If I train my dog using treats - do I need to use them forever?
If used correctly you should not use treats indefinitely. During initial training you should be generous and consistent with food rewards. This helps your dog quickly learn the difference between correct and incorrect responses.
Next, it is important to put these skills into real life situations. Your dog needs to learn how to use obedience in the real world when surrounded by distractions. At this point, you would continue to use food rewards.
However, once your dog has mastered a skill it is in your best interest to wean your dog away from treats. Dogs behave better when they work for a wide variety of rewards. They also obey better when rewards are unpredictable and random. At Awesome Dogs we show owners how to wean away from food rewards in the final week of level one class.
Will using food make my dog aggressive?
No it will not. We have found no research or evidence that shows a causal relationship between food rewards and aggression. To the contrary, many research studies show using food rewards carries less risk of triggering aggression than other types of training methods.
What are clickers?
A clicker is a training tool. It marks correct behaviours and lets the dog know it has earned a treat. For example, if a dog sits an owner would click while the dog's behind was on the ground. The dog would be given a small treat. With repetition, the dog learns that "owners like it when you sit." Since the dog has been rewarded, it will sit more often.
Why can't you say, "Good dog" instead of using a clicker?
You can use words like "good dog" instead of using a clicker. But, expect progress to be much slower. We find that clickers give fast, effective results and as such we encourage their use. If owners want to mark good behaviour and a clicker is not available, we recommend using a short word like, "yes" instead of a click. It offers greater precision.
Do I have to use the clicker forever?
No. The clicker is a teaching tool. It is used to teach new behaviours. Once a dog has mastered a skill, it is no longer used because the dog has learned the exercise.
How do I correct mistakes using positive dog training methods?
We do not believe in using pain to correct dogs. Withholding the reward provides enough feedback for most dogs. It learns it was wrong because a treat was not earned.
Being positive does not mean that owners should be permissive. Structure and boundaries are important. Dogs are rewarded for doing the right thing, but they are not permitted to run amok.
It's very much like teaching a child a new skill such as math. Poking, prodding, verbally correcting or spanking are not necessary. In fact those tactics can cause harm. Instead the child should be kept at an appropriate level with the structure and boundaries that support learning.
Similarly, dogs do not need physical corrections, verbal reprimands or poking and prodding. They need an owner that keeps them at an appropriate level and teaches the basics really well. Corrections should always be positive and constructive.
My dog is not motivated by food treats - what can I use instead?
Only dead dogs are not motivated by food. All living dogs eat. The question is "why isn't your dog motivated by food treats?" There are several possible reasons. It could be your dog has an underlying health condition. Over excitement, stress and anxiety also can cause a dog to refuse food. Finally, it is also possible your dog is already full. Identify and work with the root of the problem instead of looking for other motivators.
Will my puppy get to play with other puppies in class?
We offer small group classes and make decisions about play sessions based on the dogs in the class. Timid dogs may need a more gradual introduction to the other animals. Rough dogs may need to learn how to lie down and let smaller dogs approach. We strive to make socialization experiences positive for all the puppies in class. At times dogs may visit on leash - other times they will be allowed to play. That choice is at the discretion of the trainer.
What age should my puppy start classes?
With positive reinforcement dog training, you can start training your puppy as soon as it comes home. However, young puppies may not yet be fully vaccinated. Exposure to other dogs can put your dog at risk of contracting certain illnesses. Vaccination schedules can vary.
Some breeders start vaccines earlier than others - changing the date at which they are completed. There are other times when veterinarians feel vaccines were not started correctly and need to be done again. Still other veterinarians use a more holistic approach. Vaccines are spread over a longer period of time.
There are also times when behaviour problems are severe enough that a veterinarian may recommend risking exposure to other dogs before vaccines have been completed.
Your veterinarian will know exactly when your puppy is able to begin classes. Ask the veterinarian for a start date when you take your puppy in for their initial checkup.
How much homework will we need to do?
Regular homework and attendance is important. However, research clearly shows that dogs learn more quickly when given breaks between training sessions. Focus on quality rather than quantity.
Can my kids come to class?
Parents know their children best. Some children want to participate. Others do not. Just remember that an hour can be a long time for young children. You are here to focus on your dog. It is also important that children do not disturb or interfere with the other dogs in class. Some exercises are not suitable for young children.
Never do anything to a dog that you don't want your child imitating with someone else's unknown and potentially aggressive dog. When older children are active participants we are more than willing to show them a few tricks to help them bond further with the pet. If you do decide to bring children, make sure you also bring something to occupy their time should they get bored.
What types of collars and leashes do we need?
A plain buckle collar is more than sufficient. We also like body harnesses and no pull harnesses like the Easy Walk (www.premier.com/View.aspx?page=dogs/products/collars/easywalk/description), Sense-ation/Sense-ible harnesses (http://www.softouchconcepts.com). Head halters like the Gentle Leader (www.gentleleader.ca) are acceptable so long as owners take the time to get the dog accustomed to the product. Dogs with short muzzles may find products like the Black Dog Head Halter (www.blackdog.net.au/index.php) useful as they are designed to be custom fit. This is not an endorsement of these products. But they are products that clients speak highly of. If your dog is not accustomed to these products, please feel free to bring it to class where we can fit the product for you.
When purchasing leashes a plain 6 foot leash is all you need. If you're looking for a multi-use leash or a longer line consider a product like Best Leash (www.bestleash.com). It's a multipurpose leash that can be used hands free. It is also long enough to be used as a longer line, tether and can also be used for walking two dogs simultaneously.
Please do not use any collars that cause pain such as choke collars or pinch/prong collars. Retractable leashes tend to be awkward and not necessarily a great choice when it comes to training your dog.
What type of treats should we use?
At home you can use your dog's kibble as long as there are few distractions. In class, please bring something your dog loves. When working around distractions, do not be stingey! The best option is a mixed bag of different items. Avoid dry biscuits. Semi-moist dog treats like Rollover, Nature's Balance are a good choice. You can also try Benny's freeze dried products. A treat should be about the size of a large pea. By making a doggie "trail mix" of various items, your dog is less likely to get bored.