Dog Obedience Training

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The Important of Breed Specific Training

Nothing frustrates me more than people who adopt a dog not understanding what that breed is all about. I do have respect though for those that decide pretty quickly that they have adopted this dog, it is now their responsibility, to take care of it. Although, in my many years in the veterinary field, volunteering for several rescue groups, and training, I have seen more than my share, I will never forget those memories of people adopting a large breed dog and later deciding to euthanize it all because it got too large for their family. Plus in many cases, these dogs had behavioral issues as well. The behavioral challenges I’m talking about were not aggression issues. For example, it was more along the lines of a Labrador that had jumped all over people or was too hyper. As I tell all of my clients on their first day of class. “I cannot take away their energy, but I can help you teach them to have some manners to accompany that energy!”

Something that I stress to every apprentice that comes through my classes is the importance of breed recognition. 0ur retriever friends are typically full of life and want nothing more than to please their human companions. The most common complaint I hear about certain breeds is that they have way too much energy. Another complaint that I frequently encounter, is that they are too mouthy. For another example, our little Aussie or Border Collie friends have gained a bad reputation from people with small children that adopt them and then later become upset and annoyed that their dog is “herding” their child. Our Terrier friends are notorious for being stubborn. The list can continue! For this reason, it is extremely important to help people understand what their dog is all about. I also tell everyone right away that they and the person sitting next to them may be having the exact same problem with their dog and I may suggest two different solutions to correct it. My responses vary, because separate breeds of dogs think, and learn differently. Therefore, in order to optimize success, I must approach the situation differently.

I have various techniques that I use when training various breeds. For example, if I have a dog that comes into class with extra energy like our retrievers, I will stress to the owner that it would be great if they could exercise them prior to class. My reasoning for this, is that after they have been exercised, they are more willing and ready to learn instead of wanting to play with all of their classmates. Also, with these breeds, I stress to the owners that they were bred to retrieve! I give them several suggestions of various games that include throwing the ball, frisbee, etc. I will suggest to them to fill up a baby pool full of water and the dog’s toys. Also, give them lots of chew toys! I have many owners later tell me that their dogs love this swimming pool activity. With herding breeds, I educate the owners once again on what their dog was bred to do. I have names and numbers of various other groups in the area that does agility and herding. I also stress to them that it is very important for their young children to not run faster and scream louder when the dog is “herding” them. This will only drive the dog to “herd” them more. Little Terriers are known for being stubborn. I encourage the owner to really focus on what the dog does right and to always end their training sessions on the owner’s terms, not the dog.

Another thing that I do with my clients is to encourage many of their dog’s talents. For example, when I have a Border Collie or an Aussie come through my class, I always encourage the owners to go on further with training. I explain to them that when you have a high drive working dog, it is important to find a constructive activity for your dog to participate in so as to ensure that he does not engage in destructive activities. Some dogs have no problem being couch potatoes and would prefer not to engage in a lot of physical activity. Many are not though! I love to hear that an owner’s goal is to have their dog become a therapy dog, or put them through agility training. These are excellent examples of how to give a high energy dog a positive focus when it comes to training.

While I do feel that we need to approach each breed a little differently, I also feel that there are some common rules that dog owners must consider. It’s often considered “cute” to the average person walking down the street if a small, and fuzzy little dog jumps up on them as a greeting. However, if a large breed dog were to jump on that same person, it would most likely be considered annoying. I stress to every dog owner that it doesn’t matter if it’s a Chihuahua or a Great Dane, they all need to have the same manners. Our Great Danes are typically gentle giants and often think that they’re the size of a Chihuahua. They want nothing more than to be someone’s companion or lap dog! However, once again, clients understanding their dog plays a big role here. If this dog, or any dog, was not properly socialized they would have a huge liability on their hands. An aggressive or fearful 200 lb. dog should not be taken lightly.

As a behaviorist, I enjoy working with my furry “little” clients and look forward to seeing them each and every week. I try to make myself available as often as possible by either phone or email to help reduce any frustration for both the owner and the dog. Most people adopt their dog on an impulse, they love the way the breed looks, or because they’re at an adoption event and that adorable furry face looks up and they end up falling in love with the doe-eyed pup. Unfortunately, most of these people do not have proper knowledge of different dog breeds. This is where my role as a behaviorist comes in. It is my job to see to it that these dogs are taught the proper the manners and to educate their owners, so that these dogs can live their lives with their owners in one home instead of being bounced around from shelter to shelter, or euthanized.

Jennifer is a former veterinary anesthesia and oncology nurse. She’s a full time student hoping to pursue a career as a veterinarian. She has been a certified trainer for almost 15 years. She has a special interest in fear biters and aggressive animals. She enjoys mentoring ABC students into becoming future trainers. When not spending time with her 2 beautiful (human) children, she and Kirby are working on their first agility trial.  (Written in 2010)

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