Here are some of our most frequently asked questions. You’ll find a few pointers to help get your pup on the road to good behavior here.
Why should I obedience train my dog?
FACT: A majority of the dogs surrendered to shelters have behavior problems that are easily fixed with obedience training.
Adopting a pet is taking on a responsibility for another life. That responsibility becomes easier for both of you if you understand how to communicate and shape behaviors. Obedience training can accomplish that for you and your pet. Training also strengthens the human-canine bond which is especially helpful when you first obtain your pet.
Today, unfortunately, insurance companies have labeled some breeds as “vicious”. If you own one of these breeds, you may notice that your homeowners insurance is higher than your neighbor’s. In some cases, your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance may have been canceled. Obedience training and obtaining a Canine Good Citizen certificate may help you regain your insurance or lower your premiums. Check with your individual insurance company.
How do I find a good trainer?
Choosing a dog trainer can be one of the most important decisions that you make in your dog’s life. The techniques that a trainer uses can strongly affect how you interact with your dog for years to come. Therefore, it is very important to choose your trainer wisely. Here are some guidelines for choosing a dog trainer. Remember, training should be a fun experience for both you and your dog.
- Reward-based training. There are numerous ways to train dogs. In addition, each animal has his/her own learning style and preferred motivators. AVSAB endorses training methods which allow animals to work for things (e.g., food, play, affection) that motivate them rather than techniques that focus on using fear or pain to punish them for undesirable behaviors. Look for a trainer who uses primarily or only reward-based training with treats, toys, and play. Avoid any trainer who advocates methods of physical force that can harm your pet such as hanging dogs by their collars or hitting them with their hands, feet, or leashes.
Research shows that dogs do not need to be physically punished to learn how to behave, and there are significant risks associated with using punishment (such as inhibiting learning, increasing fear, and/or stimulating aggressive events). Therefore, trainers who routinely use choke collars, pinch collars, shock collars, and other methods of physical punishment as a primary training method should be avoided. Because of its risks, punishment should only us used by a trainer who can fully explain the possible adverse effects (See AVSAB Punishment Position Statement on the AVSAB web site) and instruct owners in one-on-one sessions how to perform the techniques correctly.
Punishment should not be used as a general first-line approach; instead trainers using punishment should discuss specifically which situations may call for its use. General use of such punishment assumes that animals always know exactly what humans expect of them and are willfully disobeying. In fact, animals are often disobeying because people have accidently reinforced the wrong behaviors or have not communicated clearly the appropriate behaviors. No learner wants to be in a situation where they have to consistently be afraid or making a mistake.
- Good teacher. A good instructor should explain what behavior they are training, why it is important, and then demonstrate it. In a class situation, they should provide ample time in class to practice and individually assist students. They should be able to adapt their humane training methods to the individual dog. Class sizes should be small to ensure individual attention, or assistants should be helping with the classes.
- Continual education. Look for a trainer who demonstrated continual self-education. A conscientious trainer will keep up-to-date with the new training theories and methods, and may attend workshops and conferences.
- Respectful. A good trainer should be personable and respectful of both you and your dog. Avoid trainers who recommend using physical force (e.g., alpha rolling, pushing a dog into position, hitting, choke chain or pinch collar correction) or methods/devices that have the potential for harm, as an acceptable way to train. Additionally, avoid trainers who make you feel bad about the speed of progress that your dog is making. (See AVSABPunishment Position Statement on the AVSAB web site).
- Observe a class. Always ask to observe a class before attending. You need to make sure that the teaching style of the instructor will work with how you learn. Also, watch the students and their dogs. Do they look like they are having fun or are they looking stressed? Are dogs’ tails up and wagging or down and/or tucked? Are the people talking with their dogs in happy, upbeat voices or are they scolding or even yelling at them? Talk to current students – are they enjoying the class and feel that their dogs are learning? If a trainer does not allow you to observe a class, ask yourself (and the trainer) why.
- Do you feel comfortable? Ultimately, you should feel comfortable doing whatever it is the trainer asks you to do to your dog. If your trainer ever tells you to do something to your dog that you believe will cause you or your dog undue harm or distress, ask them to explain why they recommend that technique, what the potential drawbacks of the techniques are and how these will be addressed should they occur alternately, you could ask for another option.
- There are no guarantees. Because of the variable and often unpredictable nature of behavior, a conscientious trainer cannot and will not guarantee the results of training. However, they should be willing to ensure satisfaction of their services.
- Vaccinations. A good instructor will take care to protect the dogs in a class.
