Seeking Expert Outside Help

Love Dog

In This Chapter

  • Knowing your training options
  • Choosing an obedience school
  • Hiring a personal dog trainer
  • Deciding on a dog camp

You have a number of choices when it comes to Buddy’s education.

You can
  • Train out of a book, such as this one.
  • Participate in group classes.
  • Have someone else do the training.
Each choice has its own pros and cons, and your own personality and lifestyle determine your preference.
No matter what decision you make, you need to keep in mind that there are enormous quality differences, not only in terms of training effectiveness, but also in how the dogs are treated. Dog training is a completely unregulated area, and anyone, yes, anyone, can proclaim himself a trainer.

Remember

When you attempt to make a rational choice, remember that there are many ways to train a dog. Beware of anyone who says only their way is the right way. Successful dog training depends not so much on the “how,” but on the “why.” Dogs aren’t a homogeneous commodity, and the approach to training has to take into account the dog’s Personality Profile (see Chapter Understanding Your Dog’s Mind), as well as your own personality.

Teaching skills aren’t the same as training skills. To teach people how to train their dogs, an instructor needs good communication and people skills, as well as a thorough knowledge of dog training.
Table 20-1 breaks down the three major categories of training resources available to you.

Table 20-1                                  Available Training Choices


Choice
Pros
Cons
Training out of a book
Least expensive.
You can train how you want, what you want, and when you want.
You’re not tied to a regular
schedule.
Location isn’t a problem.
You need to be highly self-motivated or training will fall by the wayside.
You have no one to
critique you.
Possibly not enough
exposure to other dogs.
Group classes
Very economical.
Someone tells you what you may doing wrong and can help you succeed.
You get the opportunity to meet similar people.
It keeps your training on
track with weekly sessions.
It provides continuous
socialization with other dogs.
Schedule and location may be inconvenient.
The instructor dictates how, what, and when.
The training method may not be right for you or your dog.
Having someone else do the training
Little time commitment required of you.
Very expensive.
Training method may not be how you want your dog trained.
Within these three major categories, you have additional options. The other choices include

– An obedience class: If you find you need outside help after trying the techniques in this book, we recommend an obedience class where you’re instructed how to train your dog. Aside from the socialization with other dogs, the time you spend together will strengthen the bond between you and your dog. (See the next section, “Going to Class — Obedience and Training Schools” for more information.)

Lessons from a private dog trainer: You can take private lessons from an instructor, either at your house or some other location. Under such an arrangement, the instructor teaches you what to do, and you’re then expected to practice with your dog between sessions. In terms of time and effort, this is one of the most efficient arrangements. (For more info, see “Finding a Private Trainer” later in this chapter.)

Boarding school: We typically don’t recommend sending your dog away to a boarding school, but we do include it because it is an option for some people, especially when dealing with extreme aggression. You send your dog away for three to six weeks during which time an instructor trains your dog. (See “Heading to Boarding School” later in this chapter for more tidbits.)

Another related option is a doggie daycare center, many of which offer training, but again, you’ll have to learn how to get Buddy to respond to your commands.

Doggie camp: These camps are perfect if you and your dog want to head away for a short vacation. On the vacation you spend time with an instructor who helps you train your dog. (Check out “Enjoying The Great Dog Camp Adventure” later in this chapter.)

Going to Class — Obedience and Training Schools

Having taught obedience classes for 30 years, we’re naturally biased in favor of this choice. A basic class usually addresses your most immediate concerns, such as not pulling on the leash, the Sit and Down-Stay, and Come.

Remember

The purpose of the class is to show you what to do, have you try it a few times to make sure you’ve got it right, and then send you home to practice. Be prepared to practice at least five times a week. Most classes are sequential in nature. If you miss a class, you’ll fall behind and may have a hard time catching up. Falling behind is discouraging and may cause you to drop out. When you go to a class, don’t expect the instructor to train your dog. That isn’t her job.

