Seeking Expert Outside Help
- Knowing your training options
- Choosing an obedience school
- Hiring a personal dog trainer
- Deciding on a dog camp
You have a number of choices when it comes to Buddy’s education.
- Train out of a book, such as this one.
- Participate in group classes.
- Have someone else do the training.
When you attempt to make a rational choice, remember that there are many ways to train a dog. Beware of anyone who says only their way is the right way. Successful dog training depends not so much on the “how,” but on the “why.” Dogs aren’t a homogeneous commodity, and the approach to training has to take into account the dog’s Personality Profile (see Chapter Understanding Your Dog’s Mind), as well as your own personality.
Table 20-1 Available Training Choices
Training out of a book
You can train how you want, what you want, and when you want.
You’re not tied to a regular
Location isn’t a problem.
You need to be highly self-motivated or training will fall by the wayside.
You have no one to
Possibly not enough
exposure to other dogs.
Someone tells you what you may doing wrong and can help you succeed.
You get the opportunity to meet similar people.
It keeps your training on
track with weekly sessions.
It provides continuous
socialization with other dogs.
Schedule and location may be inconvenient.
The instructor dictates how, what, and when.
The training method may not be right for you or your dog.
Having someone else do the training
Little time commitment required of you.
Training method may not be how you want your dog trained.
– An obedience class: If you find you need outside help after trying the techniques in this book, we recommend an obedience class where you’re instructed how to train your dog. Aside from the socialization with other dogs, the time you spend together will strengthen the bond between you and your dog. (See the next section, “Going to Class — Obedience and Training Schools” for more information.)
– Lessons from a private dog trainer: You can take private lessons from an instructor, either at your house or some other location. Under such an arrangement, the instructor teaches you what to do, and you’re then expected to practice with your dog between sessions. In terms of time and effort, this is one of the most efficient arrangements. (For more info, see “Finding a Private Trainer” later in this chapter.)
– Boarding school: We typically don’t recommend sending your dog away to a boarding school, but we do include it because it is an option for some people, especially when dealing with extreme aggression. You send your dog away for three to six weeks during which time an instructor trains your dog. (See “Heading to Boarding School” later in this chapter for more tidbits.)
Another related option is a doggie daycare center, many of which offer training, but again, you’ll have to learn how to get Buddy to respond to your commands.
– Doggie camp: These camps are perfect if you and your dog want to head away for a short vacation. On the vacation you spend time with an instructor who helps you train your dog. (Check out “Enjoying The Great Dog Camp Adventure” later in this chapter.)
Going to Class — Obedience and Training Schools
The purpose of the class is to show you what to do, have you try it a few times to make sure you’ve got it right, and then send you home to practice. Be prepared to practice at least five times a week. Most classes are sequential in nature. If you miss a class, you’ll fall behind and may have a hard time catching up. Falling behind is discouraging and may cause you to drop out. When you go to a class, don’t expect the instructor to train your dog. That isn’t her job.
To train for participating in performance events, join an organization that offers training for that goal. The organization’s instructors can coach you and your dog in the intricacies of the various requirements.
Choosing a good training class
Call one of the organizations listed to find out where and when the class meets. Ask whether you can observe a beginner class. If you aren’t allowed to observe a class, which would be highly unusual, forget that organization. When you find one where you can observe a class, do so, but leave Buddy at home so that he doesn’t interfere with the class and you aren’t distracted.
– What is your first impression of the class? You’re looking for a friendly, pleasant, and positive atmosphere.
– Do the dogs seem to have a good time? You can quickly tell if the dogs are enjoying themselves or if they’d rather be at home biting their favorite bone.
– How does the instructor deal with the class participants? You want the instructor to be encouraging and helpful, especially to those who seem to be struggling.
– How does the instructor deal with the dogs? You want the instructor to be nice to the dogs, not yell at them or create anxiety or fear.
– Does the instructor appear knowledgeable? As a student, you aren’t likely to be able to tell whether or not the instructor actually is knowledgeable, but at least he needs to give the appearance of being so.
– What is the ratio of instructors to students? We always aim for a one to five ratio, with a limit of 15 students for one instructor with two assistants.
– Is the space adequate for the number of dogs? Insufficient space can be a cause for aggression in a class situation.
– The cost of the class and what is included: For example, our basic training course, or Level 1 as we call it, consists of eight 50-minute sessions and includes a training collar and leash, weekly homework sheets, and a copy of our book, What All Good Dogs Should Know (available from amazon.com), as part of the fee.
– The schedule of classes, the level of classes, the fee, and the length of the program: The conditions vary from class to class. A beginner class can run anywhere from four to ten weeks, at a cost $50 to $200, depending on who teaches it and where you live. Price isn’t necessarily an indicator of quality, nor is the length necessarily an indication of how much you learn. The majority of beginner classes last from six to eight weeks and cost about $100.
– The goal of the program: What can you expect from your dog upon completion of the class? This is pretty much under your control, because you’re the one who is going to train Buddy. To be successful, you need to be prepared to practice with him five times a week. Two short sessions a day are preferable to one longer session, but for most people that isn’t realistic. How long each session lasts depends entirely on your aptitude and Buddy’s Personality Profile (see Chapter Understanding Your Dog’s Mind).
Puppy training classes
Look for an organization that offers puppy classes, preferably one that teaches basic control to puppies, rather than just socialization and games. Nothing is wrong with socialization and games; both are necessary, but at the right time and in the right context. Look for a class where the people are having fun with their dogs and where the instructor is pleasant and professional to the students. Above all, you want to see happy dogs.
Stay away from the classes where you’re told that Buddy is too young to learn obedience exercises. This type of organization shows a lack of knowledge of dog behavior.
Advanced training classes
Finding a Private Trainer
In selecting a private trainer, be choosy. This individual has a great impact on shaping your dog’s skills. Don’t be afraid to ask for references and to grill the trainer on his experience. Remember, anyone can declare himself a dog trainer!
Heading to Boarding School
- How are the dogs housed?
- Is it clean?
- How do the other dogs look?
- Ask for a demonstration.
- Trust your instincts — Buddy is your dog!
As an alternative to sending Buddy off for three to six weeks, you may want to consider a doggie daycare facility that also offers training. That way at least you can pick Buddy up in the evening and monitor his progress.
Enjoying The Great Dog Camp Adventure
– Some are highly structured, with each hour of the day filled with specific activities, while others are more loosely organized.
– Some camps are program driven, where you learn a particular approach to training, and others are activity driven, where you’re exposed to a variety of things you and Buddy can do together.
– Some are designed for a particular activity, such as agility or obedience competition, and others are more general.
– Some require prior training experience, and others don’t.
– Some include room and board in the tuition; others include only the camp itself.
– Some are held in full-fledged conference centers offering every conceivable amenity, others in more Spartan settings.