Thursday, May 16, 2013

When is it best to train your dog

A few things inspired this post, first I started teaching classes down in McMinnville and held my first class down there,. Second, I was listening to an animal behaviorist speaking this morning, and third I was sitting in my daughter's kindergarten class listening to the teaching instructing her class and I was struck by how much of the same thing I do. (though I felt she was much better organized then I am, for several reason, some of which I will go over here).

When you go to train a dog you tend to fall into one of 2 categories. 
 The first one category in which most people fall, is the "new puppy" category.  These people have just brought home a cute loving little pup under the age of 12 weeks and want to get a jump start on the training.  That is the best thing to do as your pup at this age absorbs things like a sponge between the ages of 6-12 weeks.  Now I am always telling people that age does not matter if you want to train your dog, I can train the 10 yr old lab just like the 8 week old puppy, the difference there is the pup will pick up on it faster.  That all being said, if I had to pick the very best age to train your puppy, it would be before the 12th week of age. 
I know what you might be thinking, "but my vet told me to keep him away from the public until he has been given all his shots!"  I know, I have seen too often the horrible effects that Parvo can have on a family, let alone the poor pup, that may or may not survive.  So I am not telling you to completely disregard your vet's advice.  However new studies have shown (and unless your vet is fairly fresh from school, they may or may not have kept up on all the latest studies) that after the second set of shots (or your pup's first booster) as long as they stay current, going out into the public poses your pup no more harm than when it's series of vaccinations is completed.  Since your puppy learns so much and a lot of them are exposed to so little in this time frame, things like anxiety start to show up later on in their life.  Even if you didn't want to take a class right from the get go, if you were to take your pups and expose them to 5 new things a day (and make sure they have a positive experience with those things), your chances of them developing behavioral issues like fear based aggression towards people and or other dogs is greatly diminished.
And just because you bought two puppies together so they would have another dog to play with, don't think that they don't need any additional exposure to other breeds of other sizes shapes and colors.  If you think like that you will only be fooling yourself.  Sure your pup will learn some additional things from it's litter mate  but there's a great big world out there and by taking a litter mate you just expanded their bubble a little, not as much as most people tend to think.
So the bottom line is, when you get your pup, make sure you plan to start training, if you don't want to use a trainer that's fine too, just make sure you have a plan set out for your new buddy.  If you don't feel qualified to teach your pup, find someone who is, and make sure you budget it in as well, your new pup is going to cost you a lot more than it's up front price tag, so be aware.  Everything from vet bills, to new toys, dishes, chewies, treats, and food, people with new pups are often seen with quite the sticker shocked look on their faces as they walk out of the pets stores.

Now here is the second category that you will fall into if you are a dog owner.  Dog adopter.  These are people who may or may not be looking for a puppy, and even if they are looking for one, they may, or may not end up with one.  You don't always know what you are going to come home with, breed wise, age wise, or even gender wise (the best laid plans can easily be spoiled if you see just the right tail wag in the "other kennel".  Most of the time you come home with something that has already developed some problems and you are going to have to address them pretty quick if you plan on making your new addition permanent.  You may or may not have vet visits that are needed (I would recommend at least one so your vet will have a base line record to check your dog's health against if there ever is a problem), you may or may not need to get new dishes and everything as most adopters have had pets in the recent past.  Most of the time the different questions that are being addressed by an adopter are instead of "how do I teach this" it's " how do I stop this."  

Now back to my original reason for writing this post, what was the major difference I saw between the sweet, but firm kindergarten teacher and myself?  Why is it that I tend to feel more disorganized in my classes that I teach when I am trying to do the same thing she is?  I find myself in classes trying to "put out fires" more than teaching the "how to prevent fires."  "What do you mean?" I hear you asking.  Well most of the time, by the time I see your dog, he or she has already developed bad habits that you would like help getting rid of.  Now don't take that as me saying "I don't want to see you unless your dog has no problems", because that is just not true, not by a long shot.  I love helping people with their pets and I love seeing dogs bloom and grow under their families guiding hands.  In fact that is why I am posting this right now, so that you don't have to feel alone in your problems or your confusion.  I want you to know your options and feel more empowered to do the right thing for you and your dog!  I am also encouraging those who plan to bring home a new puppy home, that it might be wiser to, when picking your puppy, make sure you know how to start training right away, and if you don't find someone who does.  It's always better to teach fire prevention than have to call the fire truck after something has been destroyed.
So the answer to the question i the header, is now!

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