Tag Archive for Dog Training

Understanding Your Stubborn Dog

Few things are more frustrating than having a dog who “knows the commands” but for some reason, seems to refuse to perform them on cue. Dogs like this are the ones who have owners saying, “She knows how to sit, she just doesn’t always do it,” or, “We went to training classes and he knew everything then, but now he only does it when he wants to.” There are a lot of these dogs out there, and if you happen to share your home with one, just know that there are ways to overcome this.

Before doing anything else, make sure your dog has been to the vet recently for a full exam. Stubbornness could be a sign that, instead of refusing to do a command, perhaps your dog can’t hear the command anymore, or can no longer see well enough to distinguish your hand signal. Not doing a command could also also be a signal of that command causing your dog pain.

If your dog has been cleared by the vet, next on the list is figuring out why your dog won’t listen every time. It is important to understand your dog’s individual personality and motivations. My Basset Hound, Lou, had a problem with coming when called. Sometimes he did, sometimes he just looked at us like we were crazy, and other times he acted like he couldn’t hear us with his head turned away, freezing on the spot and seeming to hope that we didn’t see him.

Lou never really had a strong coming when called foundation. He wasn’t taught as a puppy, he had no set word used every time and wasn’t given motivation to follow through. I tried using all the baby step techniques – walking backwards with tasty treats in my hand, using a leash to ensure he couldn’t get too far away, and more. As it turned out, the only reason Lou was “stubborn” is because his motivation and way of understanding is different from many other dogs. Lou loves treats, but he loves to know what is going on even more. He froze because he didn’t know what was expected of him. He stared at us, waiting for more direction. The key to this stubborn dog was really to just coax him along, praising every single step until his tail wags, his tongue hangs out, and he is happily trotting towards me. As time goes on, he needs less and less direction.

My Great Dane/Coonhound Mix, Daisy, on the other hand, is an entirely different sort of stubborn dog. Daisy’s main motivation in life is to simply avoid punishment. She is a sensitive dog by way of touch, sound, and quick movement, but she is also a take charge and a “make me” sort of dog. Even when I knew Daisy was aware of what commands meant, she would quite simply refuse to do them, as though she did not see the point. Treats and praise meant nothing at all and performing the cue was not worth the tasty morsels of meat or cheese after she had done a few repetitions flawlessly.

Daisy needed constant challenges and a lot of patience. One of the golden rules to dog training is to never let your dog get away with not doing a command when asked. This is the number one golden rule when working with dogs like Daisy. I once found myself standing in front of her on a walk, getting ready to cross a street, asking for a Sit and refusing to move for a good seven or eight minutes before she finally sat down. It now takes only a few seconds for her to decide that sitting is worth it in order to continue on the walk.

These dogs need structure. They need routine and your expectations of them need to remain consistent. I expect Daisy to sit at every street corner before crossing. I haven’t once let her cross without doing so. I expect her to lay down and wait for her food at breakfast and dinner time and have not fed her without her doing so. These behaviors do become automatic in dogs – even ones like her – with enough time and patience.

The key to working with stubborn dogs is to take the time to figure out why they are so stubborn. Do they really, truly, understand the command and have you taken the time to teach it well? (Be honest here because this is the number one reason that dogs appear stubborn!) Is there a physical ailment that has so far been undetected? Is the motivation you’re using in line with what your dog needs (ie. Treats, praise, toys, etc.)? Have you ever let your dog get away without performing the command after you have asked for it? (If you have done this often, it may be time to start at the beginning and retrain your dog to a different word! It is easier to start from scratch than to teach your dog to pay attention to a word she has already decided has no meaning.)

Your stubborn dog just needs a lot of love, some detective work on your part, and a great deal of patience. She is not stupid, or particularly defiant, she is merely operating in a world that is foreign to her and doing the best she can with what she has learned so far. Remember to be diligent, forgiving, calm, and consistent and you’ll have an obedient dog in no time!

