Friday, October 18, 2002

Teach your dog to "sit" when you say so. No matter what danger may be near, a dog that is sitting can't get into trouble.

Sizing up a well-behaved
trainer for your dog

By Hawaiian Humane Society

A well-behaved dog is a joy to live with. If your dog is not the perfect pet, remember that good behavior needs to be taught -- by you. By teaching your dog how to behave, you'll have a happy home and a healthier dog.

Safety comes with teaching your dog "drop it" so he'll be less likely to swallow dangerous objects. He will learn more easily what is off limits, such as the stove, an anxious cat or your new baby. The time you and other family members spend in a class with your dog will be wonderfully rewarded.

Group classes give dogs a chance to socialize with each other and learn to pay attention to you when there are distractions. Here are tips to help you choose a training class:

>> Observe a class. Good instructors should encourage observation. You can also ask the instructor for references. Is everyone having fun? In a well-run class, both dogs and people will be enjoying themselves. Talk to participants after the class and ask them if their expectations for their dog's training were met.

>> What are students supposed to do? An effective instructor should demonstrate and explain behaviors dog owners will be teaching their pets.

>> Did we do it right? A skilled trainer will encourage students to reward their dogs with food treats and praise. Punishment shouldn't be used.

>> Can we practice at home? The instructor should provide clear written instructions on how to teach the behaviors outside of class.

>> Can I get extra help? Students should have ample time ito practice skills being taught and trainers should provide individual assistance.

>> How does the instructor behave? The instructor should be calm, polite, encourage dialogue and be courteous to both canine and human clients.

>> What about special problems? If you need help with soiling, barking, aggression or other problems, ask if the class will cover these issues.

>> Can we all attend? It's beneficial for the whole family to attend (there may be reasonable age restrictions). Since your dog should learn to listen to all family members, your dog will benefit from consistency.

HERE ARE MORE considerations when selecting a trainer:

>> Make sure you feel comfortable with training tools and methods used.

>> Training should not involve yelling, choking, shaking the scruff, alpha rolling (forcing the dog onto its back) or other actions that could cause your dog distress or pain.

>> Choke collars and prong collars use pain and intimidation to control a dog. They can hurt your dog and harm your relationship with him.

>> Are vaccinations required for dogs and puppies in the class? Make sure you and your veterinarian are comfortable with the requirements.

>> Because of variables in dog breeding, temperament, owner commitment and experience, a trainer cannot and should not offer guarantees. However, an instructor should be willing to ensure client satisfaction with his or her professional services.

>> Effective training must include you, so avoid anyone who wants to take your dog away and train him for you.

>> A conscientious trainer will stay informed about innovations in dog training and behavior modification. Is he or she is a member of any educational organizations, such as the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers), or endorsed by the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (NADOI)? Ask if he or she receives continuing education.

>> Ask about class size and number of assistants. With 10 or more students with one instructor, you can't expect much individual attention.

>> Don't be bullied into doing something you feel is not in your dog's best interest. You have the right to stop a trainer who, in your opinion, is causing your dog harm or distress.

The Hawaiian Humane Society offers a list of Oahu dog trainers. None are specifically endorsed or recommended and should be evaluated using the questions above. For a copy, call 946-2187, Ext. 223.

"Pet Ohana" runs the first and third Fridays of the month.

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