Knowhow-Now Article

Consider All Dog Training Options

It's not so much the kind of obedience training you do with your dog, but actually doing any training. Most of the dogs in your neighborhood or the dogs owned by your family and friends are probably not trained well, if at all. Isn't that alone a reason to train your dog better?

Tip: If your dog has an issue with barking, pay attention to potential triggers. You can address the behavior better once you realize what the triggers are.

There are four basic options for training your dog: enrolling in a class, sending the dog away to be trained, training on your own or working individually with a trainer.

Tip: When you're training your dog, it is important that you understand primary reinforcement. This means using a beloved item to reinforce positive behavior.

The first option is to take a class with your dog. A vet might recommend a professional trainer near you. I take my mutt to an obedience class with about ten other people and dogs. I think it is a lot of fun and so does he. These classes run many times a year and last for about seven weeks. In this setting, a trainer works with the group on things like sit, stay and walking on a lose leash. The setting is a good way for dogs to get used to listening to their humans when there are a lot of distractions. Most instructors offer four or five levels of obedience, starting with puppy preschool through preparation for the show ring.

Tip: While you can train different types of dogs with various personalities, it could be near impossible for you to train two dogs. If you find that your dogs are not concentrating during training, then it may be necessary to train them independently, and then work on training them together.

For a second option, you can take your dog to a training facility either during the day (like day camp) or for a few weeks or months at a time. Someone else will then begin training your dog. I never recommend this option but someone who is often traveling or too busy or simply unwilling to learn to train a dog might see no other away. The reasons I think this is a terrible idea is because a dog learns to respect and respond to whoever trains them because the dog will accept that person as a leader. For this reason, I will always train my own dogs. Some people expect their dogs to come back from places like these totally trained, and that just isn't possible. Training a dog takes years of commitment and never ends.

Tip: Do not think that a dog won't bite you because you are supposed to be in charge. An untrained dog may consider you to be a pack member, but he may believe he has the role of leader.

A third choice is training your dog on your own. The most difficult part of this is remaining focused enough to practice each day. If you have trained a dog in the past and have the experience, then doing the training yourself might be best. You will be able to work on training when you decide and use your own techniques. You won't have to pay a trainer, either. With all the books out there on training dogs, you can find new ideas if you have problems.

Tip: When your dog is six months old, have it spayed or neutered. This should happen before you start obedience classes.

The fourth option is to work individually with a dog trainer. This is good if you need work on certain issues or if you have never trained or owned a dog before. Most likely this will cost more, but it is worthwhile. If there is a group, a trainer will be speaking in more general terms and will not be able to focus specifically on you and your dog. If you meet individually with a trainer, you can ask all the questions you want and he or she can get to know your dog and make better suggestions.

Tip: Your whole family should be involved with training the dog. You may have one member of the family that does much of the training with him, but by having the entire family take part in the training, he will learn that he must obey each person that lives in the home.

Each person and dog is different, so you should use the best method for whatever dog you own. Each trainer will have different ideas. Some will not allow training collars, like choke or prong collars, while others require them. I am hesitant of a trainer who believes every dog should wear the same kind of collar. A powerful Doberman that is aggressive to other animals will not get by with the same collar as a miniature poodle wearing a nylon cat collar. The owner and trainer should use good judgment to decide what tools are best for each dog and to use those tools properly. Many trainers are now using clickers and positive reinforcement only. With a clicker, a dog hears a click the instant she does something right, eventually associating the click with the correct behavior. Other trainers simply use lots of treats and verbal praise and are just as successful.

Above all, you should pick the suitable training methods for your lifestyle and your dog while being open to new ideas.

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