All dog owners should involve their beloved pet in some type of training. Training is beneficial for all breeds and all ages of dogs. But with so many different training philosophies and styles, and so many types of classes to choose from, how do you choose a trainer and class for your dog?
The best place to begin is to examine training philosophies. There are three basic training philosophies in practice today. One method may be referred to as “compulsion training.” With this type of training, the use of an aversive stimulus, such as collar correction from a choke chain, is used to reduce undesired behavior. There is generally no use of food with this type of training. On the other end of the spectrum, there is “positive reinforcement” training. This type of training uses food, toys and affection to reinforce desired behavior. Lastly, some trainers use a combination approach including both positive reinforcement techniques such as food and treat rewards with occasional aversives. Make sure that the trainer you work with is skilled, humane and that you are comfortable with the methods used.
Trainers themselves vary extensively in their expertise. Ask how the trainer learned to train dogs. Does the trainer have formal education in animal behavior? Has the trainer met all of the requirements for certification from a nationally recognized professional organization such as the CPDT (Certified Pet Dog Trainer) examination?
Once you select a trainer, you need to decide on what type of class is best for you and your dog. A few of the more commonly offered training programs include:
Group Obedience: Group classes are a great starting place for most dog owners. There are many benefits to group classes – the dog gets the benefit of socialization, of learning to concentrate around distractions and the owner is involved in every step of the training.
Private Lessons: Private lessons are often a good option for people that have dogs with severe behavioral issues, dogs with problems that are specific to the home, or for owners that are unable to attend a class.
Dog Day school or Boarding programs: Dog day school or boarding programs are situations where you send your dog away to be trained by professional trainers. These programs are effective for dogs with severe behavioral problems, or for owners with time restraints.
A few other factors that you may consider when making your final decision include: Was the staff friendly and helpful? Did they make you feel comfortable? What was your gut feeling when talking to the trainer? Finally, is this someone you would be comfortable learning from?
Now that you know what you are looking for, pick up the phone and get training!
Courtsey of Kathy Minnick, Certified Pet Dog Trainer, and owner of The Animals’ House 703 433-1300