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After years of training dogs it is always great when in that first meeting with a new client we are told "We did lots of research before choosing a trainer".

 
So, what kind of research should you do in order to find the trainer who is right for you and your dog? Bearing in mind that you are allowing a complete stranger into your life & home in order to teach you & your dog. How they train is going to affect you & your dog's relationship & future together. Below is a list of points to consider:

•What exactly is the trainer's background? Are they happy to go into detail regarding their history & experience?

•How long have they been training dogs for? You are likely paying a considerable amount of money and require appropriate results very quickly. Some clients over the years have subsequently discovered that the trainer  they hired has very little experience i.e. in some cases, a matter of months. Others have discovered that their trainer had no previous experience prior to joining an international franchise. Others have worked as part time trainers outside of their day to day occupation. As a very experienced trainer (Mark Singer - Aus) recently stated "A professional dog trainer has many years of hands on experience working with hundreds if not thousands of dogs".

•What is their background? Is it certifiable? i.e. is there a visible history going back over a reasonable period of time? (Facebook, website, etc). Are they backed up by and recommended by their former employer, association or mentor? After all you are paying for experience.

•How & where did the trainer learn their trade & over what period of time? Do they have years of hands on experience rather than having attended a course or learnt online. Do they actually have a service to provide?

•Has that trainer got a proven record regarding getting long term results with difficult, aggressive & dominant dogs? Do they show confidence around such dogs?

•What methods & philosophy does that trainer employ? Do they follow one particular discipline or are they able to offer balanced alternatives? Trainers who utilise "Positive only" methods tend to work within tight parameters which in turn limits their skill set considerably.

•Do they believe in training for food rewards? Lots of our clients come to us because we choose not to. We believe that "Treat training" is not necessary. We constantly re-train dogs who have been trained utilising this particular method.

•Dogs invariably work for praise. In which case why use food when there is no need to? Additionally why complicate matters further by using other gimmicks such as "Clickers" which serve to complicate matters further ( Dogs do not use treats or clickers themselves!). We see lots of dogs who are not driven by food or who are unhealthily overweight or who blatantly respect food more than their owner & who will not perform a drop, stay or recall command without the reward of food. Unfortunately there are some trainers who believe that the dog should "work" for food. They dictate that the only time a dog should be fed is by earning food during training sessions! Your dog deserves to enjoy a whole meal in the same way that we do!

•Is the trainer in the business of training rather than marketing? In recent times plenty of trainers have popped up online spruiking themselves as experts. Lots of them borrow buzzwords & methods that make them appear modern & up to date. They talk the talk but can they really get results?

•How much advertising do they do? A good trainer will not have to advertise very much as their history & results will speak volumes.

•How quickly can they book you in for a lesson? Most good trainers are constantly booked out weeks in advance. Another sure sign that they have a history of getting results. A good thing is worth waiting for!

•When checking a trainer's online presence: Are there photographs of the actual trainer present? Do they even identify themself by name? Are there photos or videos of the trainer actually working with dogs other than their own?

•Do they present themselves in a professional manner? i.e. How they dress, communicate, interact with both you & other people & dogs in public areas.

•Are you required to pay in advance before you see results? How do you know what the results will be? Sending your dog away to "Bootcamp" for instance is not a guarantee that you will have a better relationship with a dog who has been trained by someone else! We speak from experience!

•Is that trainer insured? Do they have public liability insurance in case things go wrong and someone makes a claim of wrongdoing?
 
Remember that the best form of advertising is word of mouth! We are lucky that this is the main route by which we obtain new clients. Over 25 years of training dogs has ensured that we are kept constantly busy offering a unique personalised service which obtains the desired results. Our many online testimonials bear this out.
 
We train lots of dogs that have been to other trainers, clubs, associations, behaviourists, etc. Some owners have been told to have their dog put to sleep, medicated, re-homed, kept away from other dogs & people, etc. In most instances we have proven that advice to be wrong in a very short period of time.
 
As with any other service - you are paying for results.  Please ensure that the person whom you select to train you & your dog has the experience, knowledge & dedication to achieve that.

 

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In order to make life as safe, pleasant and enjoyable as possible for your new dog or puppy, it pays to think ahead. The first week or so will be busy and demanding as your dog settles into his or her new environment.

Getting things right in the early days will pay off in the long term. It will pay to look around your house and garden before bringing your new dog into your home. Dogs are in awe of new surroundings and will want to explore and get into everything.

Set your rules and boundaries from the start and stick to them. If you wish certain areas of the home or particular rooms to be out of bounds then be consistent. Keep any items of value out of reach. It pays to supervise!