If you have any questions you would like to ask a Certified Dog Trainer, you can submit them right here at Naptown Buzz. Elizabeth Wilhelm, Certified Dog Trainer, will tackle the submitted questions, and give practical advice to solve common dog behavior issues. For more information about Elizabeth, you may visit her website at www.TrainingKarma.com.

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Walking the Dog – Stress Free!

Summertime is here! Time to enjoy the “Dog Days of Summer” with your canine pal, whether that means taking leisurely strolls in the cool morning hours, spending an afternoon hiking in the shade of the woods, or going for a run in the evening just before the sun goes down.

Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? It probably does to your dog, too, and I bet he just might show you that excitement with constant pulling, lengthy “Stop ‘n Sniff” sessions, or barking hello to his human and doggy friends.

If this daydream has started to seem a little less fun because you recognize some of these behavior problems in your dog, rest assured, there are solutions. We’ll cover all of these issues over the next few weeks, starting today with pulling. Be sure to check back next week for tips on ending “Stop ‘n Sniff” sessions, and the week after for barking during walks!

Pulling

The number one problem on a walk with a dog is pulling. Believe it or not, if you can retrain your dog to walk beside you instead of out in front, most other walk-time behavior problems will start to take care of themselves. While it may seem like an overwhelming challenge right now to teach your dog (who may already have years of pulling behind him!), there are many safe training tools that can help.

First and foremost – before we get any further – please, please, please stop using your retractable leashes! These are just begging for trouble when walking dogs.  The slight, constant pulling sensation on a dog’s neck actually teaches your dog to pull in order to go forward. Want to solve the problem by simply latching the leash to hold a certain length? True, it can be done, but your dog already has associations of pulling with that leash, not to mention the added degree of difficulty in holding a plastic handle in sweaty hands as opposed to a loop of fabric or leather that can be wrapped around your wrist for extra support. And, that retractable leashes are thinner than standard leashes, leading to a higher potential for breaking during use. But enough about retractable leashes – on to other training tools.

My personal favorite, and the one that is usually right for all the long-legged dogs out there (Dachshund and Basset Hound owners – I’m not talking to you just yet!), is the Easy Walk Harness. Yes, most harnesses actually encourage pulling, even some of the “anti-pull” ones on the market today. They do this because hooking a leash to a dog’s back increases the strength of your dog by allowing them to use more of their body to pull forward. Feeling even a slight pressure of pulling causes an instinctual “keep pulling” response in dogs, unless they are trained differently. This is why dogs do so well with things like pulling sleds and wagons!

The Easy Walk Harness is different. The leash actually attaches on the dog’s chest, which means when Scruffy goes to pull, he finds himself turning sideways, often times away from what he is trying to get to, instead of still moving forward. These harnesses also fit a bit more snug than a standard collar, so be sure to allow only for one finger’s width to fit between the harness and your dog instead of two. You can find these at standard pet stores for around $20-$25. (Not in a hurry? Check online retailers for the best deals.) They come in a variety of color choices and are 100% returnable if you or your dog doesn’t like them.

There are a couple of downsides to the Easy Walk Harness. Some dogs can develop chaffing from where the harness hits around their legs. This can be warded off by gradually increasing the amount of time your dog spends in his harness over a couple of weeks, starting with only 5-10 minutes. Also, some dogs can wiggle their way out of the harness during jumping fits, but this only occurs with improperly fitting harnesses, and an owner who pulls the leash down towards the ground when attempting to control these fits. Size it right and hold the leash up and your dog won’t get out. As with any leash walking training tool, your dog will still be able to pull ever so slightly, so be sure to reinforce the right position and lack of pulling with tasty treats for the first few weeks.

On to the short-legged dogs – While the Easy Walk Harness may not be the right choice for your dog, there is another wonderful tool that will help you regain control of your puller! A Martingale collar might be the right choice for you if you find that your dog constantly slips out of his collar, or if you’re looking for a safe alternative to a standard chain-link choke collar. Martingale collars are designed to give the same tightening sensation around your dog’s neck to make pulling uncomfortable, but has a safety stop in it that doesn’t let it constrict to the point of hurting your dog. Typically, most Martingale collars constrict about 2 inches – just enough for your dog to get the point, but not enough to risk damage to his throat. These can be found pretty much anywhere and run the gamut in prices to fit all budgets. Any color, pattern, design and size is available on the world wide web!

