Mastering Good Manners and Basic Commands

Love Dog
In This Chapter

Adjusting to a collar and lead
Teaching basic commands
Attending puppy classes and day care
Contacting the professionals

You don’t need to have a champion obedience dog, but your dog should know basic good manners. Many untrained dogs are unhappy, and usually, so are their owners. Dogs are pack animals and rule followers. A dog with no understanding of the rules is confused and unsure of himself. He may try to make his own rules or lead the pack, which in this case is your family.
A Bully with good manners knows when, if ever, she’s allowed to get on the furniture, to beg at the table, and so on. Your dog should also know to let people go through doors first. The more rules your dog knows, the more secure she’ll be, knowing that you’re in charge.
This chapter covers basic training tips; how to solve problems; the importance of socialization and getting your dog out to meet other people and dogs; and, if you face a difficult behavior problem, when and where to seek professional help.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind While Training

For general socialization, take your puppy places. Carry her into the bank with you. The tellers may pet her and even give her treats. Go to a mall, and take a walk around outside (most malls ban dogs from inside). People think that puppies are cute, and someone may want to pet her. Give her treats. If you don’t have children, find children in your neighborhood who may like to play with your puppy for a while.

Tip

Here are a few general tips that you can apply to all the training ideas in this chapter:

– Always stop on a positive note. If your dog isn’t “getting” the new lesson, go back to a command she knows how to do. If your dog always sits promptly, end the lesson with a sit. Give a treat and a lot of praise, and go back to training when you’ve both rested.

– Don’t be afraid to try commands because you don’t think they work. With practice and plenty of treats, you can train your Bully to obey your commands.

– During training time, stuff your pockets full of treats, and always have treats on hand for rewards. You don’t want to ask your Bully to do something and then go find the treats. He may forget why he’s getting the treat.

– Think of a release word to let your dog know that he can stop whatever you had him doing. Make your release word happy and short. Many people say “Okay” or “All right.” Whatever you use, be consistent. Don’t say “Okay” one day and “That’Technical Stuff fine” the next.

Following the Leader: Lead and Collar Training

The first step in training your Bulldog is getting your little darling used to wearing a collar. At first, purchase an adjustable, flat, buckle nylon collar because this type of collar is inexpensive, and your puppy soon outgrows it. For more on buying collars for your dog, see Chapter Preparing for Your Bulldog.

Collaring the culprit

Your Bulldog needs to be comfortable wearing a collar because a collar and lead keep you connected to your Bully when you go for a walk, to the vet, or to the bank. A Bulldog (at least at full size) is too big for a cute little tote bag. If you want to go somewhere with your Bully, you will both be more comfortable if your Bulldog moves under his own power. Also, the collar is an excellent tool for grabbing your Bully when you need to.
To start out, buckle the collar loosely around your Bully’s neck (that is, the collar must be tight enough to not fall off your dog, yet not be so tight that it presses into his neck), and let him get used to it. At first, make sure that you supervise your pup. He may want to wriggle out of the collar by rubbing or scratching it off. You don’t want him to get stuck on a piece of furniture without anyone around to release him. After your Bully adjusts to the piece of fabric around his neck, feel free to leave the collar on all the time.

Remember

Attach your dog’s rabies tag and identification tag on his collar. If you lose him, the ID tag may assist in bringing him home.

Being gentle but firm with the lead

After your puppy accepts the collar, attach a lightweight lead to the collar, and let your pup drag the leash behind him. Keep an eye on him during this process to prevent the lead from catching on nearby objects, getting tangled, or being chewed by your dog.
When your puppy finally gets used to the lead, pick it up by the end. Start moving away from your pup, calling her as she comes. Keep the lead loose, and don’t drag your dog. Encourage her to walk with you by using treats and a lot of praise. Keep training sessions short and positive. Your first walk may be just down the driveway, but those first steps are a beginning.

Warning!

Be patient. Don’t fight with your dog. Just remember to have a pocketful of treats and to set aside a lot of time. When you start getting impatient, stop any lesson instead of continuing a battle of wills with your pup.

Knowing the Basic Commands

Having a dog with manners is a bonus. The basic commands, like Sit, Come, Down, and Stay, can make living with your dog more pleasant. You can teach the basic dog commands, but not every method works with every dog or for every owner/trainer. If you don’t fully understand a particular method, or you’re not comfortable, you can’t teach your dog effectively.

