Best selling author Pippa Mattinson looks at who is the right person to train your best friend. Pippa is the founder of several of the world’s most successful pet websites, including The Labrador Site and The Happy Puppy Site. She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust, and of the Dogsnet Online Training Program.
Am I Good Enough?
Dog training can be challenging. Maybe you doubt your ability to teach your dog yourself?
After all, there are skills involved. Things to learn. And natural abilities needed.
Maybe a professional with heaps of talent and years of experience is the best person to teach your dog? How could you ever match up?
The reality is, you probably match up very well indeed for a number of reasons – we’ll look at those in a moment.
But if you suspect you aren’t good enough, smart enough, or dedicated enough to train your own dog to a high standard, you are not alone.
What about training classes?
Every year pet owners spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on dog training classes.
Some of which are fantastic value, some of which are okay, and some of which are downright harmful.
A significant number of puppy parents actually send their dogs away to boarding kennels to be educated.
Here the potential for harm is much greater, if the wrong trainer is chosen.
So are training classes bad?
Does this mean I don’t believe in puppy classes, or training classes of any kind?
There are some fantastic dog trainers out there, most of them completely unknown and underrated.
Your dog will benefit greatly from attending their classes. But you need to know where to look.
Local dog training classes
Most new puppy parents are advised to attend local training classes.
Training methods are demonstrated in these classes, and advice and support will available to you. Usually on a weekly basis.
This can be a great thing.
But it’s really important to be very fussy about who gets to choose the methods that are used on your dog, because the wrong methods can have long lasting unwanted effects.
Picking a local class
Always go along in person, without your dog, and observe a class before you sign your dog up.
Students should be enjoying themselves and dogs should be happy and having fun.
It’s your responsibility to protect your dog from a bad experience.
So it’s really important to attend a class where other dogs (and the trainer) are not allowed to bully or intimidate your dog.
And where you are supported in helping your dog work at their pace.
Starting at home
If you lack experience it can be hard to identify a quality dog training class. And not everyone has a great class within easy access.
Gaining some experience yourself at home while you look for a good trainer, is never time wasted.
In fact, it can actually help you get far more from a class when you find one that’s suitable.
Because you have two very special qualities.
What makes you special? #1 Your Bond
No-one else loves your dog the way you do.
No-one else cares as much about your dog’s welfare, or is as willing to step in if your dog is getting upset, or feeling stressed.
And no, you don’t need to upset your dog or show him who is boss to make him obey you.
That kind of approach was born in a time long gone. We now know better.
What makes you special? #2 Your Access
This is often overlooked by people who think they are not capable of training their dog to a high standard. But you have access to your dog 24/7.
Your trainer will be lucky to get his hands on your dog more than an hour each week.
Your dog doesn’t stop learning when you get him home. In fact 99% of your dog’s learning happens at home, or outdoors in your company.
Your dog is learning when you are not training him as well as when you are.
Using some basic canine behavior modification techniques will help you manage your dog’s time better.
Which in turn will make sure your dog learns the things you want him to learn. And avoid him getting into bad habits.
If you don’t learn how to modify your dog’s behavior all by yourself, you are going to have problems at some point.
A good trainer in a puppy class will help you with this, but let’s face it, they are also trying to help ten other dog parents at the same time.
So you need to help yourself too. And it isn’t as hard as you think.
Dog training involves knowledge, not talent
Here’s the thing.
Dog training involves skills and some basic knowledge of how animal behavior is modified.
All of which can be learned.
You simply need a willingness to learn and few minutes each day to practice.
Training without force
Plenty of people with no previous experience and no apparent ‘natural talent’ for dog training have succeeded.
That’s because modern dog training doesn’t involve force or physical strength, or mystical abilities.
It teaches dogs to choose, rather than forcing them to obey.
And it teaches people how to increase the behaviors they like in their dogs, and how to decrease the behaviors they don’t like to see in their dogs.
You can be your dog’s best teacher
If you can’t get to a good local dog training class, or you don’t feel ready yet to train in a group of other dogs, that’s okay.
If your puppy is very young, you need to take them out and about in public a great deal in order to socialize them.
But it’s fine to homeschool your puppy in basic obedience before asking him to respond to your requests in public places or among other dogs.
In fact, dogs learn fastest at the beginning in quiet, undisturbed locations.
Your kitchen or yard may well be the best place to begin
Getting help with homeschooling your dog
There are some great books that will teach you the basics of behavioral science without boring you to death.
These books will also help you to identify good quality classes when you are ready.
If your puppy is very young you might enjoy my Happy Puppy Handbook, and the Learning About Dogs series is very good for teaching the basic skills and concepts you will use in your training lessons.
One of the problem with learning from books is that it can be hard to motivate yourself to get started.
At least with a class you have to be there each week.
An online community can help with motivation, as can a structured training plan where you mark off what you have achieved each day.
If you like the idea of more support and a structured system of learning, you might enjoy our new Foundations Skills online dog training course.
Launched in November 2019 the course has had great reviews – you can read them by clicking the link just above.
Online learning lets you go at your own pace.
The course is very structured and taught in easy steps. And students are supported by our dedicated team and have access to a private forum.
You really are your dog’s best teacher
The truth is, you and you alone are almost certainly the very best person, to teach your dog.
Training your dog at home using modern force-free methods can never harm your dog. And it’s never to late to begin!
Later on, when you feel more confident you will be better equipped to find a trainer to support you if you want to take things up a notch.
Here’s the bottom line.
I believe in you. And we haven’t even met.
Isn’t it time for you to believe in yourself?
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