The majority dog trainers will tell you training the owner is usually much harder than training the puppy or dog.
First and foremost, owners must recognize trainers really are not there to train your dog; we’re there to coach YOU on the simplest methods to train your dog!
Seventy-five percent of what we do is guide you in the proper instructions and skills needed. The other twenty-five percent is to actually work with your pet.
Training a puppy or dog is a work-in-progress, for the entire life of your pet. It never ends. Be it a puppy or a senior dog, nearly all love to learn something new. It is your job to fulfill that need.
Normally, dog trainers are with you for approximately an hour a week for six or seven weeks. Since we don’t go home with you, it’s up to you, to learn how to go on with the instructions and mold your dog’s intelligence, manners and behaviors in positive ways.
Types of Dog Owners
There are all types of owners. We have had calls from people before they even get a puppy and sign up for a class. Some wait until there is a problem … or three. A few wait until things get so serious and they have reached the end of their leash so to speak.
We also run into owners who come to class with preconceived theories on dog training. They saw something on TV or read something in a book. They can’t understand why their dog isn’t responding akin to what they have seen or read. They don’t quite grasp, it’s unrealistic to believe an animal’s behavior can be lastingly changed in an hour. Teaching or changing a behavior takes time and patience.
Then we have the ones who challenge everything. Trainers frequently hear, “I never had to do that with my other dog” or “My family has always had dogs, and we never did it that way.” Don’t believe for a minute, we don’t think, “OK, so if you know so much, why are you here?”
Every now and then, we get people who say, they have gone through Puppy Kindergarten or obedience classes before, but now they either want a refresher course for themselves and their dog, or they have a new puppy or dog, and want to do it right.
Others are clueless. The inexperienced owners tend to be more open-minded. They listen, absorb and follow instructions. They want to learn how to do it right … the first time.
Finally, we have children, who usually by the age of eight are prepared to assume a little of the responsibility of dog ownership. They are interested in learning why their dog does what it does. They listen attentively. They ask terrific questions. Plus, they often have a greater rapport with their pet and the patience and energy to work with them.
Most trainers attempt to make it obvious, simple and clear for children to understand that without their help, their puppy or dog will have a harder time learning how to be a happier and good dog. Amazingly, kids “get it.”
Many trainers have a weakness for working with children. We believe most will one day become a dog owner. By gaining knowledge and experience now, they will have a greater understanding of responsible ownership.
Three rules of successful dog training
Be fair, firm, and consistent at all times. It makes it easier for your pet to learn what you expect of them.
Be fair and patient. If you are not making your command simple and clear, don’t expect your puppy or dog to read your mind. Instruct them verbally and show them physically in as simple a way possible, what you are expecting. Be patient. Like people, some learn faster than others. If your pet does not grasp what is expected, make a correction, then show and repeat the command. If you keep repeating the command over and over, without making a correction and demonstrating what is expected, to your puppy or dog, it just becomes “blah, blah, blah.” They will tune you out in the blink of an eye.
Learn how to use your voice. You don’t have to bellow. You do need to sound calm and like you are in charge. A calm, yet firm command gets results.
Be consistent. Dogs learn by association and repetition. If the associations and repetitions are not consistent, it only confuses them. Like water, a dog will take the path of least resistance. By being consistent, you are teaching your pet that anything other than what you are looking for is inappropriate behavior and will not be tolerated. Be generous and consistent with praise when earned, and firm and consistent when corrections are needed.
Bottom line: If you are preparing to invest your time, energy and money in obedience training your puppy or dog, ask around. It is important to find a reputable trainer who applies positive reinforcement, punishment-free training techniques.
Be attentive. Watch, listen and hear their demonstrations and instructions. Follow their instructions. Never hesitate to ask questions. If you don’t grasp the example, ask for it to be demonstrated or explained again.
Do your homework! Conscientiously devote the necessary time. The more time you spend interacting with your pet, the happier you will be with the results. As we say, “Train the owner, their dog will follow.”
Karen A. Soukiasian is the owner of Good Dog! — Dog Training in St. Augustine, Florida. You can follow Karen on Facebook.