I have a “haunch” you can teach your Bully to sit

The Sit command is one of the easiest and most useful commands to teach your young Bulldog. Encourage your Bully to sit by using food. Find his favorite treats, and get your Bully’s attention.

1. Take a treat, and show it to your dog.

2. Tell him to sit.

3. Move your hand back over his head.

He follows your hand and the treat back, tipping his nose up and sinking down on his haunches.

Tip 

If you hold the treat too far above your dog’s head, your Bully stands up and tries to reach the goody or stands on his hind legs. This error in technique may teach your dog the wrong command or to put his paws up on you for the treat. You want him to sit, so keep your hand low.

4. Praise him, and give him the treat.

5. Repeat this process several times.

6. Then end the session.

Work on Sit four or five times during the day, keeping sessions short and treats plentiful, and always end on a positive note. Before long, your Bully is eagerly sitting whenever you give the command. The Sit command can easily be worked into your everyday routine. Tell your Bulldog to sit, and you can

– Easily snap on his lead instead of trying to catch him as he bounces with delight at the prospect of a walk.

– Check his ears for dirt.

– Lift a paw and clean off mud. This command comes in handy when bringing in your Bulldog from the rain.

– Put his food bowl down. Having your dog work for his supper never hurts. Food is an excellent motivator.

Come to me, my Bully!

Come is another of the basic commands. You don’t always want to go get your Bulldog when you need him. You’d like to say his name and the command, Come, and have him respond reliably. Begin teaching Come almost immediately. Here are your first steps:

1. Call your puppy in a happy, excited tone of voice.

2. Back away from him.

3. Odds are good he bounds after you.

4. Pet and praise him, and give him a treat.

You can practice this feat under different circumstances:

– At mealtimes, call your Bully. His reward is his bowl of food.

– After he’s used to a collar and lead, work with him on the lead. Again, call him in a happy tone, and run backward away from him. When he comes, reward him.

– As you enjoy walks together, and your Bully is beginning to understand the command Come, call him when he is distracted, sniffing a bug, or just wandering in the grass. Say his name; call him; and give the lead a gentle tug. Don’t haul, jerk, or drag him. Encourage him with your voice and with treats.

When you’re at the point where your Bully comes to you in the house and on a lead, start practicing in the yard. To begin:

1. Leave the lead or a long rope attached to the collar.

2. Call your pup.

3. If he comes, praise him, and let him go back to whatever he was doing.

You don’t want him to think that when he comes to you, playtime is over. Coming to you is just a break and a chance for a cookie.

4. If he doesn’t come at first, pick up the trailing lead; give a gentle tug, and repeat the command.

After he comes, praise him, and let him go back to what he was doing.

Warning!

Don’t ever call your dog for unpleasant news. (If you want to punish him, go to where he is.) Don’t call him to give him medicine. Don’t call him for a bath. Don’t call him because you’ve just found one of your good shoes that he’s partially eaten. If he is digging a hole in the middle of your prized petunias, call him, and when he comes, pat and praise him. Don’t punish him because he’s destroyed your flowers. Punishing at this point turns into punishing him for coming. Praise him for obeying, and replant the flowers later.

Call your Bully for dinner or a walk. Call him for a grooming session if he enjoys being brushed. Call him for no reason at all, and give him a treat when he obeys. If you’re patient and consistent,
and never call your Bulldog for unpleasantries, your dog comes to you whenever you call, no matter what he’s doing.

Teaching the Down command

Before working on this chapter, I checked seven training sources and came up with five different methods for teaching the Down command, and they all work. Many people combine methods to find one that works for both them and their dog.

Warning!

Some methods require some form of physical manipulation, like pulling or pushing, and with a Bulldog, the struggle may turn into a contest of wills and strength.

Because food keeps a lesson happy and doesn’t result in a physical battle, I use it to teach the Down command. Here’s how I like to teach Down to my Bullies:
  1. Start with your dog in a Sit.
  2. Show your dog the treat.
  3. Move your hand slowly down in front of your dog and slightly away, giving the Down command.
  4. With luck, your dog slides into a Down.
  5. Make sure to praise and reward him.
I’ve seen this method work, but with dogs with short legs, I’ve also seen them pop right back up. They follow the treat all right, but only their head is down. If your Bully pops up like a jack-in-the-box, don’t despair, and don’t give him the treat. Keep the treat in your closed hand on the ground. Your puppy may paw or nibble at your hand, but don’t give in. Eventually, when all else fails, your puppy briefly lies down. As he starts to lie down, give the command Down, and quickly give him the treat.

