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Liz Langham, MS, CPDT-KA
239 Mountfort Rd.
North Yarmouth, ME 04097
207 837 1613

Is Training My Dog for Me?

Letís imagine two scenarios, both involve you hosting Easter. Both involve a puppy that was acquired in February. In both scenarios your guests arrive from away. Your family excitedly runs to the door to say hello to the visitors from Massachusetts. They are wearing their Sunday best, up one notch. In the first scenario the puppy joins you for the greeting and proceeds to jump on the 4 year old and rips her tights. The puppy scurries out the front door and plays happily in the yard while you yell "Lucy come!" over and over. Finally you tackle her and bring her inside. She runs-off to pee on the rug (she didnít have a chance to do this while she was running around outside). She finally settles down for a nap until you settle down for Easter brunch. During brunch, Lucy wishes to join in and waits expectantly under the table.

In the second scenario, the guests arrive and the family greets them at the door. Emma, the puppy, is waiting patiently in her exercise pen. The guests can't wait to meet the new addition. You go to the x-pen and slowly open the gate. She waits patiently until you tell her she can come out. You put her leash on and bring her out to go potty. She goes and then comes in to play with the guests. They play fetch and hide-and-seek. Brunch is served. Emma lies on her mat while you eat and following the meal gets a bit of crepe in her bowl. What a lucky dog. Next, you wish to go for a walk before dessert. The kids walk and run with Emma. They have a long toy hanging down so she has something to grab with her mouth rather than the dresses or legs.

When I read the "what are your goals" portion of the registration forms for my dog training classes, I am not surprised to see that most clients want a dog who will stay calm when greeting people at the door and who will walk well on leash. What great desires. The first requires the dog to do an opposite "normal dog behavior" (sit rather than jump), plus use impulse control (thinking before acting). The other requires impulse control and a strong relationship with your dog. Both behaviors require training. Training should start on Day One because when you bring home your puppy, or adult dog, you are starting with a clean slate.

Adding a dog to the family is like adding another family member. Incidentally, the family member is another species. Sometimes, when we add this member, we think it understands the family expectations. However, dogs do not come knowing our language and most people do not understand dog language. I guess you can say there is a language barrier. Training a dog can help break down the barrier.

Learning to train a dog can be a great experience. You can see the results of your hard work. Imagine a dog that sits to be greeted, leaves the ibuprofen on the floor when you drop-it, walks nicely on leash, and is great with kids. I believe in basic training and continuing education so that the dog can handle the unexpected; such as spontaneous guests, travelling, coming across an off-leash dog while yours in on leash, and sudden noises. This takes time, energy, and know-how. The commitment will surely pay-off.

Presently, the requirements of my dogs are that they understand the expectations of the household (a learned set of behaviors). They learn to move away from something (like a crawling child) if they feel uneasy, they wait for what they want, such as an item that fell on the floor or the item in my hand or my childrenís hands, until they hear the okay to get it. In addition, the dogs are not allowed under the dining room table or the computer table so they do not feel inclined to guard these spaces. These behaviors are critical to co-existing cross species.

When can I Start Training?
As soon as possible! It is never too early and it is never too late. If you start on day one, you prevent "bad" habits from starting by teaching your dog "good" habits. If you have a dog that has been with you for a while, you will need to re-train the dog to get good habits and stop reinforcing (giving attention to) bad habits. By starting a dog training class right when your dog comes home, you know you are getting off to a good start. In addition, you start building a mutual relationship based on trust and respect.

Remember, when your dog comes home, he is a clean-slate (in regards to his new surroundings). Start good habits before bad ones develop. Call your local trainer, or ask your veterinarian if there is a local trainer that she would recommend. You can also visit ccpdt.com to get the name of a positive, well qualified trainer in your area. The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) maintains standards of professional competence for Pet Dog Trainers.
Written by Liz Langhan
Liz Langham MS, CPDT mis the owner of Tree Frog Farm Dog Training and Agility in North Yarmouth, ME. She has been training dogs and their people since 1994. Liz is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, mother of three, Master Gardener, and the guardian of 2 dogs, 1 cat, 1 guinea pig, and 11 chickens. Tree Frog Farm Personalized Dog Training and Agility Farm
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