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Posts Tagged ‘trainer’

It starts with advocating when you’re picking out a puppy from a breeder, a shelter or recue group; and continues through the rest of your dog’s life. You might not think certain circumstances would require you to advocate for your dog, but if you think about it every situation is an opportunity to be a voice for your dog. You’re the only one who can give your dog a voice, so make sure you never let an opportunity go by where you can.

When you’re choosing your canine companion, asking as many questions on the dog’s background as you can not only helps determine if this is the right fit for you, but can save you a lot of heartache and medical bills in the future (for information on breeders and what to ask them see the July 11th 2010 Special Paws blog post).

Similarly, ask rescues and shelters what background information they have on the pup you’re interested in. Ask them what behaviors they’ve observed with animals that make them say “no cats” in the dog’s new home, or similarly “no kids.” Ask them how they came to have the dog, what they know about his behavior and how they know it. What type of training (if any) have they been doing with the dog? Have any canine behavior professionals been working with the dog? Have volunteers have been working with the dog? If so, how often? Has the dog been through any other shelters or rescues that they know of? Asking these questions will give you an insight into things such as whether a dog has a high prey drive, if he is afraid of anything, how many times the dog may have been adopted and returned (and the reasons for the return) as well as possibly if one organization may not have been willing to adopt this dog out but another was. You’ll want to make sure you try to find out as much of this information as possible.  

What about once you’ve gotten your dog home? Looking for a trainer? Make sure to ask what their training philosophies are. How did they get their experience? Are they continuing their education and if so, how? Ask them to list some of their favorite canine behavior experts or favorite books. Do they match yours? (For more information in choosing a trainer, see my July 25, 2009 post below.)

What about a groomer? Ask them if they’ll let you watch while they groom. Look to see if they ever leave a dog unattended on a grooming table. Are they paying attention to the dog and what they’re doing 100% of time? Is the groomer on the cell phone while a dog is on the table? How are they handling the dogs? Do they recognize the signs that a dog is tense, anxious or fearful? How do they react when they see these signs?

A doggie day care? Who watches the dogs when they’re in their playgroups? What kind of training do the owners and staff have on running a daycare and on canine behavior? You can also ask them if they are continuing their education and if so how. Ask them to list some of their favorite canine behavior experts or favorite books. You can ask them what they’d do in a specific situation: say if one dog isn’t responding appropriately when another dog lets him know he doesn’t want to play anymore. Are they giving a time out or using some other method? If they’re giving a time out, are they doing so for 30 seconds, 5 minutes or an hour? And how do they get the time out? Look around for things you don’t want used on your dog such as spray bottles.

A dog walker? Do they give private walks or group walks? Do they have their own employees or are they using contractors? Do they leave you a report after every walk? Do they let you know before the walk is over if a dog hasn’t eliminated so you can tell them what you’d like them to do (keep walking a bit or just take the dog home)? Do they let you meet the management as well as your walker prior to the start of the service? Do they give you ample notice if your regular walker will be out?

How about if you’re looking for a vet? Do their views on vaccine titers match yours? What about behavior advice? Ask them what types of trainers and behaviorists they refer their clients too. Do they have a clear preference of one philosophy over another? Do these match yours? Are they insisting they roll the puppy on her back to see if your puppy is “dominant,” etc.? Do they offer you behavior advice or diagnosis or do they instead give you the name of a trainer or trainers in the area? Are you able to go in the exam room with your dog? Will they let you restrain your dog if the circumstances warrant it or do they insist on doing it themselves? If they want to be the ones doing it, ask how they’ll hold your dog and how they’ll get ahold of your dog.

Anytime anyone will be alone for any period of time with your dog or handling your dog (whether you’re there or not), it’s your duty to ask questions.  Whatever service you’re looking into, before signing up make sure you sit down and jot down a list of questions that you’d like answered in order for you to feel comfortable about your dog in a given situation. The questions above are just a tiny fraction of the questions you could/should ask in each scenario. If you’re not sure why you’d want to ask some of the particular questions I have chosen, carefully research the services and the different answers you’re likely to get in each industry. Then before you ask the questions, you’ll know what types of answers you yourself would like to hear. If during the time you’re asking questions anything makes you uncomfortable, don’t feel bad about leaving and looking for someone else.