Teaching the Stay command

Another helpful command is the Stay command. The command Stay is often the most difficult for a dog to grasp. Young puppies have a difficult time because their attention spans are short. Puppies dislike sitting for any period of time, let alone for long stretches, and they prefer to be up and playing with you. Understanding your puppy’s fidgety nature helps you gain more patience for this part of training. To start the Stay command, follow these simple steps:
  1. Attach the lead to your dog’s collar.
  2. Have your Bully sit on your left side.
  3. Hold the lead in your right hand.
  4. Lean over, and extend your left hand and arm in front of your dog’s nose, with your palm facing the dog.
  5. Give the command Stay.
  6. Step in front of your dog.
  7. Return to your dog’s side.
  8. Praise, and give treats.
Gradually increase both the distance between you and your dog and the amount of time you stay in front of him. If your dog breaks his Sit, return to him, and gently replace him in the Sit with no additional commands.

Tip

Don’t rush this process, and always return to his side before you praise him. Some dogs are wonderful at the Stay until you move; then they think that they can move as well.

When your dog improves at the Stay on the lead, he can try training without the lead. If you’re planning to compete in formal obedience, start returning to your dog on his left instead of his right and walking around him to get back into position by his right shoulder. Your dog should maintain his Sit until you release him.

Combining the Down and Stay commands

After your dog sits and stays, he can work on Down and Stay. Follow the same procedure as above, but with your dog on a Down. Here’s what to do:
  1. Attach the lead to your dog’s collar.
  2. Have your Bully Down on your left side.
  3. Hold the lead in your right hand.
  4. Lean over, and extend your left hand and arm in front of your dog’s nose, with your palm facing the dog.
  5. Give the command Stay.
  6. Step in front of your dog.
  7. Return to your dog’s side.
  8. Praise, and give treats.
Your dog should catch on quickly because the steps are the same, except that your dog is lying down. The Down and Stay commands combined can be a magical combination. Here are some of the benefits:

– A dog who obeys these commands is less likely to be kenneled when company arrives or when he may otherwise be in the way.

– If you’re frantically trying to get Thanksgiving dinner ready (or any other dinner, for that matter) and on the table, Down your dog in the corner and tell him to Stay. You can work without worrying about tripping over the dog.

– If you’re bringing in the groceries from the car (and sometimes in the rain), and your Bully is happy to see you, but she is making you trip, say hello to your pup and then give the Down and Stay commands. Finish bringing in the groceries. Make sure to reward her for obeying the command.

– If your dog runs across the road, you may not want to use the Come command. Having her come to you means that she has to cross the road again, putting her in danger of getting hit. But you don’t want her to get even farther away. Give the Down command, and your well-trained Bully drops to the ground. Tell her to Stay; then you can cross the road at a safer time, and snap the lead on your dog’s collar.

In an age of fenced yards and leashed walks, the danger of a dog’s running out into traffic is less, but accidents happen. Your dog can slip out an open door, and even your stocky Bulldog may reach the street before anyone can catch her.

Wait for me!

Wait is another command I like: a smaller, softer form of Stay and less formal. Wait is a temporary command and doesn’t need a formal release. Because the command isn’t formal, a particular way to teach Wait doesn’t exist. Wait means calm down a minute, and be patient.
Here are a couple of ways to start teaching your Bully the Wait command:

If your Bully loses a treat under the table or couch.

My dogs frequently knock dog biscuits under furniture and can’t reach them. I can, but not with the dogs’ heads between me and the furniture. If you’re trying to retrieve the dog biscuit from under the couch, your dog discovers that if he doesn’t wait, he doesn’t get the treat. Give him a firm but gentle push to get him out of the way and say, “Wait.” Retrieve the cookie, and tell him “Okay.”

If you’re trying to leave the house.

Use the Wait so your dog doesn’t go through the door with you. If your dog’s on a lead, say “Wait” as you go through a door, restraining him so he has to wait for you to go through the door first.

Tip

Some trainers argue that putting your dog on a Sit or a Down–Stay accomplishes the same goal as Wait. They’re right! But sometimes I just prefer a less formal command.

Leave It!