The Martingale is not simply a quick fix. Some dogs don’t much mind the slight constricting, so you will need to be sure to employ plenty of positive reinforcement during walks for a few weeks when your dog shows non-pulling behaviors.

Another training method that works well for the Easy Walk Harness and the Martingale collar is simple. Your dog pulls… You stop. Every. Single. Time. There can be no more, “But it is raining and he is just pulling to his favorite spot. If we stop we’ll get soaked,” or, “Is he pulling too much? Should I stop?” If you feel any kind of pulling, you must stop immediately. It’ll be a little stop and go for awhile, but thankfully, most dogs catch on to this pretty fast (especially if you wait for them to look back at you before you keep moving) and once they learn it, your walks will be pull-free.

Here’s to walking the dog (and not the other way around)!

If you have any questions you would like to ask a Certified Dog Trainer, you can submit them right here at Naptown Buzz. Elizabeth Wilhelm, Certified Dog Trainer, will tackle the submitted questions, and give practical advice to solve common dog behavior issues. For more information about Elizabeth, you may visit her website at www.TrainingKarma.com.

Stray Dogs – Make Sure Yours Never Is One

While I was washing the dishes earlier today, I looked out the window and thought, “Oh, the dogs are out.” Then, I realized the dog I was watching relieve himself in the backyard was not one of mine.

Long story short, the stray (Spot – changed to protect the frightened!) is terrified of strangers, and even though I went armed with hotdog pieces, he decided fleeing was a better alternative than taking food from a stranger. Not a bad idea if you’re a child, but a terrible idea for a stray dog.

Spot ran away from me, but luckily his owners had placed an ad on Craigslist. I called and, after helping in the search,  they’re still looking for him as I type this. Hopefully, Spot will sleep in his own home tonight.

Turns out, he was a recently adopted rescue dog and had escaped yesterday. The ad even states that he is shy with strangers.

So, how can you stop your dog from winding up like this? Dogs running away is a fact of life – luckily, there are a few things you can do to decrease the chances that your dog will run, and that he will accept help if he does.

Make sure your dog knows the lay of the land! Most dogs escape from their own homes, and those that go on very few walks can’t always find their way home after chasing the neighborhood cat for a mile or so.  Take your dog everywhere, in every direction, around your neighborhood, and those surrounding it. In fact, have someone drop you off a ways away (especially a park, or wooded area that may be enticing to your dog) and walk home together. One time around the block just won’t cut it.

Next, teach your dog the strongest Recall command possible. Make coming to you as much fun as it can possibly be when you say “Spot, Come!” We’re talking treats, praise, toys, anything that gets your dog excited!

When teaching a Recall, remember to use it in positive manners – meaning, do NOT call your dog to you in order to punish him, to bring him inside (thus ending his fun), or to take something away from him that he values. And, if you must call him to bring him inside or to take something from him, practice the Come command 10-15 more times immediately where only positive things happen.

Using a long line (15-20ft. leash) outdoors and in unfamiliar environments will help you gain control over your dog in the event that he should become distracted while learning. Use it to gently remind him to go in your direction, then release him back to his fun after he comes.

If he does not come to you, try running away from your dog. That’s right – away from him. This brings out the dog’s natural chase/prey/play instincts and gives him a good reason to follow!

The next most important thing to teach your dog is that strangers are not enemies, or people to be feared. Strangers may well be your dog’s only hope at ever becoming reunited with you in the event that he gets away.

Socialize your dog to every kind of person you can think of! Have a fearful dog? Approach strangers (start with friends), and ask them to give a few treats to your dog without making eye contact, or speaking directly to him. Once your dog gets used to the idea that people on the street are treat dispensers, have them slowly and gently pet your dog on the chest, or under the chin (still not making eye contact), and work up from there. Practice on the sidewalks and in neighbors yards – anywhere your dog may be if he gets lost.

