Q: My vet says I should take my dog
to obedience class but I can't afford a trainer! What can I do?
A: Many people think that obedience
training means hiring an expensive trainer or sending their dogs away
to school. Not so! Reasonably priced obedience classes are offered in
almost every city and they're open to the public. Most of them are
sponsored by local all-breed kennel clubs, training clubs, veterinary
clinics and humane societies.
A typical obedience class meets for an
hour a week throughout a 6-9 week period. The cost for an entire
session usually ranges between $40-80. During this time, you'll learn
how to teach your dog to obey basic commands like sit, come, lie down,
stay and heel. You'll also learn how to handle your dog around
strangers, in unfamiliar places and around other dogs.
Class size is limited to the number of
dogs and owners the instructor feels he or she can properly handle.
You can usually find a class that's geared to your level of
experience. If this is your first dog or you've never tried to train
before, a beginner's class would be a good place to start.
Q: How do I find an obedience class?
A: Easy! The
American Kennel Club can provide you with contact information for
the all-breed kennel clubs and obedience clubs throughout your area.
Most of these clubs sponsor public classes and will be happy to tell
you about them. The Association of
Pet Dog Trainers can help you locate professional trainers that
hold public classes as well. Veterinary clinics, animal
shelters, boarding kennels, grooming shops and pet supply stores can
all refer you to training clubs and classes, too.
Q: Can't I just get a book and train
my dog at home?
A: Yes, you can but classes give you
definite advantages! Many people learn better when they're shown
something in person rather than looking at diagrams or reading words
in a book. The instructor can demonstrate exactly how to give an
effective correction and what the right tone of voice sounds like.
Solving problems is easier in a class
environment. A good instructor will observe how you interact with your
dog and help you work better together. You'll learn from the other
owners in the class, too, as you see what works (or doesn't work) for
Class also gives your dog something
important that he doesn't get at home - distractions. Many dogs obey
perfectly well in places where everything is familiar (and maybe even
boring) to them. They often forget all their training when they're out
in the real world where there's so much to see, smell and chase. In
class, you'll learn how to keep your dog's attention even though he's
in a strange place with all kinds of interesting things going on
Q: I took your advice and went
through an obedience class with my dog. I couldn't believe how fast
she learned! She was the best dog there. Now that classes are over,
though, she doesn't pay attention anymore and acts like she didn't
learn a thing. What went wrong? Did I waste my time?
A: Not at all! Obedience class is just
the first stop on the road to a well-trained dog. Classes train
-people-, not dogs. What you learned in class was how to train your
dog. In class, you were taught how to give commands and how to enforce
them. You learned how to encourage your dog to do the right thing and
how to correct her when she made a mistake.
What you need to do now is apply what
you've learned to your everyday life with your dog. In class, if you
told your dog to sit and she didn't, what did you do? If she broke a
stay, what did you do about it? You corrected her and put her back
into position, didn't you? To get your dog to behave well at home, you
need to follow the same procedures that you did in class.
Training is a project that's never
quite finished. Dogs quickly forget their training if it's not
practiced regularly. You can easily include little practice sessions
in your daily life: put her on a sit/stay while you fix her dinner,
have her heel to the mailbox with you, lie down while you're eating
supper, etc. In class you were shown techniques and given the tools to
get your dog's attention and her obedience. All you have to do now is
put them to good use!
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This article was written and copyrighted by Vicki DeGruy.
Originally published in the DOG OWNERS GUIDE, an award winning
newspaper, it is reproduced here with permission. Reproduction for other than personal home use is prohibited.
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