Leave It can be a bit harder to teach to a Bulldog, whose instinct is to hang on forever, but it can be done. Teaching your dog to Leave It or Drop It is useful when she has something you wish she didn’t have.
The best way to enforce Leave It is to offer to trade your dog what’s in her mouth for something she wants more. Use tasty treats you know that your dog loves. Wait until she has an item in her mouth, like a toy or a ball. Say “Leave It” or “Drop It,” and show her the treat. When she spits out the toy to get the treat, praise her and give her the goody. Repeat this exercise throughout the day, and she quickly catches on that the command means that she’s getting a tasty treat.

Tip

I can’t live without this command. The Leave It command can save your sock or shoe from being chewed; and if your dog knows the Leave It command, when the day comes that your Bully picks up something dead and disgusting, you won’t have to pry her jaws open; she willingly gives the carcass up without a fight. Give the command, and she spits it out by herself. Remember to give her a treat.

One of my females once tried to bring a dead chipmunk into the house. Fortunately, I saw what it was and gave her the Leave It command before she made it indoors. She dropped the chipmunk and then followed me inside for her treat. On a less gruesome note, I quickly trained my male dog to leave another dog’s stuffed toy in exchange for a dog biscuit. He was happy, and the toy lasted longer because he didn’t have a chance to disembowel it.

Mixing up your training

When your dog understands the Stay command, start mixing up your training. Go back to his side, and at other times, call him from the Stay. Use the Down–Stay when you’re working in the kitchen or when the family is eating. Down is a comfortable position and a way to teach your dog manners.
Put your dog on a Sit–Stay before walking in- and outdoors and before he gets fed. Have your Bully sit before someone pets him. Having your Bulldog work for treats or other rewards is good practice. This process helps him know that you’re the leader of the pack.
Training your dog can be fun. Incorporate Sit and Down into a game of hide-and-seek. Put your dog on a Stay, and go into another room before you call him. Playing games adds fun to the training and mixes things up. Your Bulldog learns how to stay whether or not he can see you or whether you’re in a specific room or in a line with other dogs at an obedience class.

Conquering Common Behavior Problems

No dog is perfect, but with training and patience, you can get any dog close! Don’t despair if your dog bothers people by jumping up, begging, or barking, but do address the problem. You can teach your dog to behave. If you don’t have the knowledge or what you try doesn’t work, don’t give up. Find a professional to help. Just like you contact a doctor when you’re sick or have a broken bone, contact a professional dog trainer or behaviorist if you have a problem with your dog. For more on finding help, see the “Finding Help” section, later in the chapter.

I beg you: No begging!

Begging is like water torture. The first few drops seem like nothing at all, but eventually, the water has you screaming. Puppies are so darn cute that when they look at you with those big, pleading brown eyes during dinner, you want to give them a tiny bite of your sandwich. Resist, my friend; resist! Harden your heart — and resist. What is cute once in a puppy paves the way for continual daily begging for the life of your dog, and after you start, you can’t explain to your dog that begging is okay when the family is at the table but not when a dinner party arrives.

Technical Stuff

Canines are hard-wired to return to a spot where they receive food. Researchers discovered that when a wolf caught a rabbit at a specific spot, he revisited that spot dozens of times in the hope of catching another rabbit. Similarly, you can create a monster in your own home. Give your Bully a bit of food from the table once, and he will return to the scene again and again.

Make a household rule to never, ever feed your dog from the table, and follow through. If you feel that your dog has to have a sliver of the Thanksgiving turkey, put the food in his bowl away from the dinner table.
If you never feed your Bully from the table and he still sits next to you, staring soulfully into your face, ignore him. If you can’t comfortably ignore him, put him at a distance and use that Down–Stay you practiced, or put him in his crate.

Remember

Begging isn’t limited to the table. If you have snacks while you’re watching television, your Bully wants his share. Sharing a handful of popcorn is okay, but after you start, your Bully will always be there, so think about the repercussions of sharing before you do it.

Begging can also develop accidentally. One morning I threw a handful of Cheerios on the floor, and I enjoyed watching the dogs act like mini vacuum cleaners. The show was fun, so I threw more Cheerios on the floor the next morning. By the third morning, I wasn’t even having cereal, but that didn’t stop the dogs from expecting theirs. A handful of Cheerios became part of the morning routine.
Moving can break bad habits, but you can’t move every time your dog starts an annoying habit. We broke the Cheerios habit when we moved. We were in a strange place, and the dogs had never been given Cheerios there, so they didn’t expect them. So if your dogs have some bad habits that you’ve created, and you’re moving in the near future, be thankful, and think twice this time before you scatter that handful of cereal or let your dog lick the ice cream bowl.

