Has Justin Silver of “Dogs in the City” ever met a dog he couldn’t train?
—Penelope Cardenas, Las Cruces, N.M.
It depends on your definition of what training means, but Silver does believe that every situation with a dog is improvable. “I think there are dogs that are not going to be dog-park dogs. They are not all going to be the most friendly,” he says.
“They are allowed to have their feelings and their personalities. They are also allowed to have their troubled pasts, which scar them a little bit. It is okay. But I always feel that we can get them to a place that is manageable, as long as the resources are there.”
According to Silver, a common problem is that not every dog and owner match, which can lead to behavior problems—and it isn’t always the dog that is at fault.
“The first question I always ask people is, ‘What is your dog’s vocabulary?’ They will tell me, ‘My dog is crazy and doesn’t know how to…’ I will ask again, ‘What is your dog’s vocabulary.’ They will say, ‘He knows ‘Sit.’ But they say it unconvincingly. So how is the dog acting out if it has never been instructed in what it is supposed to do?”
What Silver does when he first meets with a dog and its owner is to keep an open mind and remember that each situation is different. He doesn’t believe in a one-size-fits-all method to training. And while it is important that Silver “speaks dog,” he says it is equally important to “speak human.”
“Training dogs is easy, but you are training owners how to train dogs,” says the New Yorker. “So I always say, ‘It is like training ballroom dance. You are teaching two people to dance, but you are teaching one person to lead.’”