By Karen A. Soukiasian
There are three types of people who enroll in dog training classes. All are honest and want to be responsible dog owners.
The first are the novices. They are the ones who have never had any experience as an adult dog owner or with any type of dog training. They admit they are clueless and need help. Many will sheepishly say, “Help me, before I screw my puppy or dog up.”
The second are experienced dog owners, who understand and appreciate the additional benefits of enrolling their puppy or dog in a group training class. They may have attended training classes previously. They value learning new training techniques. Some admit they need the discipline of having homework and a program to follow. Some like the competition of seeing how through their diligent efforts, their dog surpasses week-to-week, the others in the class. Then there are those who understand they must be able to effectively communicate with their canine companion through all kinds of distractions.
The third are the ones who tried the do-it-yourself ways. It didn’t work, and now they have behavior problems on their hands.
Let’s start with the novice. Dog trainers frequently hear, “We always had dogs when I was a kid, but I never had to do anything but play with them.” These newbies love to learn. They want to do it right the first time. They are grateful for any tidbits of information on what to expect and how to deal with it. It’s fun to watch how excited they get, with every little stage of progress. They also discover the value of group training, because not only are they learning how to communicate effectively with their dog, their dog is gaining valuable socialization skills. The dog trainers respect this initiative. They will take the extra time to work closely with a newbie, because they want the owner/dog relationship to be a positive experience for both.
Next we have the experienced dog owner. They are the veterans and epitome of responsible dog ownership. Most have been through at least one group dog training course with either the same dog or one they had in the past. They know training methods change. They recognize trainers have different methods of training. They admit they may need the hands on help and the one-to-one attention, so they don’t make mistakes. They understand it’s better and easier to teach their pet how follow a command correctly the first time, rather than to have to modify inappropriate behaviors. And, they understand how imperative it is for puppies and dogs to be socialized early and often.
Finally, we have the Do-It-Yourselfer. Yes, they bought all the books and videos. They really did try, but something went wrong or is missing. There was no one there to help them over the bumps. There was no one there to help them understand where they went wrong, or why their dog is doing what it does. They followed the books. They watched the DVD dozens of times, but their dog is just not cooperating.
The problem usually is, unknowingly, they have created a bad habit, or inappropriate behavior. Now, that has to be undone through behavior modification, before their dog can be taught exactly what is being expected of them.
Recognize the fact; your dog follows your lead. A dog can’t read the books and doesn’t quite comprehend the DVDs, no matter how many times you play it. Just as there are different ways of teaching humans, there are different ways of teaching dogs. A knowledgeable dog trainer can and will read your dog. They can then aid you in finding the best method to communicate with them. What works for Fido, doesn’t always work for Max.
By “home schooling” your dog, they also miss out on one of the most valuable learning tools of dog training…socialization. All puppies and dogs need socialization with new dogs, people and experiences. They need lots of it. They learn from each other and their owners learn from each other too. Trainers see it so often, one dog watching and “copying” another, when being taught a new command. It works.
Bottom line: Some will read this article and not gain anything from it. Others will see there may be truth to what was said. The final outcome of training will speak for itself by the behavior of the dog.
If for no other reason, than to help your puppy or dog acquire desirable socialization skills, consider enrolling in a positive reinforcement, punishment-free Puppy Kindergarten or Basic Obedience course, which has limited enrollment. In smaller classes, you will get the attention and service you deserve.
You’re going to love the results.
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