We think taking Buddy to school is perhaps one of the best things you can do for you both. It gets you out of the house into an atmosphere where you can spend quality time together. Both of you have fun while learning useful things that make living together that much easier. Obedience classes are conducted in almost every community and are an excellent way for you and Buddy to learn together.
Until quite recently, obedience or kennel clubs conducted the majority of classes. Today, however, schools or private individuals teach many classes. The difference has nothing to do with the quality of the training, but relates solely to profit motive. Clubs are nonprofit organizations and the instructors, usually members who have trained and shown their own dog, generally volunteer their services. Training schools and individuals who hang out their shingles are for-profit organizations.

Tip

To train for participating in performance events, join an organization that offers training for that goal. The organization’s instructors can coach you and your dog in the intricacies of the various requirements.

Choosing a good training class

To locate a class, look in the phonebook under a heading such as “Pet & Dog Training” to find out what your community offers. Chances are you’ll have several choices.

Tip

Call one of the organizations listed to find out where and when the class meets. Ask whether you can observe a beginner class. If you aren’t allowed to observe a class, which would be highly unusual, forget that organization. When you find one where you can observe a class, do so, but leave Buddy at home so that he doesn’t interfere with the class and you aren’t distracted.

Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself about the class you’re observing:

What is your first impression of the class? You’re looking for a friendly, pleasant, and positive atmosphere.

Do the dogs seem to have a good time? You can quickly tell if the dogs are enjoying themselves or if they’d rather be at home biting their favorite bone.

How does the instructor deal with the class participants? You want the instructor to be encouraging and helpful, especially to those who seem to be struggling.

How does the instructor deal with the dogs? You want the instructor to be nice to the dogs, not yell at them or create anxiety or fear.

Does the instructor appear knowledgeable? As a student, you aren’t likely to be able to tell whether or not the instructor actually is knowledgeable, but at least he needs to give the appearance of being so.

What is the ratio of instructors to students? We always aim for a one to five ratio, with a limit of 15 students for one instructor with two assistants.

Is the space adequate for the number of dogs? Insufficient space can be a cause for aggression in a class situation.

If you don’t like what you see, find another organization. If you like what you see and hear, then it may be the right class for you and Buddy. But while you’re visiting, you need to find out a few more bits of information:

The cost of the class and what is included: For example, our basic training course, or Level 1 as we call it, consists of eight 50-minute sessions and includes a training collar and leash, weekly homework sheets, and a copy of our book, What All Good Dogs Should Know (available from amazon.com), as part of the fee.

The schedule of classes, the level of classes, the fee, and the length of the program: The conditions vary from class to class. A beginner class can run anywhere from four to ten weeks, at a cost $50 to $200, depending on who teaches it and where you live. Price isn’t necessarily an indicator of quality, nor is the length necessarily an indication of how much you learn. The majority of beginner classes last from six to eight weeks and cost about $100.

The goal of the program: What can you expect from your dog upon completion of the class? This is pretty much under your control, because you’re the one who is going to train Buddy. To be successful, you need to be prepared to practice with him five times a week. Two short sessions a day are preferable to one longer session, but for most people that isn’t realistic. How long each session lasts depends entirely on your aptitude and Buddy’s Personality Profile (see Chapter Understanding Your Dog’s Mind).

Puppy training classes

Taking Buddy to an obedience class as a puppy is the best investment in his future you can make. The joy of taking a puppy to class is that he can socialize with other young dogs and have fun, yet be taught manners and learn how to interact with his own kind. Buddy’s brain at this point in his young life is just like a sponge, and he’ll remember nearly everything you teach him now for the rest of his life. He’ll learn all those lessons that will make him an ideal pet.

Tip

Look for an organization that offers puppy classes, preferably one that teaches basic control to puppies, rather than just socialization and games. Nothing is wrong with socialization and games; both are necessary, but at the right time and in the right context. Look for a class where the people are having fun with their dogs and where the instructor is pleasant and professional to the students. Above all, you want to see happy dogs.

You want Buddy to associate meeting other dogs as a pleasant but controlled experience, not one of playing and being rowdy. As he grows older, playing and being rowdy is no longer cute and will make him hard to manage around other dogs.

