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Frequently Asked Questions  

My dog should know what I want.  Why does he need training?

Bringing a dog into your family is like bringing a foreign exchange student in for a stay.  He comes from a different culture, with different practices, courtesies and norms.  He speaks a different language. What is “polite” and shared behavior among dogs is not necessarily acceptable to his human family.  Jumping up in greeting is a common “disconnect”.  Dogs jump up in greeting one another; do lots of sniffing to read their new friend; seek comfortable places to “nest” . . . the couch is a favorite … you like it after all . . . and they explore with their mouths and, as puppies, with their teeth.  Teaching your dog what is acceptable and will gain him the rewards of attention, treats, walks, and play, begins to establish that shared vocabulary and understanding between dog and human.  When we punish what we don’t want, rather than reward and reinforce what we do want, we create a very confused, even timid, dog who never knows when his actions will be punished, or why, and cannot figure out what is expected of him.

When should dog training begin?

Puppies begin training at mere weeks of age when they are still with their mother and littermates.  This is a critical period for puppies when they learn to interact socially with their littermates.  They learn what play is acceptable, when biting is too hard or play is too rough.  They learn from early exposure to humans, novel sights and sounds, surfaces, etc, if in a positive way, that novel things are just that and not a danger, or to be feared.  These experiences are fostered through their weaning period and when they become members of their own human family.  Critical periods, between 4 and 12 weeks of age,  for puppies are those in which many opportunities for careful socialization and experiences must be orchestrated by their human families.  Formal training in which behaviors are requested, captured, and reinforced lays the foundation for a confident, happy family member.  Ignoring, reinforcing or punishing dogs for their fears can be catastrophic and have lifelong implications of fear and, possibly, aggression based on anxiety and uncertainty.

Why should I spay or neuter my puppy or dog?

Millions of unwanted mixed and purebred dogs are abandoned and/or euthanized in our country every year.  Many of these dogs are not euthanized because of ill health, injury, or bad temperament.  They are euthanized merely because they are excess to a community’s ability to house and care for them.  The myth that a dog should have ONE litter before spaying, or that neutering the family dog will negatively affect his temperament has absolutely no foundation in fact.  In truth, spaying or neutering, professionally performed, at the appropriate age, prevents many potential illnesses and cancers in an adult dog.  Most importantly, it reduces the number of unwanted puppies who end up in shelters or on streets.

Why should I crate train?  Isn’t that keeping my dog in a cage?

Properly introduced and appropriately used, a crate becomes your dogs’s den, a very natural retreat similar to those in which his wild relatives, wolves and foxes, take refuge, rest, and rear their young.  As with any “novel” experience, careful and positive introduction, not excessive “penning up” should be conducted so that he feels safe and secure, not abandoned.  He discovers and anticipates great treats and soft bedding in a place to which he can choose to retreat for quiet time. During your absence you can confidently leave him for short periods, knowing that he (and your home and possessions) are safe, especially during early months of house training.

Why must I use food to get my dog to behave and how does a “clicker” enter into the picture?

Although not all dogs are motivated primarily by food, the vast majority “get it” when their behavior results in a tidbit.  Some dogs are equally, or more, motivated by an opportunity to play with a favored toy, or interact with their human; however, as a start point for convenience and efficiency, high value treats are a quick route to establishing behaviors.  The use of a clicker to mark desired behavior in training has been scientifically proven effective.  The clicker delivers a distinct and consistent signal which precisely marks the behavior and indicates a “good thing is coming”.  Unlike the human voice in which inflection, volume, and consistency vary, it is precise, succinct and results in a highly motivated, excited partner in training:  a dog who knows his behavior will get him a reward. Learning occurs very quickly!

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