Have a dog who barks at people? Use treats during walks to distract your dog from looking at the people. Reward your dog any time he looks at someone without barking. Once you can start passing people on the opposite side of the street barkfree, work up to passing on the same sidewalk. Then, start having your dog Sit as people walk by, and you say hello to them. Keep working on it until you can have strangers toss your dog treats.

Any little bit helps. Anything you can do to teach your dog about his surroundings, to teach him to come back when he is called, and to introduce him to all the neighbors will go a long way in leading to a safe return.

(Also – make sure your dog is wearing identification tags. Tags can be broken, so make sure he is microchipped as well. Check the Humane Society of Indianapolis or F.A.C.E. Clinic for cheap prices on microchipping.)

If you have any questions you would like to ask a Certified Dog Trainer, you can submit them right here at Naptown Buzz. Elizabeth Wilhelm, Certified Dog Trainer, will tackle the submitted questions, and give practical advice to solve common dog behavior issues. For more information about Elizabeth, you may visit her website at www.TrainingKarma.com.

Training to Your Dog’s Personality

Anyone who has ever shared a friendship with a dog will tell you – no two are alike! They all have their own personalities, quirks, likes and dislikes, and, believe it or not, their own learning styles. Knowing which style is best suited to your dog will go a long way when teaching basic obedience commands and in dealing with behavior problems.

The first piece of the puzzle you’ll want to discover is what motivates your dog. The most common are food, praise/human interaction, toys, and environment interactions.

Imagine you and your dog in this scenario – You and your canine pal are taking a leisurely stroll, with a pocket full of yummy treats. Up ahead, there is another person walking towards you. To the right of you, a tennis ball lays on the ground, next to a fire hydrant that surely the neighborhood dogs have used to mark their territory!

What would your dog do? Would she ignore everything else and keep her nose glued to your pocket in hopes of a treat? Would she pull towards the person, tail wagging, asking to be pet? Maybe she would pick up the tennis ball and entice you to play fetch, or perhaps she would choose to ignore everything else and stop to sniff the fire hydrant.

Whatever your answer would be is what truly motivates your dog, and is one of the strongest sides to her personality.

Here’s how you can incorporate that into your training:

If your dog would choose treats – You’re in luck! Most basic obedience classes, dog training books, and articles rely on food motivation to accomplish training. Make sure to keep a lot of treats with you at all times to encourage appropriate behavior from your dog. Use treats to guide your dog into a Sit or Down and then give them their reward as soon as their body is in the right position. Just be sure to decrease the amount of food you give your dog  at meal time when doing a lot training to avoid weight gain – and be sure to gradually wean your dog off treats once she is reliably performing her commands. Also, teach a strong Leave It command. These dogs can sometimes be found scavenging for last night’s dinner in the garbage can!

If your dog would choose greeting the oncoming person – You have a praise motivated dog! The good thing about praise motivated dogs is that you giving them a pat on the head and saying “Good Girl,” means a lot more than treats, so worrying about weight gain won’t be necessary with these pups. The key to working with praise dogs is to ignore them completely when they are doing an incorrect behavior (ie. Whining for attention, begging at the dinner table). Since they rely so heavily on praise and attention, the best way to teach them to stop negative behaviors is to not give any attention. Even saying “No,” to a dog is a form of attention. When they’re doing something great, be sure to give lots of hugs and pets!

If your dog would choose the tennis ball – You have a toy motivated dog! These dogs are generally high energy and like to be entertained. Want success with a toy dog? Become entertaining! These dogs generally love to see their owner acting silly and joining in on the fun of being alive. As a reward for performing a command, or showing great behavior, stop to play with your dog for a moment – even better if you have her favorite toy. Be sure to teach these dogs a strong Give or Drop It command, as they tend to figure out pretty fast that grabbing your favorite pair of shoes means a game of chase! Also, if you need to call your dog back to you and she won’t come, start acting silly! They want to be part of the fun, so whatever looks the most entertaining, that’s where they’ll go – jump around, wave your arms, smile and laugh, sing a silly song and run away from your dog. She’ll come right to you.