- Problem behaviors. When dealing with problem behaviors, such as biting and fighting, destructiveness, etc. a good trainer should feel comfortable collaborating with your veterinarian and should know when to seek help from other professionals. Many behavior changes are caused by underlying physical problems, and a proficient trainer may ask you to visit your veterinarian for medical testing. In addition, many behavior problems are actually medical disorders that require diagnosis and treatment by a veterinarian. Your veterinarian may consider adding medication to your pet’s behavior modification plan once your pet’s situation has been completely assessed. Unless a trainer is a veterinarian, he/she does not have the medical background to recommend specific medications or to assess the possible risks and benefits of using medications in individual animals.
At what age should I start training my dog?
Before you bring your puppy home, you will need to decide what the ground rules will be in your household. Will the dog be allowed on the furniture; will he sleep in a crate, etc. The day you bring your puppy home he will be learning and you will be training from that first day forward. It is easier to fix problems the younger the dog is but that does not mean older dogs cannot be trained. For your pup’s protection, we do not start puppies until they are 8 weeks of age and current on all shots required for their age. We highly recommend enrolling your puppy in the Puppy One class which has age requirement of 8 weeks to 18 weeks of age.
How long will it take to train my dog?
All dogs are different as are all of their owners. If you have a lot of time to train, your dog will be better behaved than the dog whose owner has no time to train. And remember, training is a lifelong experience with your dog! Every day is training day.
How much does it cost to train my dog?
The cost of training, over the life of the dog, is probably the least expensive thing you will have to purchase. However, an untrained dog can cost you plenty if he bites someone, or destroys someone’s property. Expect additional expense if you get hooked on agility or showing your dog. Training is the most important thing you can do for your pet and your family.
What is clicker training?
Clicker training, also known as “operant conditioning”, allows the handler to reward the rough beginning of a behavior and work up to the finished behavior in stages. Clicker training is also a “no-force” and “hands-free” method. When performed properly, clicker training can produce a quick result for the handler and dog. If you have ever watched a show at Sea World, you have witnessed the principles of clicker training. Instead of a “click and treat” as we use with the dogs, Sea World uses a “whistle and a mackerel”. The click (or whistle) is a snapshot of the moment the animal performs the correct behavior.
You say not to use choke collars or retractable leashes... why not?
We prefer to train using the collar the dog will wear most of his life. It is possible for choke, prong or electronic collars to do harm to your pet (both physically and mentally) and we do not recommend using them at any time. It is much better for your dog to be trained using motivational methods rather than “punishing” for undesired behaviors. We also do not recommend retractable leashes which encourage your pet to pull.
My dog pulls and chokes himself when we go for walks. Should I use a harness?
NO! You put a harness on a dog to pull a sled. It makes it much easier for them to pull without choking. Your solution is twofold: 1: Train the dog to walk nicely by your side. OR 2: Purchase a Premier Pet Products “Easy Walk” device or a “Gentle Leader” halter. We sell these at our facility. When fitted properly by a professional, both products work like a horse’s halter; when the animal goes ahead, it gently pulls the front of the animal back toward you. While you can use these products for the life of the dog, training is our first option!
How do I house train my dog?
Housetraining is probably the most common subject we are asked and it is one of the biggest concerns of new dog owners. Luckily, it is one of the easiest things to train.
Be patient and be consistent.
Get a crate, we prefer the wire type (air circulation and visibility are best in a wire crate). It should be large enough for the adult dog to stand up, turn around and lay down. For the puppy, partition off part of the crate with a cardboard box sprayed with Bitter Apple. Most dogs will not eliminate where they sleep. Puppies should not be left in a crate longer than their age in months plus an hour; i.e. a three month old puppy should not be left in a kennel for more than 4 hours at a time.The crate should NOT disappear once the puppy is house trained. It should remain in the dog’s life as a safe place for him.
Feed on a schedule. DO NOT LEAVE FOOD DOWN ALL DAY (unless there is a medical reason the food needs to be down 24/7). He gets 20 minutes to eat. After that the uneaten food goes back in the bag; it does not get added to the next meal.
When your dog goes outside to eliminate, take him out the same door every time, and go out with him so you can praise the desired behavior – rain or shine.
How do I stop my dog from eating feces?
Although this is a pretty disgusting habit, it is a fairly normal behavior for some dogs, especially puppies. In many cases, this behavior will just go away as the puppy gets older. If your dog is partaking in this behavior, have him checked by a vet to make sure there is nothing medically wrong. In the mean time, it is important to keep the puppies area as clean as possible.
Some things you might try are Forbid which you can get from your veterinarian. We have also heard about adding pineapple to your dog’s diet. (If you have multiple dogs, everyone goes on pineapple.) If you have taught the “Leave It” command, this would be a great opportunity to use it.
Bottom line, keep the yard or exercise area cleaned up!