Protect your dog from potentially harmful items such as electrical cords and heavy items which could fall on your dog. Check your boundary. Will he be able to escape by digging under fences or by jumping over walls? Are there any hazards that need to be moved in order to prevent sharp teeth and claws investigating further? I have visited client's homes where literally thousands of dollars worth of damage has been done to plants, trees, vehicles, boats, furniture, etc. 

Picking your new dog up.

  • It is generally best to pick a new dog up as early in the day as possible. This will give him most of the first day to get to know you and his new surroundings.
  • Make sure you have obtained all relevant information such as what particular food he has been eating, 
  • Find out when he last had a meal.
  • Be prepared in case of car sickness.
  • How will he be transported? On a passenger's lap or in a secure crate or similar?
  • Obtain his health records which should list vaccinations, etc.

His arrival home.

  • Allow him to explore his new surroundings under supervision. Bear in mind that a very young dog will need to go to the toilet frequently.
  • Everyone in the household needs to know the rules in advance.
  • Always supervise children whilst around dogs.
  • Only one person at a time should handle the dog.
  • Voices should be kept quiet and everyone must be gentle.
  • If you have other pets, introduce them under supervision, one at a time.

Decide in advance where your dog is to sleep. Place his bed or crate in that position so that he learns early that is his space. He may want to go there when tired or stressed. Be prepared to allow him space and time on his own in these circumstances. 

Other things to consider.

  • A visit to the vet for a check up and vaccinations. Organise regular worming and flea treatment. Consider de-sexing.
  • Toilet training. Expect accidents. Generally it will take approximately six months for a puppy to master this. Further accidents can still happen up to a year or so of age. A nervous or excited dog will also have accidents upon meeting people and possibly other dogs. Generally, your pup will need to go to the toilet after eating, drinking, sleeping, playing, confinement. Watch out for signs such as circling, heading towards doors and windows and also looking behind furniture. You will learn to read the signs! It pays to take a puppy outside to toilet every twenty to thirty minutes. Praise when they perform! If your dog has an accident indoors do not make a fuss or tell him off. You will only confuse him. The odds are that you missed the signs or he was confined and didn't have the opportunity!
  • Socialising - Early socialisation and interaction with other animals and humans will prevent many bad habits later on. Ensure you keep your dog away from other dogs which are dominant or aggressive as these behaviours may influence your own dog's social skills and behaviours.
  • Training - Dogs are hierarchal pack animals, they all have two basic requirements : to know their place within their pack and to be capable of responding to their pack leader(s). Training will prevent a dog from developing bad habits and will give you a happy, confident, sociable companion. Training can begin approx. 3 months of age. The benefits of good training are invaluable.

Do's and don'ts.

  • Do not bath before 5 months of age as the skin is very sensitive.
  • Do not allow anyone to be rough with the pup, treat him as you would a young child.
  • Do protect pup from his environment.
  • Do give lots of love and attention but do develop rules and boundaries.
  • Do fee regularly as required (generally three times a day up to six months, and then twice a day until approx. one year old).
  • Do ensure constant access to clean water.
  • Do keep up with all medication, vaccinations and treatments, as required.
  • Do not be afraid to ask if you have concerns. Like kids, dogs do not come with a manual!

Things you might need.

  • A good quality food. Dry biscuits are best and can be mixed with meat, pet mince, pasta, rice and mixed vegetables as required.
  • Treats.
  • Toys - some dogs like to have a comfort toy or a toy to chew.
  • A dog crate which can act as his den, and can assist with toilet training.
  • Hard wearing bedding which can be washed regularly and cannot be chewed.
  • Food and water dishes (clean after each use)/
  • Collar and lead.
  • Grooming brush.
  • A baby gate for restricting access into or out of rooms.
  • A dog playpen which can be moved from location to location as needed ie. inside or outside.
  • Appropriate cleaning materials in case of accidents.

"He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion."

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When visiting a client's home for their first lesson we discuss any behavioural problems, bad habits and annoying traits their dog or puppy displays. We then discuss how their dog views life through its eyes. How it regards us, its environment and lifestyle.

In the main it becomes apparent very early on that the owner does not appreciate life from their dog's point of view. Your dog is a thinking, feeling animal with various requirements. It is as dependent upon you as a young child.

When it comes to choosing a dog what factors need we take into consideration? The following is not definitive but will hopefully provide food for thought to those looking at bringing a dog into their home.

What is your motivation or reason for getting a dog? Everyone loves a cute, cuddly puppy but this should be a lifetime commitment. Nobody should get a dog on a whim or because they walked past a pet store displaying a litter of appealing bundles of fluff! I often hear it exclaimed that raising a dog is more difficult than a child. If I had a dollar for every time I hear "Why don't they tell you that when you get a dog? " Ultimately you should have done your homework first.