Jumping isn’t always joyful

Bulldogs aren’t known for being bouncy and jumpy, but in case your dog is a jumper, think about stopping the habit. Watching your dog jump for joy when you arrive home may make you feel happy. But you may not be quite so happy when you’re all dressed up to go out, and your dog jumps up with muddy paws, ruins your nylons, or gets tiny white hairs all over your blue slacks. The jumping up doesn’t seem as cute as it once did.

Warning!

Even if you never mind your Bulldog jumping up on you, your visitors may not find the habit quite so endearing. Bulldogs are solid, heavy dogs, and your dog can knock over a child or an older person and cause injury.

First, make sure that everyone in the family understands that jumping isn’t allowed. You’re never going to break the habit if half the family lets your Bully jump; then your corrections and efforts confuse him. Your dog doesn’t understand why jumping up is all right sometimes and not always.
Start teaching your Bully not to jump by ignoring him. When you come home, and he jumps up to greet you, turn sideways to him, and totally ignore him. Don’t pet him or talk to him or push him off you. Eventually, he figures out that jumping up isn’t getting him the attention he wants. When he stops jumping, use the Sit command, and pet him.

Tip

If you’re expecting company, tell your guests ahead of time to ignore your dog and pet him only when he’s in a Sit position. Pretty soon your dog realizes that jumping is a totally worthless activity. 

After you’ve trained your Bully not to jump, you can train him to jump up on command. If you’re practicing agility or doing tricks in the back yard, jumping up can be a fun part of these activities. But always remember to begin with no jumping as the rule.

Digging up the yard

The good news is that Bulldogs aren’t terriers, who are notorious for digging. For even more good news, the word on the street is that Bulldogs aren’t diggers. The bad news is that young dogs may still dig. Bulldogs may also dig holes to lie in to keep cool. Unless your Bully is a determined digger, you may want to patiently fill in the occasional hole and wait for him to mature. Monitor the digging so your dog isn’t digging up and eating bulbs, many of which are toxic to dogs.

Tip

If you’re simultaneously trying to preserve your lawn and have a dog, and your particular puppy does enjoy some excavation time, consider giving your dog his own digging spot. Think of the spot as a sandbox for dogs. Mark off an area with low boards; add some sand or dirt; and introduce the spot to your dog. You can make the introduction by burying dog biscuits just under the sand’s surface or putting a few drops of bacon grease on “the digging spot.” Before long, your dog figures out that the box makes a great digging place.

If you don’t want to create a special area, you need to watch your dog whenever he’s out. If he starts to dig, tell him no and offer a ball or toy in exchange. Bulldogs don’t generally get too upset with a verbal reprimand, but know what your own dog can tolerate. My parents had a dog who was digging up a storm, and they firmly said, “No digging.” Their tone of voice really upset him, and for the rest of his life, they had to spell the word “digging,” or he looked like he had just been scolded.

Keeping the peace: No barking!

Bulldogs aren’t known as barkers. They were never guard dogs or watchdogs, so barking wasn’t bred into them. But if your Bully is a barker, his barking can lead to problems with neighbors and complaints that your dog is the noisy one on the block.

Figuring out the distractions

If your Bulldog does bark when you’d rather he didn’t (or the neighbors rather he didn’t), take a look at the reasons for the barking:

Animals: If your backyard has rabbits, squirrels, or other furry friends, maybe the distraction of other animals is what is making your dog bark. Give your dog something to do, and he’s less apt to bark at activity on either side of your fence.

Boredom: If your dog is left out in your yard for extended periods of time, he may be barking because he’s bored. Give him something to concentrate on, and when he’s finished, he may take a long nap. Ideally, don’t leave your Bulldog outside so long that he has to resort to barking to entertain himself.

People: If he’s barking at people, consider a solid fence. Dogs aren’t as apt to bark at what they can’t see. If children pass by your home, make sure that they aren’t teasing your dog through the fence.

Separation anxiety: If your dog barks when he’s left alone in the house, he may have separation anxiety. Leave him with a Kong, a heavy rubber toy stuffed with peanut butter or cheese. (For more information on Kongs, see Chapter Preparing for Your Bulldog.)

Videotapes of solitary dogs have shown that they’re the most anxious during the first 10 to 15 minutes of being left alone. If your dog has an occupier during those minutes, chances are he’ll be fine the rest of the time.

