Choosing a Dog Trainer: Where to Begin?
All dog trainers are not created equal, and it’s important to understand that what may be a good fit for one owner and their dog may not necessarily be a good fit for you. So what’s thebest way to ensure that you find the right match? Research! It never hurts to ask your dog-minded friends or your veterinarian for their recommendations, and be sure to take advantage of the wealth of information on the internet. Make a list of possible trainers and see what others are saying about them. When you’ve found one that interests you, ask to observe one of their training sessions to see them in action. Inquire about their methodology (how and why they train) before enrolling your dog in training (private or class). Whether you’re seeking training for basic obedience, behavioral issues, or dog sports, below is a list of solid guidelines to follow in your selection process.
A Dog Trainer Should:
The range of training methodologies out there can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Just remember that ultimately, the training method you choose needs to be effective, promote good leadership and balance, and promote a healthy human/dog bond. Often a good trainer will adopt strategies from multiple methodologies in order to provide the most well-rounded, custom approach to training your dog. Good luck in your search!
(See full article in Humane League's Pawprints, January 2012)
Exercise and Your Dog
It’s not only about providing enough exercise…
it’s also about providing the right kind of exercise!
More dogs are ending up in shelters and rescues every day due to owners being unable to manage destructive behaviors. Dogs demonstrating poor manners, unruly and destructive behaviors, excessive barking, anxiety, and obesity are in dire need of a good exercise program. It’s a real eye-opener to realize that something as simple as more proper exercise could keep countless animals from ending up in shelters.
What people forget is that dogs will act like dogs, unless an owner helps guide the dog into learning behaviors that are more acceptable for living with humans. To be able to learn to behave properly, a dog needs to have his basic needs met. He needs a place to live, companionship, food, water and exercise. Both physical and mental exercise is extremely important! No training can fix a dog’s behavior if it is not paired with exercise. Physical exercise helps a dog's body stay healthy (muscle, joints, bones, etc.), helps a dog maintain optimum weight, and acts as a release of excessive energy. For mental stimulation and exercise, a dog needs to keep his mind busy by thinking, learning and solving. Without physical and mental exercise, a dog will have excessive energy and be bored. This can lead to health problems, behavior problems, anxiety, and possibly result in the owner surrendering the dog to a shelter, which can end in euthanasia. So it’s our responsibility to take care of our dog's basic needs and remember: a tired dog is a good dog!
Before you buy or adopt a dog, there are a few questions you need to ask. Is this breed, size and age a good fit for you? Does he fit into your lifestyle? Does your physical condition match his energy level? Every breed and age level requires different amounts of daily activity and exercise, and there is no dog on earth that does not need to be exercised daily, no matter how tiny he is.
So what are the options for exercising your best friend?
Walks - Every dog needs daily walks, ideally twice a day for at least 30-60 minutes. Walking does not resolve excessive energy problems for some dogs, but it is still good for a dog’s overall well-being.
Jogging - Dogs enjoy running, and running has huge benefits. Running is a great release of excessive energy.
Hiking – This can be done on the leash or off the leash. Hiking is a great activity for both humans and the dogs.
Biking – This is one of the easiest ways to tire out your dog! Dogs with good stamina can be easily-trained to run next to a bike (or a tricycle!). There are bike attachment products that attach to your bike with a safety feature that allows you to hook up your dog to run alongside the bike… a great workout for dog and human!
Treadmill Training – This is a good exercise opportunity for rainy or hot days, when long walks or other outdoor activities would be too exhausting to your dog.
Playing Games – Games like fetch and Frisbee are great ways of exercising your dog off the leash and spending fun time together.
Swimming – This is a great activity for some dogs, although some need to be introduced to it gradually. It has huge benefits for dogs with hip and joint problems.
Doggie Daycare – A dog must be appropriate for group play to be eligible for doggy daycare. This form of exercise is best used 2 - 3 days per week.
Dog Sports – There are many sporting activities you can do together with your dog, like agility, fly ball, rally obedience, and carting. There are so many different ways to work with your dog, with some sports being breed specific, like herding.
