By Travis Brorsen
It’s that time again, summer is coming to an end, vacations are over and school’s back in session. But back to school doesn’t just impact our kids. It means CHANGE for your furry friends as well. This is a great time of year to be thinking about schooling/training for your dog as well. Our dogs need continued education to make sure their behavior remains positive. That means they continually need to be provided with tasks, rules and boundaries just like children and it is our job, as puppy parents, to provide that for them.
Here are some things to be thinking about so that you can provide an ongoing learning environment for your dog that will allow you to build the best possible relationship based on friendship, trust and respect
There are several options to consider when thinking about training for your dog such as classroom/group, private trainer or doing it by yourself.
Training classes are generally on a weekly basis and are most appropriate if your dog is friendly or requires socialization training. They are also a more affordable option than private training.
Here are some important things to consider when choosing a class:
Location is important, if it’s not close, you won’t go. Times of classes are important. Are they at a time you can attend or send a family member to attend. You want to know how many dogs are in each class. If there are more than 10, there is a good chance you will not get much individual attention. If you are the only one, then you are missing out on the socialization aspect.
The next option is private training sessions with a reputable trainer in your area. One consideration is finding the best trainer for you and your dog. Find someone you can afford, but don’t be afraid to ask for a discount. Set up a phone call, most trainers will do this for free. If you can’t get them on the phone, then hiring them to help with your best friend is probably a waste of time and money. A dog trainer is like a doctor or a therapist of sorts… choose someone that you can get along with, someone you don’t mind spending time with and, more importantly, someone with experience who uses positive training methods.
It is possible for you to take on the task of training your dog yourself no matter how old your dog is. However, it’s not just old dogs that need to learn new tricks. Sometimes we as humans need to learn different t ways of interacting with our dogs to reinforce positive behaviors
Three simple things to establish rules and boundaries with your “old” dog human or pet
1. Wait before eating. Even if your dog doesn’t know “wait” or “stay” you can still earn their respect before each meal (see video)
2. Use the food to reinforce old commands that need refreshing like “COME, SIT, STAY”
3. Establish boundaries and personal space. Create an environment that your dog understands is your space and they are living in it, not the other way around (see video examples: ask permission before getting on the couch, not taking things off the table, teach them “go to your bed”)
SUPPLIES FOR TRAINING
Treats are one of the best ways to get dogs to do what you want them to do. Interestingly, many people will tell me that their dog just isn’t food motivated which is simply not true. If you find that your dog isn’t food motivated during training, then there is a 99% chance you are over feeding at mealtime or are training immediately following meals. The other 1% would be a medical issue. So unless your dog is sick, make sure you are neither overfeeding or training right after meals.
When it comes to treats that work you have to realize that you are truly working with two sets of value systems. One value system is what the treat is worth and the other is what it is competing against to induce the desired behavior. Are you in the living room with zero distractions before breakfast? Just about anything will probably work! Are you in the middle of the dog park, yelling at your dog to “COME!” which is like asking a child to get out of the swimming pool at a birthday party, forget about it!
Treats and distractions should both be seen on a scale of 1 to 10. Ten being the most exciting and one being the most boring. Here’s an example of a treat scale:
3-4 Dry treat
5-6 Soft Treat
9 Chicken Breast
10 REAL BACON!
Here’s an example of a distraction scale (as in how much does your dog care about it?):
7-8 Other dogs
Verbal praise is a great reward. They higher pitch your voice is and the more excited you are will determine how valuable it is. Also, the stronger the bond and respect, the better the response.
Tools to use in training:
• Leashes Always use a four-foot-long leash. DO NOT use longer than 4 feet and definitely not extendable leashes (no control leads to lack of respect).
• Clickers DO use if you understand how they are work. If used incorrectly, you will not see the results. Clickers are all about timing. DO NOT use them if you don’t research or learn from a professional, otherwise you will waste your time.
• Harnesses DO use a harness that clips in the front if you have a dog that pulls i.e.: Easy Walk Harness. DO NOT use a harness that clips in the back or over the shoulders if you have a dog that pulls. This is basically like hooking up a horse to a carriage and asking it not to pull it. You are setting your dog up to fail.
• Kennels/Crates DO use for potty training and providing a safe, dark space for your dog to get R&R. DO NOT use for punishment.
• Shock collar/Pinch Collar NEVER. Using a shock collar or pinch collar is a lazy owner or dog trainers training aid. If you want a robot, buy a robot, not a dog. We want dogs to do things for us out of love and respect, not fear and pain!
OTHER BACK TO SCHOOL TIPS
The house gets a bit emptier when school time is back, here’s what to do when you get home and your dog has misbehaved, ripped something up, peed (beyond just a simple puppy accident).
Once your dog has misbehaved, there is no “punishment” that will get the results you are looking for. Many owners think the response of the “guilty dog” means they know what they have done. On the contrary, they are responding to the tone and energy of the owner in that very moment. They are not making the connection as to why you are angry, just that you ARE ANGRY.
Prevent the issue:
1. Put them in a crate before you leave
2. Get a trash can with a secure lid
3. Dog proof your home i.e.: don’t leave anything out that your dog could destroy or get into
4. Give your dog a lot of exercise before you leave. A tired dog is a happy dog and less destructive dog!
Travis Brorsen is one of the most sought after celebrity dog trainers in America today. As founder of Greatest American Dog Trainers, he not only continues to provide hands-on training to his canine clients and their humans, but his company is also a veritable “train the trainer” center for the next generation of top dog trainers.
Growing up on a 9,000-acre farm in Oklahoma, Travis has been around animals large and small his entire life. However, choosing to pursue a career in entertainment rather than agriculture, he moved to Los Angeles after college where he appeared in more than 20 national commercials and guest starred in several hit shows such as Desperate Housewives, JAG, Bones, Drop Dead Diva and many others.
In 2008, Travis and his 14-month old, highly energetic and untrained boxer, Presley, were selected as contestants for CBS’ national dog training competition, Greatest American Dog. While producers (and Vegas) gave the duo little chance of advancing past the first week, Travis and Presley pushed themselves to their limits and after 12 weeks of grueling competition, beat the odds and won the entire competition.
As a result of the show, Travis discovered he had a passion to help other dogs and their owners create similar positive learning and relationship building experiences and spent the next five years building a highly successful dog training business in Los Angeles. After moving to New York City in 2012 to marry his sweetheart Heather, he founded Greatest American Dog Trainers and can currently can be spotted in Manhattan working intently with a Park Avenue pooch.
Travis was nominated for TV’s Best Dynamic Duo for the Fox Reality Awards, and is a frequent guest on many TV and Radio shows such as Fox and Friends, Animal Planet’s Faithful Friends, National Geographic’s Brain Games, E! and others. He has contributed to many magazines and websites such as Good Housekeeping, Life and Dog Magazine, Boxers Magazine, Star and Hollywood Life. He was also featured in Top Dogs and Their Pets, a book published to raise money for the Cesar and Ilusion Millan Foundation.