping, developing aggression to other dogs and some toilet training difficulties.
To the question “Do you have any behavioural or training issues with your dog NOW that you would like to get help with?” the following problems were listed, in descending order:
- Not coming when called when there is a distraction (e.g. dog park, beach) – 55.56%
- Destructive behaviour (chewing, digging, ripping toys/bedding apart) – 33.33%
- Jumping up on people – 22.22%
- Pulling on the leash – 16.67%
- Shyness with unfamiliar people (moving away, not keen on interaction, tense when approached) – 16.67%
- Storm/noise phobias (hiding away, vocalising, trembling, seeking reassurance, escaping) – 16.67%
- Low tolerance of handling (unable to brush/groom/clip nails) – 16.67%
- Separation related problem behaviours (barking, whining, self-harm, escaping, destructive behaviour – only when left alone) – 16.67%
- Resource guarding with other animals (food, toys, bed, anything) – 11.11%
- Leash reactivity (barking, snarling, lunging at, snapping at or biting other dogs while s/he is on a lead) – 11.11%
- Aggression towards other dogs off-leash (tense when meeting, standing over other dog, growling, snarling, snapping or biting) – 11.11%
- Easily aroused (e.g. mouthing when excited or mounting other dogs/people/inanimate objects) – 11.11%
- Aggression towards unfamiliar people (growling, barking or lunging at them, nipping) – 11.11%
- Excessive barking – 5.56%
Two people said they have no issues with their dog at all (lucky you!). No respondents experienced inappropriate toileting, toilet training issues (over the age of 5 months) or resource guarding with people while one person noted that their dog is possessive over the family.
How about training?
I was also interested in what pet parents do to address their dog’s behavioural or training problems and whether they’ve thought about getting professional help. Interestingly enough, 33% of the respondents said they like their dogs regardless of the problems while some already reached out to a professional and most of those people got the help they needed. 27% of the pet owners indicated that they would like to get help, but they either don’t know where to look for help or they are discouraged by the costs involved.
The next question was to determine whether pet parents value dog trainers who have qualifications and professional expertise over ones that don’t. The answers were quite shocking for me, because the majority of the respondents do not know the difference between who is qualified and who isn’t, and quite a few said that they don’t care about paperwork, they just want their dogs fixed. Have a look:
What about the price tag?
The last two questions focused on the cost of dog training services and how much owners would be willing to pay for one-on-one sessions and group training classes. Dog training prices can vary considerably with private training costs being much less transparent than group class rates. During my preliminary research on prices, I saw a bigger price dispesrion in one-on-one sessions than in group training, so I included options accordingly. Here are the results:
So what’s my conclusion?
Based on the above non-representative survey it looks like teenage dogs prove to be a challenge for most owners and that there is a great variety of problem behaviours that are not being addressed. Most of the respondents don’t know or don’t care about the qualifications and/or professional expertise of dog trainers. This is a bit concerning to me as there are so many people out there who call themselves trainers without proper knowlegde and experience in best practice dog training methods – and they can still charge more than a certified dog trainer.
Qualification does not just mean the paperwork. It means years of studying, volunteering or working with a wide range of dogs, attending conferences, learning from industry leaders and advocating the use of science-based force free training methods. I still see way too many dogs wearing choke chains, owners jerking on the lead or yelling at dogs – which is not only unnecessary but also detrimental for the dog and the human-animal bond.
Written by Bea Labady
If you knew you could get a long-term solution for your dog’s problems from a qualified dog trainer for way less than the average weekly rent, would you ask for help?