If there was a grading scale, one through five, of how I rank as a pet parent, I’d modestly give myself a four or five in almost every area. Sure, there are a few things I could do better but generally speaking I’d place myself above average on this imaginary scale.
There is one area, however, where I have to admit my deficiencies. Without fail, every time a new dog comes into my life, I say “this time, I’ll do better,” but I don’t. I’ll start out all strong and committed and then my enthusiasm wanes and we’re right back to square one.
I’m talking about regular, standardized dog training. I sign up for it, make silent promises about how this time it’s going to be different. This time, we’ll practice between sessions and keep up with the other pups. If there was a Mr. or Ms. Congeniality award given at dog-training graduation, my dogs would win it. In fact, Frosty was crowned “class clown” at puppy kindergarten. Of course I was proud, but that wasn’t what I was going for. I even had dreams of training Big Al to be a therapy dog. He’s such a big, lovable mush, but we never got that far.
I see people with dogs that are obedient in every way. A subtle nod or a whispered voice command can stop the dog dead in his tracks, even if he’s in full speed squirrel-chasing mode. I’ve never had a dog like that, and I know our shortfalls are because of me, not because of my dog(s).
This article isn’t about me, though. It’s about how you can be better than me. Or it’s about me trying to learn how to be better myself. In any case, it’s really about how to get the most from your dog training sessions.
There are important considerations that every pet owner needs to take when he or she makes the commitment to attend regular, standardized dog training classes. You will get more out of the sessions if you follow these guidelines.
If you are the type of person that thinks you have a special bond with your dog and you’re uninterested in changing anything about your daily routines together, then you probably won’t get much out of dog training sessions. Remember that you’re there for a reason; if everything you were doing was working out just fine then you wouldn’t have enrolled in a training class to begin with. Remain open-minded and be willing to try new things.
Run Drills Outside of Class
A good dog trainer won’t expect you to attempt impossible exercises, nor will they instruct you to dedicate unrealistic amounts of time to training your dog outside of class. They will expect you to practice what you’ve learned in class once you get home, though. Good trainers will take your schedule into consideration and help you figure out how to split exercises into easy, manageable chunks. You will not be expected to spend multiple hours per day working on drills, but you should understand how to work several one-to-three-minute training sessions with your dog into your schedule. And remember, a handful of CANIDAE treats makes these sessions extra enjoyable for the dog.
In addition to working on the one-to-three-minute training sessions at home, you’ll also have to work on behavior modification reinforcement. In training class you’ll learn strategies that will make both you and your dog’s lives easier, provided you have good follow-through. Do not allow your dog to repeat problem behaviors just because you don’t feel like instituting the easy management techniques you learned in class. When a dog repeatedly gets away with a problem behavior, making him do it right in a class once a week for an hour isn’t going to make a difference.
All the trainers I’ve worked with sincerely want you to succeed. They chose their profession because they want to do their part to enrich the canine/human bond. Things go more smoothly for both of you if you establish an open dialogue with the trainer. If you’re having a hard time understanding what’s expected of you or your dog, just ask. If you don’t get the same results at home that you do in class, talk about it. If things are going too fast, or if you’re discouraged or overwhelmed, mention it to the trainer. Good dog trainers should also have the ability to communicate with the human.
Have you taken your dog to training classes? How did it go for you?
Photos by Andrea Arden
Read more articles by Langley Cornwell