Frequently Asked Questions…
What is the best age to start training a puppy?
As soon as possible! There is a lot of training and education needed for both puppies and their parents. I’d recommend starting right away so we can go over how to potty and crate train your new puppy, how to start getting puppy comfortable being left alone, how to reduce nipping and chewing and similar puppy concerns. It’s also best to prevent any undesirable behaviors before bad habits start to form.
You may want to spend your first couple of weeks focusing on getting your puppy acclimated to her new home, establishing a good routine and most importantly, socialization and exposure. Basic skills are of lesser importance right away.
I have an adult dog that was never trained/I just adopted an adult dog, is it too late to train her?
Not at all! Dogs of any age can learn new behaviors. In fact, your adult dog may have a much longer attention span than a young puppy. However, depending on your dog’s age, it may take a little longer for her to learn new behaviors, especially if we need to undo any bad habits.
I’ve heard that I have to be the alpha so that my dog doesn’t become dominant over me. Is that true?
Concepts of “alpha dogs” and “dominance” are flawed and outdated. You need not be forceful in any way with your dog. Your dog will learn best with patience, consistency, and gentle training methods.
I want to use positive reinforcement training. Am I allowed to say “no” to my dog?
You can; that’s entirely up to you. However, I believe that the word “no” is vague and doesn’t give your dog any cue to follow. More importantly is to manage your dog so she’s not able to perform unwanted behavior (for example, utilizing a baby gate in the kitchen to prevent counter-surfing), reward the dog for good behavior that she exhibits (for example, rewarding her when she lies down when you’re cooking in the kitchen) and provide gentle reminders when she makes a mistake (for example, saying “leave it” or “off”, and gently guiding her away from the counters). “No” is just a word; more important is the action you associate with it. My preference is to use specific language such as “off”, “leave it”, “drop it” or “quiet” and more importantly teach those behaviors when the dog is calm rather than reacting in the moment.
Do I have to use a clicker?
No, you don’t have to use a clicker. I will never make blanket mandates about what you must do or not do in regards to your dog, and am very leery about any trainer who makes you use a tool that you have no interest in. That said, I believe using a marker of some kind – either a clicker or a spoken word — is very helpful in capturing the good behavior that we’d like to reinforce. Even a deaf dog can be taught a marker such as a thumbs up!
Do I have to use food?
No, you don’t have to use food but it most certainly will help accelerate the training process. I understand that you may not want to build a reliance on using food for the rest of your dog’s life. We will start out using food rewards for quick results and once the behavior is well learned, we will phase out the food and replace with other rewards that are meaningful to the dog (petting, playing, greeting a dog or person, etc.)
How long will it take and do you guarantee results?
Neither a teacher nor a therapist can guarantee results, and neither can I. Dogs are individuals with their own histories and habits, and learn in different time-tables. It also depends how quickly you – the dog parents – learn, how consistent you are, and how much you practice with your dog. While I can’t guarantee results, I have a very good track record. I will be completely honest with you upfront if I don’t think I’ll be able to help, and will be glad to refer you to someone else; this is especially so for behavioral issues such as severe fear, anxiety or aggression.