Things to Consider
The purpose of this page is to educate you and provide tips for the many choices that are available to you when you have made the decision that you would like to get your dog or puppy trained.
Who Is Really Training Your Dog?
Before I discuss the different training options that are available to you and your dog, I think there is an extremely important question that you need to ask yourself. Who is really training my dog!? Did you know that there is absolutely no governing body that regulates, certifies or licenses dog training at the state or county level here in California! That’s correct! You, who are reading this right now can go have some cards printed and you can begin advertising yourself as a dog trainer! What’s even scarier, I know several individuals who have done exactly that! Individuals who have attended a local dog training club and acquired an obedience or agility title on their dog and now believe they can train other people’s dogs too! Just because you’ve had some success with your own dog’s behavior does not make you a dog trainer. You owe it to your dog to research any prospective dog training company or individual claiming to be so. Does this individual do this as a hobby or full time? Ask for references, how many years have they been training, what is their training philosophy, have they had any formal schooling, are they recommended by any veterinarian clinics or hospitals?
Basically, there are three options to consider when you have reached the conclusion that you would like to get your dog trained or would just like to get your new puppy off to the right start. There are group classes such as Petco or local dog training clubs. There are facilities or kennels that will train your dog while he/she is being boarded for an extended period of time; this is often referred to as “doggy boot camp”. A number of the ever-popular doggy daycares offer training while your dog attends daycare several times a week with the benefit being that your dog goes home each evening. Lastly, there is in-home dog training or private one on one lessons.
Let us begin with group classes that are offered at Petco, Petsmart, dog training clubs or the local recreational center.
At Sierra Canine, we subscribe to the philosophy that there are four phases of training that a dog must go through when being trained for any level of obedience. Each phase must be trained in the following order, the learning phase, the reinforcement phase, the distraction or proofing phase and the maintenance phase.
The learning phase is when we are teaching a dog something it does not know, i.e. “sit”, “down” or “stay”. Whenever we or anyone else are teaching a dog something new there are two necessities that determine our success, firstly, that we have the dog’s attention and focus and secondly, that our training environment has minimal distractions. While keeping this phase of training in mind, allow me to describe the distraction or proofing phase.
The distraction or proofing phase of training is when we condition the dog to follow its commands regardless of its environment or surroundings. This can only be accomplished if the dog has already gone through the first two phases of training. Once we know without a doubt that the dog understands the command we are giving it and it performs consistently, only then do we incorporate distractions. For example, if I have trained my dog to “sit” and “lay down” and it will obey the commands consistently when I am in my house or back yard, it’s ready for the distraction or proofing phase of training. My dog is now ready to be taught that he is expended to follow these same commands at the park, when we have guests come over or in the presence of other dogs.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the phases of training a dog must go through to be properly trained, I will explain why most group training classes are setting your dog up for failure.
As previously stated, when you are teaching a dog something new it is in the learning phase of training. In a group atmosphere, how can we possibly expect our dog to pay attention and focus on us when it’s in a strange environment and there are six to fifteen other dogs and owners there? Group training classes, because of the way they are structured, go against the principles of dog training. In a group training atmosphere your dog is being placed in the learning phase of training, (because you’re attempting to teach your dog something new) and in the distraction phase of training, (because of the chaotic environment your dog is in) at the same time.
In my opinion most group training classes are extremely ineffective and a waste of money. If your lucky, your dog may learn to “sit” and “lay down” for a treat, but that’s about it. A number of my clients have already participated in a group training class before hiring me. I often tell my clients to enroll their dogs in an inexpensive group class after their dogs have been trained; it’s a great way to work your dog in the distraction or proofing phase of training.
As previously stated in another area of this site, I acknowledged the fact that because of various reasons, financial or otherwise, private or private in-home lessons may not be an option for some people. If a group training class is your only option or its no training at all, than obviously I would recommend a group training class. The problem that a lot of group training participants discover, even with the very best group training instructors is that their dogs follow all their obedience commands very well while on the leash in a formal obedience routine outside, but would still run out the front door, get on furniture and jump on guests. Group training along with proper leadership skills can bridge that gap in your relationship with your dog.