If your dog would choose the fire hydrant – You have an environment interactions motivated dog! These dogs can’t get enough of checking out their surroundings and their noses lead them through life. Train your dog to play games using scent, such as hiding a treat somewhere in the house for them to find. Teaching basic obedience? Get a few clean rags and choose different places outdoors to rub them in (ie. The flower bed, the neighbor’s grass, on a friend’s dog, in pond water). As a reward for performing a command, let them sniff one of the rags for a few seconds. Trust me – that’s all they want! Be sure to teach these dogs a strong Leave It command, or your walks will become a series of stopping every 10 feet so she can sniff!

Knowing what motivates your dog is the key to efficient, easy, and successful training. Don’t have a food motivated dog? No problem – just get creative! You know your dog best. Make sure she has a good time and the right rewards, and training will be a walk in the park.

If you have any questions you would like to ask a Certified Dog Trainer, you can submit them right here at Naptown Buzz. Elizabeth Wilhelm, Certified Dog Trainer, will tackle the submitted questions, and give practical advice to solve common dog behavior issues. For more information about Elizabeth, you may visit her website at www.TrainingKarma.com.

Dog and Puppy Socialization

When it comes to dogs and puppies, basic obedience commands seem to be on the top of many peoples’ lists as far as what is needed to ensure that your new canine companion will be a well-adjusted member of the family. Did you know that there is something that ranks even higher and has even more of an impact on your puppy/dog’s ability to function within your household?

Without proper socialization, your dog runs the risk of becoming a Scaredy-Dog, an aggressive dog, a fear biter, territorial, possessive, and/or reactive. Once this point is reached, all the basic obedience commands in the world won’t take care of the problem. You’ll find yourself dealing with a dog who requires the help of a professional to overcome the barking, biting, growling, etc.

The good news is that – whether you’ve just added a brand new, wet under the ears puppy, or an adult dog who was desperately in need of a good home – there are many steps you can take to ensure that proper socialization happens!

During socialization, the goal is to introduce your dog/puppy to every single sight, sound, smell, object, dog, cat, and person that will be a regular part of your day-to-day life, in a positive manner.  And I mean, everything!

People

Create a positive experience by always having quality treats on hand (the softer and smellier, the better!). As soon as the new person enters the picture, start talking excitedly to your dog. “Look! It is Jimmy! He’s here to play with us,” and give your dog a few treats. Next, lead your dog over to “Jimmy” and be sure to show your dog just how welcome “Jimmy” is – shake hands, hug, smile, and have Jimmy give some of the treats to your dog.

Objects

Be sure to include objects in this training as well. My adopted dog, Karma, acted as though she had never before seen a parked, turned off, motorcycle during one of the first walks we took together. She became afraid, tail between her legs, barking, just at the sight of it. You never know what it will be that your dog thinks doesn’t belong in her world! In this instance, if your dog has already decided the motorcycle (object) is scary and doesn’t belong, the routine would be a little different. Without speaking, redirect your dog’s attention to the treats at a distance she can be calm. Gradually lure her with the promise of more treats, towards the object. If she becomes afraid, back up a few steps and try again. Do not force her to go closer than she is comfortable with! It may take a few days, but soon enough, she’ll find herself close to the object and, surprise, nothing bad happens to her! In fact, she gets treats!

Sounds

Sounds are important. A dog’s hearing is far superior to ours and they lack the cognitive ability to say “Oh, the squeaking sound I hear that seems to be coming from above me is just Sally walking on the floorboards.” All they know is that there is a strange sound occurring inside their home, seeming to come from above them, with no reason that they can see. A knock on the door doesn’t mean, “Jimmy is here to play with me!” It does, however, mean, “A loud sound just happened from outside – someone is trying to get into my house – sound the alarms!”

