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Animal House: The Ins and Outs of Dog Training

The importance of finding the right trainer to work with your dog.

I have received a few e-mails over the past few weeks asking if I know a good dog trainer.  I know quite a few!  But, I also know quite a few that are not so good. 

When I consult a client on potentially training them and their dog, I spend a fair bit of time on the phone talking with them. 

I do this because the trainer/client relationship must be a good fit. 

There is a lot more to training a dog and its family that just getting the dog to respond to commands.  A dog is not an IPAD. We cannot merely expect to push a button or say a command and have the dog robotically respond. 

Yes, this in one way is the goal at the surface, but there is more to it.  When a client calls and asks me to “just fix the dog,” we probably aren’t going to be working together. 

Yes, I can get your dog to respond to me when I give a command, but there is no guarantee I can get him to do it for the client. 

Training a dog is a relationship between the owner and the dog.  The old days and theories of “dominating” a dog and establishing the owner as the “Alpha,” is antiquated thinking and a very old method of training.

When choosing a dog trainer, one must first be comfortable with the methods that will be used. 

I use positive reinforcement training.  This type of training has been proven to be the most effective and longest lasting. 

There are a lot of dog training methods and all have a level of effectiveness based on the personality of the dog being trained.  A client must like the trainer and trust in their knowledge and ability.  The goals must be clear and defined when working with a trainer in order to determine progress.

All dogs progress at different rates and if the “homework” isn’t done by the owners, they cannot expect the trainer to perform miracles. 

Training a dog is like playing an instrument.  It takes repetition and practice.  The more a client works with the dog, the better the dog will respond to the command. 

Think of it like this, we all took Algebra 2 in high school, and probably passed, but if we haven’t done it repeatedly, though we learned it, we probably couldn’t do it well now.  Had we done it over and over and consistently used it we would be able to do it well now.

A dog’s personality will play a large part in the type of training used.  If the dog is toy or food motivated, one method may be more effective than others.  A fearful or shy dog may respond to a type of training that would not work well on a more confident dog.  Conversely, using the wrong type of training method on a fearful or shy dog can actually do damage.

As seen on T.V … Often clients will see any number of television shows that take a dog that has a training issue and miraculously fix the issue in thirty minutes.  What the viewer does not see is the amount of actual time spent working with the dog. 

Also, though the techniques shown on television may be effective, television will not show when it is ineffective.  By editing for television, the television shows can actually put the average viewer in a dangerous situation if the viewer attempts a technique seen on the wrong dog or in the wrong way. 

This is where the knowledge and skill of a good trainer comes in.  Knowing what method to use on what type of dog and when is a learned knowledge that takes experience to understand.

Doing your homework on the trainer is vital.  Asking your veterinarian for a referral is a great step.  Asking others whom they use is also a very good way of finding the right trainer. 

Interviewing a few trainers before deciding whom to use will yield the best results.  Dog trainers who specialize are usually best.  I prefer in home, one-on-one training.  Though more expensive, it will yield a better result as you and your dog are getting one-on-one attention. 

This is not to say that I think group classes are bad or ineffective, but again, it is not for every dog. 

I can generally get more accomplished in your home in an hour than a class setting can get done in three sessions. 

I take my dog to different group classes as they offer socialization and a different experience for your dog.  It all depends on what the goals are.

No matter whom you choose for your trainer, the dog will always benefit from the experience.  A better understanding of dog behavior and a better trained dog will yield a happier home for all.

Snyder's Stoughton February 12, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Since we are getting a rescue dog at some point soon, we'll be following your advice. We may even be giving you a call.

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