Training and FAQs

What does training really mean or entail? The best definition of animal training I have heard came courtesy of Ken Ramirez, Director of Animal Training at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. Ken defines training as "teaching an animal how to live in our world".It is important to teach dogs how to live in a human world, especially in urban environments, if for no other reason than it provides us a more enjoyable relationship with our pets, and provides our pets with a fuller life.

So how do you train a dog? The deceptively simple concept that training is built from is this: If your dog does something you like, reward it. If they do something you dislike, ignore it. By ignoring it, the dog realizes that the behavior has no benefits associated with it. Punishment, including hissing at your dog and poking it in the neck ala Caesar Milan are both unnecessary and detrimental to the training process.

What are the advantages of attending a group training class?

Although anyone can apply the basic principles of training and get a very well mannered pup as a result, there are some advantages to taking your dog to group classes. One thing that a group class offers is the opportunity for your dog to socialize with other dogs, and people, in a controlled and safe environment. Working with a trainer can also be very helpful when you run into problems you aren’t sure how to address. Should you decided to go further with training than just the basic essentials, you will want to find a trainer that specializes in the kind of training you want to do with your dog. Some options include: Advanced Obedience, Rally-O, Frisbee, Agility, Sled Pulling or Carting, Tracking or Schutzhund. Training with your dog can be great exercise and lots of fun for humans and canines alike.

So, how do you go about finding a good trainer?

Look for membership in professional associations (AKC, APDT , etc.), educational background, reputation (via local vets, shelters, yelp, etc.), qualifications, and what they have accomplished with their own dogs. Be wary of training classes at big box retailers. The trainers generally have no formal education and very little experience.

What does a dog NEED to know?

Whether you ever chose to do higher-level training with your dog, there are some things ALL dogs should be taught, regardless of size:

  1. Walking on the leash without pulling or lunging
  2. Polite greeting with people and dogs (no jumping!)
  3. Sit stay/ down stay
  4. Housebreaking
  5. Not to engage in destructive behavior
  6. Not to bark for attention

These basic expectations will help to ensure that your dog is welcome in public, giving them a more full and enjoyable life!


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