Dog Training Classes - It is very good for a dog’s mental exercise and overall behavior if training is paired with physical exercise. A dog uses his brain to learn, think and solve while training. Training includes obedience training, clicker training, trick classes, nose work, and much more.
Kongs, Interactive Toys, Treat Dispensers – Consider feeding your dog through one of these smart toys. Interactive toys provide great mental stimulation – the dog must truly use his brain to get his food!
Hiding Their Toys, Playing Hide-and-Seek – There are so many activities like this that don’t require a big yard or any "heavy equipment”. Just starting a simple game of Hide-and-Seek in the house can be a great way to provide fun and exercise for a little while!
It is very important to remember to make sure that any activity you choose to practice with your dog is safe for his health in addition to being fun. Having fun together will help you build a better relationship with your dog and help with overall behavior.
Why it is So Important and How to Do it Properly
Socialization means a lot more than just socializing your dog with other dogs. It means giving your dog positive exposure to the different situations, environments, people, and animals that your dog will encounter in its life, ultimately teaching your dog how to react to this stimuli in a healthy and "socially acceptable" manner (acceptable both in our society and in theirs). It is the most essential thing that a dog owner can do to prevent serious behavioral issues down the line, like aggression, fear, and anxiety. Ultimately, socialization helps to promote and nurture a dog's confidence.
So when should you begin to socialize your dog? As soon as possible! The easiest time to begin socializing is from birth to five months. At six to ten weeks, a dog is extremely sensitive to both positive and negative environmental stimuli, like loud noises. Beginning at seven weeks, a dog is highly impressionable and very open to bonding with other dogs and people. It's extremely important during this stage (and all stages, for that matter) to avoid stressful and overwhelming situations and to use only positive reinforcement.
Socialization starts from the home. Begin by exposing your dog to family and friends in a controlled environment -- invite people over to your house, and better yet, invite those who have dogs of their own and orchestrate a puppy play date. (It is important, of course, to always make sure your puppy's playmates are safe and up-to-date on all of the appropriate vaccinations.) Enrolling your puppy in a Puppy Kindergarten class (usually for puppies around eight weeks to sixteen weeks) or a Puppy Playground (usually for puppies around eight weeks to six months) will further benefit your dog’s socialization and well-being. Whatever situation you may be exposing your puppy to, remember to always keep it positive and avoid forcing the dog into any given situation. If your puppy is scared of something new, simply go slow.
When it comes to dog-to-dog socialization, getting a head start in the home is a better approach than immediately taking your dog out to a dog park, which is an uncontrolled environment with many variables. If you can find a regular playmate for your puppy to interact with, great! When puppies play, they are essentially learning how to use their mouths in a gentle manner with other dogs. They are learning what is appropriate and what is too much; how to play with each other without causing harm. This is what is known as "bite inhibition", and it is extremely difficult to teach this to a dog later on in life, as their level of inhibition (whether good or bad) has already been fully developed.
Socialization does not stop with puppyhood! It is just as important for adopted adult dogs, and it continues to play an essential role throughout a dog's entire life. When you are dealing with a rescued adult dog, safety is key. Often very little is known about the dog's background and how much they've been socialized in the past, if at all, so your approach to socialization should be slow and steady. Begin first by observing the dog -- what are they afraid of? What are they comfortable with? Through this careful observation you can begin to address the dog's areas of discomfort, whether it pertains to the environment, people, or other dogs. If you suspect any potential aggression issues, do not try to resolve the dog's issues alone, and don't hesitate to consult a professional dog trainer for advice and assistance. Enrolling your rescued adult dog in an Obedience Training class to obtain a consistent level of obedience will further benefit your dog’s socialization and overall well-being.
It is important to realize that you’ll need to take extra precautions when taking your dog out into dog parks or other uncontrolled environments. Unlike a dog park, doggie daycare is a safe environment for socialization, but keep in mind that not every dog is suitable for group play, based on temperament (i.e. highly aroused, easily stressed), behavior, and basic manners with people and other dogs. Consult with your local doggie daycare to have your dog assessed for group play compatibility.