The ideal puppy class allows the puppies to interact with each other for up to three minutes before the class starts for the first two classes only. After that, the puppies are allowed to play for three minutes after class. This way Buddy learns that he must be obedient to you first, and the reward is playing after he has worked, a lifetime habit you want to instill while he is young.

Warning!

Stay away from the classes where you’re told that Buddy is too young to learn obedience exercises. This type of organization shows a lack of knowledge of dog behavior.

You can expect that your puppy will learn to Sit, Down, and Stand on command, Come when called, Stay when told, and Walk on a Loose Leash. An excellent program, with well-trained instructors, will also have Buddy doing the same exercises off leash, as well as on signal. For Buddy, these exercises are easy stuff.

Advanced training classes

The majority of people who go on to advanced training start training their dogs in a beginner class. They then discover that the organization offers more advanced training as well as different activities. You may find, for example, that in addition to obedience training, the organization also trains agility, perhaps even tracking, and that some of the members have therapy dogs, and so on. You might get bitten by the training bug, and if you and Buddy enjoy what you’re doing, go for it.

Finding a Private Trainer

You may have serious time constraints, and so you may want to consider a private trainer. Private trainers aren’t cheap, but it’s better than not training at all. In selecting a private trainer, ask for references and call them. You also want to inquire into the trainer’s experience.
After you’ve found a trainer, he usually does the training at your residence, which is an advantage because the trainer gets to see where and how Buddy lives, and can tailor a program to meet your special needs. But before you sign on the dotted line, watch how he interacts with Buddy and especially how he works him.

At some point you’ll have to become involved and learn the various commands Buddy has learned and how to reinforce these commands. After all, the object is for Buddy to obey you, not just the trainer. You’ll be expected to work Buddy under the trainer’s direction so that you can learn what and how he was taught.

Remember

In selecting a private trainer, be choosy. This individual has a great impact on shaping your dog’s skills. Don’t be afraid to ask for references and to grill the trainer on his experience. Remember, anyone can declare himself a dog trainer!

Heading to Boarding School

When you outsource the job by sending your dog to a boarding school, Buddy will typically be boarded at the training facility for a specified period, such as three to six weeks.
Sending Buddy to boarding school isn’t an option that we can strongly advocate. Why get a dog that you don’t want to spend time? We view this option as one of last resort, when you absolutely can’t make any other arrangements. For us, at least, it seems a contradiction of having a dog in the first place.
If boarding school is the only option for you, here are some things you need to look for. Before you take this step, inspect the facility.
  • How are the dogs housed?
  • Is it clean?
  • How do the other dogs look?
  • Ask for a demonstration.
  • Trust your instincts — Buddy is your dog!
After your dog has completed the program, the trainer will then work with you for several sessions to show you how to get Buddy to respond to you. It’s then your responsibility to keep up the training.

Remember

As an alternative to sending Buddy off for three to six weeks, you may want to consider a doggie daycare facility that also offers training. That way at least you can pick Buddy up in the evening and monitor his progress.

Enjoying The Great Dog Camp Adventure

All camps combine a vacation element, where you and Buddy can enjoy each other. If you feel you want to take a week’s vacation with Buddy, where you can go have fun and learn more about dogs, training, or a particular activity, then dog camp is the place for you.
Dog camps have been around ever since we can remember. When we became serious about training and competing with our dogs, dog camps are where we went. They were great fun and invaluable learning experiences. In 1977, we started our own camps, and since then have conducted almost 100, in the United States, Canada, and England.
Most dog camps last from four to five days, and the number of participants can range from 20 to more than 100. A few of the distinguishing features are

– Some are highly structured, with each hour of the day filled with specific activities, while others are more loosely organized.

– Some camps are program driven, where you learn a particular approach to training, and others are activity driven, where you’re exposed to a variety of things you and Buddy can do together.

– Some are designed for a particular activity, such as agility or obedience competition, and others are more general.

– Some require prior training experience, and others don’t.

– Some include room and board in the tuition; others include only the camp itself.

– Some are held in full-fledged conference centers offering every conceivable amenity, others in more Spartan settings.

A good starting point for more information about dog camps is the Internet.
by Jack and Wendy Volhard

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