Traffic: Your Bully may like to bark at passing traffic. Certain cars make noises that can make your Bully bark wildly. You can manage this noise by looking for ways to incorporate sound insulation into your house. For example, thick fabric drapes help reduce noise more than blinds or thin drapes do.

Weather: Don’t leave your dog outside during weather extremes. Your Bully may be telling you that he is too hot or too cold.

Barking in the house

If you leave your Bully inside the house all day, and his bark can wake the dead, try the following routine to lessen the barking:
  1. Go through your normal schedule of getting ready to leave the house.
  2. Go out the door.
  3. Count to ten.
  4. Go back in you house.
  5. Leave again.
  6. Gradually extend the amount of time you’re gone.
  7. Return if your dog starts barking; otherwise, extend the time.

Remember

This process is time consuming. The procedure may take you days or even weeks to train your dog not to bark when he’s alone. But believe me — your neighbors will thank you.

When the doorbell rings, and your dog barks, tell your Bully to bark just as he starts barking. Then praise him and give him a treat, or if you’re clicker training, click and treat. Before long, he expects the treat and may even stop barking before you praise and give him the treat. Start adding the word “Quiet,” “Stop,” or whatever word you’ve chosen as the command to stop barking.
If none of these tips works, and your neighbors still say that your dog barks incessantly, contact a professional trainer for advice.

Finding Help

Don’t hesitate to get help if you feel that you need it, whether the problem is minor or major. The sooner you get help, the more likely the problem can be treated and corrected or kept from escalating into a bigger problem. Discover the ways in which you can get help to ensure that your Bulldog is a well-mannered companion.

Clicker training

Clicker training was first used with sea mammals. Handlers used metal clickers to communicate. You can’t put a collar and lead on a dolphin! The system involves positive reinforcement and shaping of an animal’s behavior. Every time the animal performs an action approximating what the handler is looking for, the handler clicks and treats. The animal soon associates the click with getting a goody and offers behaviors in an attempt to hear that click. The book Dog Training For Dummies contains information on this and other types of training.
Basic obedience classes are offered in most communities. Local shelters frequently offer classes. Personally, I find classes a way to discover new information. A class translates what I’ve read into a visual display, and because the instructor expects progress each week, I train regularly.
The earlier you start socializing and training your dog, the better. Many puppy socialization or kindergarten classes admit puppies before they’ve received all their shots. To find a class, check veterinary offices, local kennels, or your area humane society. If you can’t find a class, start the basics at home, and remember that all training methods require patience and consistency.

Puppy classes

If your Bulldog is generally good, but you need help teaching him or need a way to socialize him, enrolling in a puppy class may be the solution. Puppy kindergarten classes aren’t the same as formal obedience lessons. Puppy classes combine play with socialization.
In class, your puppy realizes how to interact with other dogs and people. One simple exercise at puppy kindergarten consists of people sitting on the floor in a circle with the puppy in the middle. The people take turns calling the puppy and giving him a lot of pats and praise. The puppy understands to trust people and to let them willingly touch him.

Day care

If you discover that your Bulldog’s behavior problems relate to your puppy’s lack of play time, consider doggy day care two or three times a week. Day-care centers provide supervised play for your dog and give your puppy something to do when you’re not at home. Day care is another way to socialize your Bully with other people and animals to alleviate barking and behavioral problems.

Obedience classes

For older dogs, obedience classes help teach the basic commands. Classes in your area may be at the YWCA or YMCA, at your local shelter, or at a boarding kennel. Trainers may have their own facilities, or a local kennel club may offer classes. Many boarding kennels know of classes, even if they don’t offer them, or you may find a class posted on a bulletin board at your veterinarian’s office or at a pet-supply store.

Professional trainers

If you’re dealing with a specific problem, you may want a professional trainer to come to your home to work with you. A dog who barks constantly needs some attention at home instead of in an obedience class. Professional trainers may be listed in the phone book, or again, you may find them on a bulletin board. If you have doggy friends, ask them for recommendations. They may know someone who specializes in working with individuals.

