FAQ: Dog Training

Do you guarantee your training?

No.  Be wary of trainers who guarantee dog training results.   Behavior is fluid and ever changing, and your dog is not a furry computer that can be reprogrammed.  The success of any dog training program depends on many factors, many of which can’t be ethically placed under a guarantee.  As a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, I have pledged my dedication to a better approach to training.

What I can, and do, guarantee:

  • a commitment to the latest and most sound methods offered by the scientific community, as well as ongoing continuing education
  • a commitment to humane, gentle and fun training
  • Customized training plans that fit your lifestyle
  • A kind, gentle and productive professional relationship (meaning that I will treat you, the human, with the same kindness, understanding and respect with which I treat your pets.)

Do I need classes or individual training?

This is ultimately a personal choice.  Classes offer you a convenient way to practice with your dog around distractions, and allow you to meet other dog owners and compare notes and stories. Private training is more costly, but achieves faster and often better results.  If your dog has a particular type of behavior problem (like aggression), private lessons may be your only option – contact us to discuss it.

The exception to this is Puppy class.   If you have a puppy, aim for a Puppy Kindergarten class, purely because your puppy needs the socialization with other puppies and humans that class provides.

Is my dog too old to train?puppy kindergarten class in Carson City, NV

There’s no such thing!  Dogs of any age can learn whatever you wish to teach.  In fact, sometimes, more mature dogs are easier to train because they have less energy!  Whether you have an 8-week old puppy or a 10 year old shelter dog, the outcome of training depends on many factors, none of which include age.

What do you think of the Dog Whisperer?

I think it’s fantastic that he’s brought so much awareness to pet owners about the possibilities of dog training – gone are the days when the family pet had to be relinquished or euthanized because he has behavior problems.  Gone are the days when it was acceptable to tie a dog up in the yard instead of train it.  Milan has taught dog owners that there’s hope out there, and that it takes work, but improvement is possible!  He’s also brought awareness to the plague of both homeless, and loved but grossly underexercised and understimulated dogs in our society, which is wonderful.

However, my methods are fundamentally different from his.  I think we need to shift our focus away from simple dominance hierarchies in considering animal behavior.  Dogs are socially complex animals, and contrary to popular myth, they don’t spend all their time trying to figure out how to usurp their humans or other dogs! Consequently, physical shows of punishment do nothing but damage a dog-human relationship.  Knowledge is power.  The more you know about how dogs truly learn, the more tools you have for enhancing your relationship with your dog.  Have a look at this fabulous dog training article from 4Paws University; it also links to more scientifically-backed articles for more information. The Dog Whisperer Controversy

Do you use food in your dog training?

Yes! Food is what behavior professionals call a “primary reinforcer;” that is, it’s something that is rewarding, or pleasurable, in and of itself, because it is necessary for survival.  For us land mammals, those things include food, sleep, sex, air and water.  Out of that list, food is obviously the easiest to manipulate to our advantage (and let’s face it, if we asked most dogs, they’d be pleased to be offered food).  Food is also instant gratification for your dog.  It’s not by any means the only positive reinforcement tool used in dog training, but it’s often the easiest and most powerful.

Won’t my dog need food forever, then?

No.  Once a dog has mastered a behavior thoroughly, food is no longer necessary (but I’m sure it’s greatly appreciated!)  To be quite blunt, if you need to use food every time you want your dog to behave, you’re doing it wrong!  Have a look at this excellent article, written by Dr. Ian Dunbar, world renowned animal behaviorist: Food Critics

My dog doesn’t like food.  Can he still be trained?

Yes.  Some dogs aren’t born immediately inhaling everything you put in front of their nose; that’s OK (and beneficial in some ways!)  The important idea is to understand what’s making your dog tick.  Contact me for more information; this is not an insurmountable problem and it doesn’t mean that a dog training class won’t work; it just requires thinking out of the box a little!

Why don’ t you use choke, shock or prong collars in your training?

Because there’s a better way.  When you induce pain or discomfort (such as a choking sensation) in an animal, you increase anxiety and frustration.  Anxiety and frustration tip over very easily into fear and aggression.  This is not a sound way to train a dog, any more than it’s a sound way to train a giraffe or a lion!  It is much safer (and more pleasant for the dog and owner alike) to avoid these tools as much as possible, especially since better ways have been proven faster and more effective!  Increasingly, studies are showing that aggressive or aversive dog training methods can breed aggression in dogs.  Have a look at a quick synopsis of the most recent research here: Karen Pryor Risky Training article

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