So you have a new puppy, and you want him to become a well-mannered member of the family and the envy of all your friends. Where do you begin?
Finding A Good Fit
With many different methods and approaches available, it is worth becoming familiar with them before choosing. Classes are available everywhere now, and joining a class is a great idea. After all, these people are dealing with the same issues that you are so there is usually a lot of sharing and camaraderie. It may be supportive to see that others are struggling with potty training or loose leash walking.
Since I am all about having fun with your dog, I have chosen clicker training. There are many other approaches but thankfully there has been a paradigm shift when it comes to training. In the past, choke chains were almost always used and methods were more aversive. They worked, no doubt about it. But I am not sure that the relationship between the human and dog was not adversely affected. Intimidation and punishment were frequently used, and frankly, I don’t want that sort of relationship.Training based on threats and intimidation just doesn’t work for me. And for those of you with children who will either be working with the dog or watching you work with the dog, it is worth asking yourself what your child is learning. A child can learn an awful lot about relationships in general when working with a dog, so let’s make sure they learn the lesson that we want.
Important Things To Consider
- Are you more comfortable in a class, or private situation?
- Have you attended their training class/session? Is it a good “fit?”
- Are they certified/credentialed and have you checked their references?
If you are sold on the idea of positive reward-based training then a good place to look is the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers directory. The certification process requires not only passing an exam to test the applicants understanding of theory, but also 300 hours of recent experience in dog training. References from vets, clients, and colleagues are also required. Since trainers in the US are not required to be licensed or certified, you can at least be assured that the trainer is interested enough in the field to become credentialed if they are CPDT certified. You will often see “CPDT-KA” or “CPDT” after a trainer’s name to signify that they have been certified through this process. I can tell you from personal experience that the test is very thorough and covers ethology,operant conditioning, classical conditioning, training techniques, behavior problems, nutrition, parasites, body language, and the list goes on. The recommended reading list includes books by all the great trainers that we are fortunate to have actively teaching. Karen Pryor, Patricia McConnell, Andrea Arden,and Melissa Alexander are just a few. It is worth mentioning that none of Cesar Milan’s books are on the recommended reading list.
Karen Pryor also has an Academy for Animal Training and Behavior. The curriculum is fabulous and the program is extensive and thoroughly based in science. World reknown trainers and scientists have influenced the development of this force-free approach that is based on the science of learning. This is a relatively new program so there are not yet a ton of trainers but if there is one in your area check them out.
Photo Credit: trazomfreak on flickr