Please take your time to research and ask questions of friends or family who have dogs. They are more likely to tell you the truth than those with a vested interest in removing a large sum of money from your pocket! Are you as clued up as you think you are? Have you considered how much of your time your new dog will require? Have you thought about how best to puppy proof your home? Have you researched the minefield of canine nutrition and veterinary care? Where should your dog sleep and how often does it need to eat? How do you go about toilet training? The list goes on........

Most people have in mind that they would like a certain breed of dog. Examine your personal reasoning behind this. For instance would it be wise to get a Great Dane if you live in a flat or townhouse and you have severe shoulder pain due to a chronic medical issue? Should you get a very active dog if you are not? Should you get a dog with high prey or play drive if you are not assertive by nature when required? Be realistic when it comes to selecting a dog purely by breed. I see many clients who by their own admission, in some cases, chose the wrong dog. You might love staffys but if you do not have the knowledge and are not capable of controlling one that comes from a rescue organisation and it has a history of pulling towards and being aggressive towards other animals, do you need to re-think your choice? Should a thick coated dog or those known to have breathing issues such as bulldogs be chosen if you live in a hot country?

How physically active are you? Do you relax in front of the TV or computer most evenings after work? Are you willing to get out of bed earlier in order to exercise your dog or to give up that leisure time that your dog would like to spend with you? Remember your dog will need his fair share of your time and attention. You can't just ignore him and expect him to entertain himself. Its quite simple; If you are not mentally and physically fit enough to exercise your dog frequently then do not get a dog. If you are suffering from a chronic depressive illness or housebound owing to age or lack of capability then perhaps it is not in your or a dog's best interest to live together. Dogs can become prisoners of their human's circumstances. They can easily become stir crazy if they do not get enough stimulus.

Consider your own environment and how that might impact upon your dog. If you live in a densely populated environment are you able to find space for your dog to walk and exercise on a regular basis? Likewise just because you live on a large rural property does not mean that your dog does not need to be walked because it has the space to roam on its own. There is absolutely no substitute to putting your dog on a lead and walking with it. As a wise person once told me "Fish swim, birds fly, dogs walk!"

How many hours in a day are you away from home? In other words, is it fair to leave a dog on its own for extended periods regularly? I frequently see clients who are away from home for ten hours a day or more and whom believe that a walk every couple of days is sufficient enough for their dog. Is it any wonder that so many dogs develop issues when left to their own devices more often than not? I have witnessed situations where dogs have caused thousands of dollars of damage to gardens, cars, motorcycles, furniture, etcetera and the owner does not understand why their dog is so destructive or why it suffers separation anxiety!

If your lifestyle is one that takes you away from home frequently or for extended periods of time is there someone else in your household who is willing to share the raising of your dog? Would your dog's welfare be adversely affected by long periods of absence? 

Are you willing, on your days off to take your dog places with you? Are you able to socialise your dog early on in it's life in order to avoid problems later? Are you able to commit to providing the stimulation that your dog requires by walking, playing and training?

If you live with other people have you taken them into consideration? Often one partner will inform me that they did not want a dog in the first place. Plenty of parents are left with the responsibility of raising a dog once their children have themselves flown the nest. I have known lots of situations where one partner works away from home and has left the other to bring up children, organise the household and deal with an out of control dog. If you live in shared accommodation are your housemates responsible enough to respect your dogs rules and boundaries? Is everyone likely to play their part in raising a dog properly? Does anyone in the household have a fear of dogs?

Raising a dog can be an expensive undertaking. Do you know how much it costs to feed your dog properly on a balance diet? Do you know which foods are nutritious and which are an expensive waste of money? Take veterinary bills into consideration too. If your dog were unfortunate enough to become ill or to develop allergies can you afford to take care of it? Some treatment can become exceptionally expensive. Consider pet insurance but read the small print. Many people pay a large amount of money to purchase their dog without realising that the cost of raising a dog is continuous for the rest of it's life.

When it comes to owning a dog there is a legal responsibility placed upon you. In public it is incumbent upon you to have proper control of your dog at all times. In a public place you must be able to call your dog back to you. I deal with many instances where dogs become aggressive because other, irresponsible, dog owners allow aggressive, dominant or out of control dogs off lead in public places. Just one attack on an otherwise sociable dog can be enough to turn that previously calm dog aggressive. If your dog was off it's lead in public how would you feel if it took off and caused an accident and who do you think would be found responsible for such actions? Likewise think about the consequences of your dog chasing a timid dog towards a road, approaching a snake or an aggressive dog.

Let's imagine that you have considered all of the above and that you have reached the conclusion that you believe you can successfully raise a dog properly. What about training your dog? Have you considered why that should be a necessity? After all, you may end up paying a great deal of your hard earned money towards obtaining your new best friend, would it not pay to ensure you know how to make his life as easy as possible, where there is a mutual understanding concerning rules and boundaries? After all, you wouldn't allow a child to set their own rules and boundaries, would you?