Doggie Psychology 101: Hiring an animal behaviorist

If your dog has a problem that goes deeper than excessive energy or lack of basic training, call out the big guns. If your dog is aggressive or overly fearful, you may not be able to overcome the problem without professional help. First, make sure that your pup doesn’t have any physical problems. A dog in pain may snap or bite or try to avoid human contact, and these actions can be confused with having a behavior problem.
If your trip to see a veterinarian rules out a physical problem, you need to figure out what is wrong with your Bully. Let me just say that this behavior is highly unlikely from a Bulldog, but exceptions do exist. At this stage, help is right around the corner. That help is in the form of an animal behaviorist.
An animal behaviorist may be compared to a psychologist or psychiatrist for people. A trainer may also be a behaviorist, but just because someone has been training dogs for 20 years doesn’t make him a behaviorist. A trainer may be able to help you, but if you need a behaviorist, talk to your veterinarian and see if she can recommend someone. Other dog people in your area may also have suggestions.
Finding a behaviorist can be tricky because national standards for certification don’t exist. When you contact a professional, ask for credentials, and get references. If possible, talk to former clients of the person you’re considering. You can also get help finding a behaviorist (in the unlikely event that your Bulldog’s behavior warrants this level of professional help) in your area at any of the following professional associations:

American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB): For information on the AVSAB, go to www.avma.org/av.sab. The AVSAB is a group of veterinarians who share an interest in understanding, teaching, and treating behavior problems in animals. The AVSAB is committed to preserving and improving the human–animal bond wherever it exists. Members range from those who are casually interested in animal behavior to board-certified specialists.

The AVSAB has two levels of membership. The first level is open only to veterinarians. The affiliate membership is open to others who have been approved by the executive. Affiliate members must have a PhD in animal behavior or a closely related field and be currently active in research and/or practice of applied animal behavior.

International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC): The IAABC is yet another organization you can contact. Its Web site is www.iaabc.org. The IAABC’s goal is conveyed in its mission statement: “To assist companion animals and educate their humans to interrupt the cycle of inappropriate punishment, rejection, and euthanasia of animals with resolvable behavior problems.”

Lynn Hoover, president of IAABC, notes that members have diverse backgrounds, but all have “the knowledge, skill, and ethics base” needed to work with both dogs and their families and to collaborate with the family veterinarian.

Animal Behavior Society: Visit www.animalbehavior.org, the site for the Animal Behavior Society. This group is a professional organization for the study of animal behavior. The society recognizes that “animal behaviorists can be educated in a variety of disciplines, including psychology, biology, zoology, or animal science. A professional applied animal behaviorist has demonstrated expertise in the principles of animal behavior, in the research methods of animal behavior, in the application of animal behavior, principles to applied behavior problems, and in the dissemination of knowledge about animal behavior through teaching and research.”

Classifying behaviorists

Before making a decision on a behaviorist, take a look at the profession requirements and the educational background of the position. A dog trainer who decides to call herself a behaviorist may have trained hundreds of dogs, but that doesn’t make her a behaviorist, any more than the newspaper’s advice columnist is a psychiatrist. Behaviorists can be certified at two levels: Associate Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist.

Associate Applied Animal Behaviorist

An Associate Applied Animal Behaviorist’s education must include a master’s degree from an accredited college or university in a biological or behavioral science, with an emphasis in animal behavior. Undergraduate and/or graduate coursework must include 21 semester credits in behavioral-science courses, including six semester credits in ethnology, animal behavior, and/or comparative psychology, and six semester credits in animal learning, conditioning, and or animal psychology.
The applicant must have a minimum of two years of professional experience in applied animal behavior and must demonstrate the ability to perform independently and professionally in applied animal behavior. The candidate must also include personal evidence of independent studies, data analysis, formulation, and testing of hypotheses and professional writing.
An applicant must also show experience working interactively with a researcher, research assistant, or an intern. This collaboration must include working on a particular species with a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist prior to working independently with the species in a clinical animal-behavior setting.

Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist

The Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist category has more rigorous educational and experience requirements than the Associate Applied Animal Behaviorist category.

A certified Applied Animal Behaviorist must have a doctoral degree from an accredited college or university in a biological or behavioral science, with an emphasis in animal behavior. The degree must include five years of professional experience or a doctorate from an accredited college or university in veterinary medicine, plus two years in a university-approved residency in animal behavior. Three additional years of professional experience in applied animal behavior are also required. Any of these degrees must include the same coursework requirements as the Associate Applied Animal Behaviorist degree.

The applicant must also demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the literature, scientific principles, and principles of animal behavior. Candidates must document original contributions or original interpretations of animal-behavior information and show evidence of significant experience as a researcher, research assistant, or intern working interactively with a particular species with a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist prior to working independently with the species in a clinical animal-behavior setting.
by Susan M.Ewing

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