Training While Boarding
Another option you have after making the decision to get your dog trained is sending your dog to “doggy boot camp”. “Doggy boot camp” is just a phrase that is used to describe a kennel where your dog will be boarded for an extended period of time while it is being trained. For those dog owners who do not have a lot of time to commit or just have no interest in participating in their dog’s training, this is a viable option.
I have worked for a number of these kennels in the past and more recently have been sub-contracted to train dogs that are going to be boarded for an extended period of time, however, from a trainer’s or dog owner’s perspective it would not be my first choice. There is a certain level of stress involved when your dog is being trained regardless of how positive of rewarding we make it. The same can be said when trying to teach a kindergartner the alphabet or a second grader math problems, at one point or another stress or frustration does develop. Taking your dog to a strange place for an extended stay is stressful enough, but then having it trained by an unfamiliar person on top of that is really stressful. I like to use treats or toys for a portion of the training, when I have trained dogs that were being boarded at a kennel type facility the majority of them refused the treat or toy. Regardless of how positive or physically praising I was, the majority of dogs still appeared stressed or meek. The dogs still got trained and understood their commands, but there are better and less stressful ways of doing it. With my near thirty years in the dog training business I can also inform you that a lot of the trainers that are training dogs for basic obedience while they are being boarded kennel type facility generally have less experience. The more experienced trainers are teaching the advanced obedience courses and doing private training classes. Less experienced trainers also tend to be harder on the dogs.
This is where Sierra Canine is different We do offer board and train programs, but we only take on two dogs at a time. Our training with your dog is motivational, personalized and relationship developing. Your dog will not be locked in kennel run all day, but in our home instead! We believe that having your dog or puppy living in our home with us decreases or eliminates the stress that can develop. For more information on our board and train program, please click here.
Doggy Daycares have become extremely popular as of late and some do offer training if your dog visits at least a couple of times a week. Basically, all the same negatives as previously mentioned still apply when your dog is being trained while being boarded in a kennel facility. The only advantage to your dog is the fact that they get to go home at the end of each visit.
Remember, training should be a fun experience for you and your dog and when you participate in your dog’s training the bond between dog and owner is strengthened and your dog will look to you as his pack leader!
In-Home or Owner Participation Training
The last option to discuss is in-home dog training or owner participation training. In my professional opinion, in-home dog training or one on one private training is the best and most effective choice you have when deciding to get your dog trained in basic or advanced obedience. Your home and yard are a familiar and comfortable place for your dog so it makes a great training environment. For the most part, we can control the level of distraction there is as well as making sure its minimal while your dog is learning something new and then increased in the distraction or proofing phase of training. You can observe how your dog is being trained making sure things are done properly and that your dog isn’t being yanked around a yard by an inexperienced trainer trying to meet a dead line. Participating in your dog’s training will ensure that it performs its commands just as or more consistently for you as it does for your trainer. Working and practicing with your dog one on one will strengthen the bond you have together because they will be eager to please you and you will grow ever increasingly proud! Having a trainer come to your home also ensures that the behavioral problems that it is displaying can be witnessed and corrected. After your dog has learned all of its basic obedience commands they then can be incorporated into your everyday life, such as having your dog sit and stay off to the side when guests enter your home, not running out any open doors or being told to “down stay” on your living room floor while you eat. This control cannot be achieved by participating in a group training class.
Sierra Canine works differently! In most cases, I will personally answer your questions and set an appointment upon your initial call. Once the appointment is set, I will legitimately evaluate your dog and discuss any behavioral problems and training goals and should you decide to enroll, I will be personally training you and your dog.
There are other good dog training companies out there, just make sure your comparing apples to apples. The person evaluating your dog should be a trainer. If they are, but are not the one who will be doing the training, make sure you know who will be.