There are many differing philosophies regarding dog training. My own particular belief is that training must be balanced. More on this particular subject in future articles.

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When it comes to obtaining our new "best friend" should we not then pause to consider the reality of introducing a living, breathing, thinking, feeling creature into our domain ?

We are after all taking on an animal that is as dependent upon us as a child is. Our dog in the early days assumes that we are it's leader and competent enough to understand it's requirements.

Apart from working out which type of breed would best suit our lifestyle, we also need to be aware of how to feed our dog a nutritious diet, how to look after it's health requirements, how to socialise it, set our home up as a safe environment and how to allow it to grow & mature in a safe & stable household.

Importantly, we must also consider if we are up to training our dog. Have we seriously thought about this subject properly ?

Often when I go to a client's home for the first time I am met by a dog which is either stressed, anxious, confused, aggressive or dominant. A vet who I am currently training remarked that she witnesses exactly the same behaviours.

It is said that only one dog in ten gets a permanent home. Most are treated as a commodity & get passed on when they become too big, too boisterous or to much to handle.

What does it take to train our dog ? How much time do we need to dedicate to it ? When should we start ? How much will it cost ? What is likely to happen if we don't train our dog ? These are just a few questions you need to answer before even visiting the breeder, animal pound, pet shop or rescue centre. Otherwise you might be perpetuating the problem of those nine dogs in every ten !

Recently, whilst walking back to a client's home at the conclusion of a lesson, we met one of his neighbours. When she realised I was a trainer she looked horrified and said of the dog "Is he really that bad ?!"

As with the vast majority of people, this lady obviously would not ever consider training a pet dog.

Often, clients remark on how family or friends ask why they are wasting time or money on training a dog which is "Okay". As most of my clients will tell you, I often remark "Most humans are arrogant enough to believe they can introduce a dog into their home & it will just work. Most of the time it does not !"

Training is an education for both dog & owner. It teaches the owner to realise what your dog really requires from you. How it views you, it's place within it's family or pack & it's environment. It also teaches us how we should interact with dogs & just as importantly what we shouldn't be doing & the reasons why. Lets face it; everyone is an expert & has an opinion when it comes to training dogs ! In reality though how many of us actually know what we are doing ?

Training builds a bond, strengthening the relationship between human & dog. Training should be fun. It offers both physical & mental stimulation.

Training allows the dog to respect the owner as a firm but fair leader. After all we set rules & boundaries for the rest of the family !

Training assists in overcoming typical problems such as behavioural issues & bad habits which if left to continue could turn into major problems later.

Training adds variety into the dog's everyday life. Walking becomes more enjoyable. The more walks your dog gets the less likely it is to become bored & destructive around the home.

Training  makes you look good ! Everybody loves to see a well trained dog & how it interacts with it's owner. Nobody is impressed with an out of control dog.

Training allows for a calmer dog who doesn't make a nuisance of itself around the home and a happier dog  who will be easy to handle at the vet or groomers.

Training  is a great way of socialising your dog. It can teach the dog how to react calmly in a variety of environments.

In some cases basic training can lead on to other canine sports & activities such as showing, tracking, herding & competition.

A trained dog is a pleasure to take out in public & to own.

I am regularly invited to give a talk at the conclusion of a local vet's puppy training course. There I talk about this very subject. I answer questions & tell it as it is, warts & all.

Some of those new puppy owners accept their responsibilities & see the sense in early training. Some don't & believe that the negative outcomes will not apply to them & their new "best friend".

Unfortunately, both I & the staff at the vets regularly witness this human failing.

Too often I am informed that I am the dog's last resort. If I can't fix the problem or issues then it's the end of the road for their once beloved pet ! The vast majority of owners call me after the dog has been allowed to drift into a circle of unsociable behaviours and bad habits. It is easier to establish good habits early rather than to undo bad habits later. Most of the issues I deal with need not have become a problem in the first place had the owner known the correct way to go about imprinting acceptable behaviours in the first instance.

The most common problem that my clients encounter whilst walking or training their dog in public is other owners allowing dogs to rush up to theirs and to act in a dominant or aggressive manner and where the owner has no ability to recall their dog or to control it's behaviour of lead. The law clearly makes provision that a dog should not be off lead in public unless it's owner is able to exercise proper control.  

Remember, if your dog's behaviour causes harm to another it is you who are legally responsible. Think of training as insurance !

If you have not already done so, how about you as a responsible pet owner live up to your responsibilities & do the right thing in the first place? Train your dog before it becomes a liability both to you & itself.

Every dog deserves to be trained properly & to enjoy the benefits that training provides. Do the right thing & be the leader your dog assumes you are.

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