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