Ok, you’ve got your dog, the bed, the food, collar, leash, rolls of poop bags, maybe a crate, the explosion of toys; what comes next? The training of course. Training your dog can actually be fun for the whole family. Finding the right trainer might be a bit more challenging. There are probably dozens of dog trainers out there in your community; some come to your home, some have classes and some take your dog.
Here’s a brief description, and my own pros and cons, of each type.
Private instruction: Basically one on one work with you and your dog. It can take place at your home or at a location elsewhere. Pro: Customized to your specific needs, whether behavior issues, basic manners or specific commands. The entire family can participate. Builds a strong, trusting, leadership connection between you and your dog. Con: you must be consistent, able and willing to put in the time and homework everyday.
Group training classes: Several dogs learning the same thing at the same time in a structured environment. Pro: A great way to socialize your dog in a controlled environment and work with distractions. Develops your dog’s confidence in social situations. The entire family can participate. Builds a trusting leadership relationship between you and your dog. Con: Structured classes focus more on commands. Not much attention to addressing any behavior issues of your dog. Some trainers do not use positive reinforcement training. You have to be able and willing to consistently do the homework.
Remote training: You send your dog away for training. Pro: You get a break from your dog. Someone else does the work. Con: Expensive. No one in the family learns about the dog, how the dog learns, or how to reinforce what the dog has learned. Your dog doesn’t see you as the leader. You have no idea what methods they are using. No relationship built between you and your dog.
When looking for the right person to help you train, ask questions and keep these things in mind::
• Is the trainer listening to you and asking you questions about your dog?
• Do they interrupt with how they can solve your issues? Do they seem to know everything?
• Do they understand your goals? Your dog?
• Are you comfortable with them and their methods?
• Are they good communicators, speaking with you instead of at you?
• Are they breaking down and explaining the learning?
• Are they insured? Will they provide references?
• Does your dog like them?
In addition to training, I like to provide my clients with a list of books that will help them learn about how a dog thinks and learns. All dogs learn the same way, via classic and operant conditioning, but learning styles and motivation can vary, just like with humans.
Books that I recommend to people do not include titles like, “How to train…” or “Teach your dog to…” I suggest books like “ Inside of a Dog” or “The Dog’s Mind”.
Once you learn how your dog’s mind works, how they communicate, and how they think, the actual training can be fun and stress free.
Good Dogma has been helping dogs with people problems since 1996. Readers are invited to submit questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact information for all offered services can be found on our website www.GoodDogma.net.