Stage any sound that your dog seems to be unsure about. For instance, if a knock on the door sends your dog into a territorial fit, a tail-between-the-legs fear, or anywhere in between, have someone knock on your door (and do not answer!) for training purposes, or knock on the door yourself from inside. Teach your dog that knocking isn’t scary, or cause for alarm. Knocking means that she should lay down on a mat, far enough away from the door that she isn’t in harms way, but close enough that she can see. Every time a knocking sound occurs, lure her over to her mat and have her lay down. Give her a yummy treat and make your way to the door. If she gets up, return to her and have her go back to a Down. Eventually she will see that being on her mat gets the door open. The sooner she goes there, the sooner she can see what the noise was all about!

Keep in mind that there are a lot of things to get your puppy or dog used to. Fly swatters, fireplaces, dropping books, seeing people out the window, the mailman, the neighbor’s dog, children playing outside, the hairdryer, television… Truly, the list is endless. Turn it into a game to enjoy! Coming up with new things for your dog to experience can be a lot of fun for everyone. This is a great job for children, also, as they are often incredibly creative and thrilled to be helping!

If you have any questions you would like to ask a Certified Dog Trainer, you can submit them right here at Naptown Buzz. Elizabeth Wilhelm, Certified Dog Trainer, will tackle the submitted questions, and give practical advice to solve common dog behavior issues. For more information about Elizabeth, you may visit her website at www.TrainingKarma.com.

Solutions to Winter Dog Behavior Problems

The calm after the holiday rush is finally starting, right along with the cold weather. This means more time will be spent indoors – for you and your dog. If you are lucky enough to have a calm, well-mannered dog, this could be a very relaxing time of year. However, if you find yourself stuck inside with a high-energy, jumping, nipping, playful canine, the stress is about to begin!

A decrease in exercise and less time spent outdoors can lead many dogs down a path of destruction – this could mean your furniture, favorite shoes, winter coat, or a whole host of other household items. You could also notice an increase in unwanted behaviors such as barking, digging, jumping, whining, and an unwillingness to follow commands.

Rest assured, there are ways to help your pup through this time of year, even if going for walks in cold weather is not your idea of a good time.

Here are some ideas to keep your dog active inside, and out of trouble:

  • Increase Training Sessions – Even if your dog already knows basic commands, holding two or three 10 minute training sessions with him every day will keep his mind sharp and active, and will help to tire him out mentally. Teach a new trick such as Shake, Roll Over, Speak, or Play Dead, or brush up on commands like Leave-It or Stay that he hasn’t had to do in awhile. This way, he will learn to focus on you and come spring, you’ll have a very well trained dog to take on outdoor adventures.
  • Play Games – One of the best games to play with a dog who knows the command “Stay” is Hide-And-Go-Treat. Have your dog Stay while you hide a treat somewhere in the house (do so in the same room so he can watch the first few times). Release your dog and let him tire himself out sniffing, running, and seeking out the precious treat. Challenge him even more by hiding it under a towel or behind a slightly closed door.
  • Enroll in a Training Class, or Take Private Lessons – Certified Dog Trainers can help you stop unwanted behaviors if you feel that your dog’s behavior is reaching the point of being intolerable, or if you want to ensure that his behavior does not reach that point! Winter is the perfect time to start since this is the time of year that many problems show themselves, and it gives you a few months before the warm weather hits to get your dog back to where you want him to be. You could also consider an agility or therapy dog class, if these activities are ones you feel your dog would enjoy.
  • Purchase an Interactive Toy – There are a lot of toys out there to help keep your dog occupied. Check out the brand “Busy Buddy” for quality interactive toys. They can be found online, or at most major pet stores. Just remember to supervise your dog the first few times they play with their new toy before leaving him home alone with it.
  • Have Doggy Play Dates – Call up your friends who have friendly dogs and invite them over to play in a fenced in yard! Make sure to supervise the dogs – especially the ones who haven’t met each other – and make sure that all dogs are up to date on their vaccinations.
  • Check Out the Local Dog Park – Been putting off taking your pup to the dog park because you are unsure how he will react? Now is the best time due to a decreased number of dogs that will be there. Generally, this time of year is when the “regulars” go, which is great because they are usually hoping for new dogs to come play! (As a “regular” at a dog park, I can attest that this is true.) Generally, dogs who frequent the dog park are very dog-friendly and do quite well at letting new dogs into the group. On the other hand, maybe you and your dog will be the only ones there – let the game of Fetch begin!

