Your dog is bouncing off the walls. Or jumping on visitors. You have a new puppy peeing on the floor. Your dog is looking a little sad after so many short walks. Your dog is growling at visitors. Barking at every dog he sees on walks. She actually runs away every time you call her. There are so many options for dog training that it can be overwhelming to decide what is best for your needs and family.
There are six main options to choose from, depending on your needs; puppy socialization class, basic manners class, private training, special activity training, board-and-train, and in-home training. This week, we will look closely at the different options.
Today, we'll discuss how to find an appropriate trainer. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has put out this handy guide on how to choose a good dog trainer and on how to find help for a pet with a behavior problem. If your dog is displaying extreme fear or aggression, a veterinarian specializing in behavior is your best option. We are very lucky here in Columbus that OSU now has a vet on staff who does specialize in behavior.
Read over the AVSAB papers on finding trainers, here are a few points from that paper as well as additional points. Always go meet the instructor and observe a class prior to joining.
- The instructor uses positive reinforcement training. S/he does not utilize punishment as part of the training process. The AVSAB also has a position statement on why the use of punishment in training is often a very poor idea. Your dog needs to know what he is doing correctly. We want your dog to be working hard to respond to your cues as well as be relaxed in a variety of settings.
- The instructor should be professional. Instructors should be supportive and polite to both the people and dogs in class. Instructors should be members of reputable professional organizations and be involved in continuing education. Training should be based off of scientific information and be able to provide references if asked, but do not need to be able to give these off the top of his/her head.
- People and dogs should be relaxed and feel safe. Stressed teams are not going to be able to learn well. Training should decrease the stress both at home and in class, not increase stress. Stress responses in dogs can be (but are not always and are not limited to); lip licking, yawning, looking away, stiff body, not eating food, shaking off, vocalizing, and scanning the room.
- Students should be progressing. When you go to observe a class, remember that teams may not have been training for the same period of time and all teams have a different starting point. In one class you may have a dog who has previous training but the owner wants to keep working. There may be a puppy who just came home. There could be a recently adopted adult dog that may or may not know anything. A dog may have been very hesitant to eat at his first class but is now working very well. All teams progress at different rates. But progress should happen.
Tomorrow, we'll take a closer look at puppy socialization classes.