Having a healthy dog means having a dog that’s balanced in their emotional and physical needs.  Certainly training and nutrition are key components in a holistic plan for your dog.  

Here’s a quote from Ken Ramirez, Executive Vice President of Animal Care and Animal Training at the world-class Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.  He’s an amazing trainer and works closely with Karen Pryor’s Clicker Academy and Clicker Expo.  

“My message would be simple: training is not a luxury, but a key component to good animal care. Everyone who has a pet should understand that basic fact. Training is a way to enhance the quality of life for our pets. It is far more than just teaching a dog to do a cute trick. Training is about teaching a dog (or any animal) how to live in our world safely.”  

Each year, the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, the largest professional association for dog trainers in the world, proclaims January “National Train Your Dog Month.” This campaign’s goal is to promote the importance of training and socialization to all dog owners.  

According to the Humane Society of the United States, between six and eight million dogs and cats are turned in to animal shelters each year, and about four million are euthanized for lack of good homes. Studies by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy have found that most dogs (and cats) are turned in to shelters for common behavior and training issues that could easily be solved with the assistance of a professional. In fact, research has found that training and socializing dogs when they’re young can reduce or even eliminate behavior problems in the future.  

National Train Your Dog Month LogoNational Train Your Dog Month!  

Since January is the time for New Year’s resolutions, it is the perfect time for dog owners and those who may be considering getting a dog, to learn about the importance of training for their pet. The APDT web site has a wealth of helpful information for pet owners at http://www.apdt.com/petowners. APDT’s other sites, http://www.trainyourdogmonth.com and http://www.mydoghasclass.com have additional tips and resources for dog owners. Free webinars and social media chats will occur during the month of January as well (a full listing can be found at http://www.trainyourdogmonth.com).  

Training can begin at birth since your pet is learning every minute of the day.  You have a relatively short window for socialization training and puppy play is key. Read more about the importance of Puppy Socialization at our website.  

Positive (Force Free) Trainers  

Always look for truly positive trainers – positive training works in-sync with how an animal learns  – they will repeat what they get rewarded for  – whether that’s a reward you approve of or an accidental reward!  If they don’t get a reward they’ll try something else! Dogs are like gamblers – they’re always hoping to get a reward from their efforts. This is where good training comes in.  Keep rewarding the positive behavior and ignoring the bad or unwanted behavior is key. There is an art and finesse to training your pet but the rewards are boundless!  

There are still many traditional dog trainers working today both on television and in the Bi-State area.  Learn more about becoming a benevolent leader with your dog at our Blog Post.  You do not need to resort to force, pain or punishment to train your dog!  Try your training techniques on another person and see if they pass the positive training test!   

When you’re looking for a positive trainer here are some good questions to ask:  

What kind of equipment do you use? Essentially you don’t need any equipment besides a leash (and this is for safety issues only) and some kind of reward. You’ll need a flat or round buckle collar.  No choke chains or pinch collars needed.  No-pull harnesses or a head collar are good management tools when you’re not training. We carry a wide variety of appropriate management tools at Four Muddy Paws.  

What kinds of rewards are used? Remember that rewards are anything YOUR pet finds rewarding – it might be food, or a favorite toy or even the chance to smell a tree or jump on the couch! Be creative!  

How are corrections handled? A positive trainer will reward the good behavior and ignore the bad behavior – no corrections are needed in positive training.  

How are the dogs managed in class? The adult dogs should have little interactive with each other in class.  Puppies , of course, should have ample opportunity for play, socialization and exploration in a safe environment and always under supervision.  

Here’s a great quote from positive dog trainer Grisha Stewart from Seattle Washington –  

“There is no reason to resort to violence to train dogs or fix behavior problems. That includes violence by proxy with electrical shock. Causing fear on purpose boggles my mind. That’s no way to treat another living being. Having thumbs doesn’t give us the right to push that button or pop that leash. We need to use our other major tool, instead — the creative human brain is what keeps progressive trainers from needing to pretend like we are dogs with leashes in our hands.”  

For more information on Positive Training (aka Clicker Training) check out Karen Pryor’s site – clickertraining.com  

Looking for a Local Positive Trainer?  

Looking for positive dog training classes in the Bi-State Area – check out our Resource Page on our website – many great options for you on Reward Based Training and Behavior Issues – both group and individual classes – all positive – all the time!   

GSLTC__1_Jeff, co-owner of Four Muddy Paws, is a trainer with The Greater Saint Louis Training Club   

For more info go to the GSLTC website.  

Nothing can build and strengthen the human-canine bond like training – whether it’s obedience or rally, tricks  or free-style, nose work or dock diving – you and your pet will both benefit tenfold!