The most important thing to remember this winter, while living indoors with your dog, is to be creative! Turn basic obedience commands into games, spend a bit of time outside when the temperatures are bearable, and look for ways to engage your dog in daily activities.

If you have any questions you would like to ask a Certified Dog Trainer, you can submit them right here at Naptown Buzz. Elizabeth Wilhelm, Certified Dog Trainer, will tackle the submitted questions, and give practical advice to solve common dog behavior issues. For more information about Elizabeth, you may visit her website at www.TrainingKarma.com.

The Naptown Buzz November 2011

The fourth issue of Naptown Buzz is now available for download and print copies will also be available this month at select locations, while supplies last.

Naptown Buzz October 2011: Download PDF

Group Dog Training Classes Didn’t Work For You?

Methods of training our canine friends have evolved an incredible amount – even in just the last 15 years. Common methods of choke chains, harsh punishments, and forceful leadership that were prevalent, even in the 90’s, have now been replaced by methods that allow our dogs to learn to place trust in us, instead of to fear us. If group dog training classes didn’t work for you in the past, please consider trying them again.

Dog Trainers everywhere differ in their approach to running group classes. This is truly a wonderful thing since dogs are much like people in that they all learn different ways. Believe it or not, there are an astonishing number of ways to teach the same command or trick. What some dogs understand right off the bat may not work for other dogs, or may take a much longer time if the method goes against how your dog’s brain is wired.

Teaching your dog basic obedience commands such as Sit, Stay, Leave It, Come, etc. can be life saving. No matter the age of your dog, it is never too late for him to learn. The old adage of, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” just doesn’t apply.

For example, after learning Stay and Come, one of my students in group class said that his 1.5 year old dog escaped from the yard, and what would have been a 45 minute chase, was only a few minutes because he yelled for her to Stay, which got her attention, then called her to Come. No longer does he need to worry about his dog running into traffic, or having to chase her through the neighborhood!

When you’re thinking about signing your dog up for group classes, here are a few things to take into consideration:

  • Your dog does not need to be perfect – Many people are afraid to enroll their dog into group classes for fear that he will bark uncontrollably, that he won’t understand commands, or that he will be too afraid of the situation. Group classes are actually wonderful for dogs like this! By learning new commands in a setting full of other dogs and people, these skills are much more likely to be transferred over in to the “real world.”
  • Dogs learn in different ways – Before signing up for classes, make sure you have an understanding of the Trainer’s methods. Try to find a Trainer who not only understands basic obedience training, but who is also skilled in dog behavior and dog psychology. These Trainers can help you better understand your dog and will find the methods that are best suited to your dog’s learning style.
  • Class size matters – In order for you and your dog to get the individual attention necessary to make sure you have a firm understanding of the training methods, aim for smaller classes (3-6 dogs as opposed to 7-10). There will still be sufficient distractions in the class for your dog to learn around, but your Trainer will be able to focus more time on each student individually as well.

Your dog will be part of your life for years, whether you have a puppy or an adult. It is never too late for him to receive an education in basic obedience commands. Imagine the holiday season with a well-trained dog, instead of one who jumps on guests, steals food from the table, and runs through the door when people try to come inside! Start soon, and that could be your Christmas present to yourself and your dog this year.

And remember – every dog can learn. Every single one of them.

If you have any questions you would like to ask a Certified Dog Trainer, you can submit them right here at Naptown Buzz. Every week, Elizabeth Wilhelm, Certified Dog Trainer, will tackle one of the submitted questions. For more information about Elizabeth, you may visit her website at www.TrainingKarma.com.