Sometimes it only takes one thing to change how a dog view’s a situation (from neutral to unsafe or neutral to great, for example), asking questions is one way for you to influence how your dog sees his world.

Our dogs can’t ask questions or speak up for themselves, so it’s up to us to make sure they are always safe– and not just in good, but great hands.

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Can trainers teach your dog to sit? Can trainers show you how to teach your dog to sit? Is there really a difference?

  The answer to all three of those questions is YES!

  Is this really important? YES! A trainer could probably teach most dogs to sit in relatively short amount of time, but that is not the trainer’s purpose. The trainer is there to show you how to teach a particular cue or get you through a behavioral concern. We do not train the dog for you! When you contact a trainer and sign up for a class or individual lessons in your home, you’re hiring someone to show you how to train your dog. The few hours you meet with that trainer will NOT be enough for a dog to learn any particular task. No matter how many hours of training you sign up for- your dog will never learn what you’d like them to if you rely solely on the time that you, your dog and your trainer spend together!

    Think back to your own schooling, did you learn everything you needed during the school day? Of course not, you went home and worked on homework! 

  The “homework” your trainer assigns is meant for you and your dog to complete together. In between visits with your trainer, you should be working with your dog in multiple, short sessions to practice what the trainer showed you.  These short sessions will help keep your dog’s attention, should always end on a positive note, will help strengthen your bond with your dog and will get you closer and closer to your training goals. You’ll have additional questions come up as you’re working with your dog and that’s good, we want to be able to address them as you progress with your training goals!

  If you don’t do your homework, your dog’s progress will be slower than what you’d like. In certain cases, much slower.

  Here are some tips to keep in mind as you work through your homework: 

  When your dog is learning new things, certain tasks will go quicker and smoother than others and these will vary from dog to dog. For example, a “sit” and a “down” might be much easier than a “come,” so plan on some tasks requiring more time than others. 

  Also, don’t assume your dog has learned something because she’s doing it right. Truly learning something takes lots of practice in varied contexts. Once you change one aspect of an exercise (such as a stay in your living room where you walk 5 feet away from your dog vs. a stay in the park where you walk 5 feet away from your dog), it’s a whole different exercise to your dog! He won’t be able to “stay” in your living room, the park, your driveway, in front of the dogpark and in front of the lady handing out treat samples at the store surrounded by 50 other dogs if you have only practiced stay in your living room.! You’ll need to practice “stay” in your living room, the park, your driveway, in front of the dogpark and in front of the lady handing out treat samples at the store surrounded by 50 other dogs if you want him to be able to stay in all those contexts.

   As you change the degree of difficulty, make sure to vary only one variable at a time (i.e.: setting or distance, not both! Your dog is much more likely to succeed this way.   

  Also, be prepared to go backwards. Dog are not perfect; they will have set-backs. It won’t always get better and better, sometimes it will get better and better and then a bit worse. This might happen when you vary location or distraction, etc. In this case you might have to work through some basic steps you’ve already gone over in the new location or with the new distraction present. Take the stay example: in your living room, you might get 5 feet away, but you find that in your driveway you can only make it one foot away before your pup’s right by your side! That’s okay! Go back to your basic steps and work up to the 5 foot stay in the new location.

Remember, just because you’ve just taken your first driving lesson in an empty parking lot doesn’t mean you’re expected to drive as a stunt driver for the next blockbuster action movie an hour later either!

  Most importantly as you’re working through all this, don’t be afraid to ask your trainer questions about how you can get the most out of your homework, it’s what we’re here for! If something isn’t making sense, don’t be weary of asking for clarification.  The times you spend working with your dog one on one are just as important as those you spend with your trainer.  While you’re with your trainer, they’ll explain how to work through a particular task, show you examples, describe all the little steps in between and let you have at it. While you’re away from your trainer, you’re working through all the information your trainer supplied you with. This is a great time to make note of any glitches that come up, any questions you might have, any fine-tuning that will need to be done.  The next time you see your trainer, the best way to take advantage of them is to ask about all those questions and concerns, that way you can always build on the previous week’s tasks.

  Oh yes, and one more thing, while you’re not graded on it per se… YES, we will always be able to tell whether you’ve done your homework!

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