Dog Training with Diane

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Questions & Answers

Q: I have a lot of questions about how to get my dog to stop jumping on people, etc. Will we be covering those kinds of topics too?

A: Absolutely. The skills you'll be learning are really a toolset you'll be able to apply to any kind of behavior you want to change (or create). I like to provide a lot of auxiliary information to my students and we use email for additional handouts and helpful articles. I also stay around for a few minutes between classes so you'll have time to ask me individual questions as well.

Q: I don't have a lot of time to train. Is there going to be homework?

A: Yes, there will be. I like to describe dog training as being a lot like Weight Watchers-- you can go to the weekly meetings, but it's what happens during the week between the meetings that makes the difference between progress and no progress! Everyone is stretched for time though, and you'll only need to plan for a series of short (3-5 minute) training sessions, several times a day. I like to train during TV commercials! You can squeeze in a session as you feed the dog its breakfast-- in fact, you can use the food you'd usually use for its breakfast for training, if you want to. But yes, there will be homework, and your dog's progress will depend on your ability to practice with him during the week.

Q: I want my kids to train my dog, so the dog will respect them. Should I have my son or daughter go through the training?

A: We're going to get your dog to a point where it actually understands the meaning of certain commands. Once it does, you can teach your kids how to give those commands correctly. Most people don't realize the importance of consistency while a dog is learning, and the subtle ways in which a command is given-- one person says the word like a question ("Fluffy, sit?") while the other person says it like an Army sergent ("Fido, SIT!"). These are two completely different (and confusing) experiences to a dog who is learning something new. What you do with your body when you give a command matters a lot, too, and varies from person to person unless great attention is given to it.

I want you, the adult, to learn how to train your dog. Once your dog is well trained, then your kids can learn how to effectively "command" the dog. These are two very different stages. Your kids are very welcome to come watch classes if they are patient enough and old enough to sit quietly and watch for an entire hour. But they won't be participating in the exercises in class, and your attention will need to be focused on the class. We'll be going at a pace that would make it impractical for someone under 18 to try to keep up (classes that incorporate children go much more slowly and cover a lot less material than we'll cover). We'll be able to structure a few of the homework exercises to include children who can assist you with the training-- for example, they might toss the treat on the ground when you click. The timing of the click is very important. The timing of the treat-toss is not. We don't want to make the dog off-limits to the rest of the family! We just want to preserve the training activity so you get the most value from your 8-week class.

If you are having behavior problems between the kids and your dog, let's discuss them and address them. Having the kids train the dog is not necessary to fix those problems. But I do agree that we all want to get to the point of having a well trained dog that obeys both the adults and the children in the household.

If there is enough demand among my students I will offer a special 2-hour seminar you can bring the kids to that will serve as the foundation for enabling them to understand the basic principles of positive reinforcement and consequences we'll use in our training methods.

Q: My husband wants to bring the dog some weeks, and I'd like to bring the dog other weeks. Is that OK?

A: You need to choose one person to be the trainer, and if you can't make it one week, it unfortunately won't be effective to substitute a new person. You can send your spouse to observe class if you want, and I will email or fax the homework to you. You're welcome to call me at any time with questions during the week.

Remember, just because you are the one going through class and training the dogs, it doesn't mean the dog will never obey anyone else in the family. Once your dog is thoroughly trained, it will be ready to also start obeying others if they are fairly consistent in the way they give the command.

I should also mention that it's common for family members to argue about how to handle the dog. One person is making the time and effort to take the dog to class, and others in the household innocently continue to handle the dog in ways that interfere with the training process. As an objective third party, let me say this-- while the dog is enrolled in our program, the person who is that dog's designated trainer gets to call the shots for the other family members about how that dog is to be handled. It matters. It is important. The trainer is not being picky or overly controlling. So trainers, show this to your family-- they need to take your coaching about how to interact with the dog. For example, if you ask them to stop using the word "come" and other commands until you've established meaning with the dog for that word, they need to stop. If they don't, they can't claim ignorance about the interference they are causing in the dog's training. If they persist in interfering, make them come to class with you and watch!

Q: I actually have two dogs and they both need training. Can I bring two dogs?

A: No, sorry. You need to choose one dog for this, and work with that dog throughout the whole program. You can instantly apply what you learn with one dog to the other, however, so don't worry-- if you are willing to put in the time to train two dogs at home during the week, you'll have great success. When you train each dog, confine the other dog in some way so it doesn't interrupt your training. It's OK to let the waiting dog watch the training session-- I like to tie the waiting dog's leash to a doorknob in the room so the dog is out of our reach but can watch. Crating it in another room is also OK, but they like to be with you and see the action even if they aren't the one being trained. Our method of training is so fun for the dogs that they love the training sessions you'll do at home.

Q: I may have to quit halfway through class. Are there refunds or makeup classes?

A: No, sorry. We limit our class sizes to make them really valuable to the participants, and don't offer refunds or makeup classes. But if you do have to withdraw from class, I'll still give you all the homework handouts, and will answer questions via phone, and am available for a private session or two (for a fee) to work with you individually to help you finish.

Q: I notice that dogs don't attend the first class. Why not?

A: The first class is just about teaching you. It's an explanation of our basic techniques, and a chance for everyone to ask a lot of basic questions before we actually bring the dogs in. The first time that all the dogs attend is understandably a bit chaotic because the dogs are all distracted and excited, and it's frankly pretty impossible for you to be able to focus completely on what I'm telling you while you are trying to control your dog in the midst of all these other excited dogs. So you'll be much more relaxed and be able to absorb what I'm explaining the first night if we don't have any dogs we're also trying to manage.

If you have already taken one of my classes you don't need to attend the first class at all, though you are completely welcome to.

Q: What should I bring the first night?

A: Bring proof of your dog's vaccination, and any paperwork you receive from the Parks and Rec. dept. confirming your registration for the class. Bring a jacket (we'll be outside), and bring a beach chair or something to sit on (unless you want to sit on the concrete). You would benefit from having a pen and paper to take some notes, though that's optional (I'm a note-taking kind of person).

Q: I have some addiitonal questions. Can I call you now to ask them?

A: You bet! Feel free to call me on my cellphone at 650-619-9910. I've got voicemail there too.

Q: I'm signing up for a class but is there anything I can do right now, to get a head start?

A: Yes! Thanks for asking! You are probably going to be a great trainer with that attitude! I highly recommend that you read Karen Pryor's book, "Don't Shoot the Dog" (which you can probably get at your library). She has a shorter booklet, "A dog and dolphin" which you can also get from the library. Or, you can order them at Karen's website.