Although we list some resources at the end of this section, our goal here is to help give you some ideas on how to navigate the portion of the pet industry that relates to the early education of your puppy.
People are getting dogs in droves. Subsequently, the pet business is absolutely booming (valued at 17 billion dollars in 1993, it is now worth approximately 55 billion) and shows no sign of slowing down. It is also an industry that has been very fragmented and is largely unregulated. There are a host of services available to you that relate to your dogs behavior/training — some good, some not so good.
It is not our aim to endorse one service over another. Instead, the aim is to give you some ideas and resources to help you make good choices for you and your puppy.
Nothing takes the place of a good coach!
Why bother with dog training classes at all?
We encourage you to find a good dog training school and enroll your puppy. There are several reasons to take your puppy to a good trainer.
We have made every attempt on this site to cover the most important issues concerning your dog in the first 16 weeks of his life, but this is just a beginning. Once you have accomplished the socialization and the preventative styled exercises, you will have a very good base from which to work. Depending on your dog and his breed, he will continue to develop and change over the next couple of years. We recommend consulting with a trainer in conjunction with using this site.
The more you learn, the better off both you and your dog will be. When it comes to learning about dogs, there is no such thing as too much information. It is an ongoing education throughout your time together. Be wary of any dog trainer that tells you they know it all!
Also critical to your puppy’s development is his ability to play nicely with other dogs. Often the best way to ensure this is done properly is by working with a reputable dog trainer.
Dog training is unregulated. How is a consumer able to ensure they are receiving appropriate information from a good trainer? Unfortunately, some dog training methods can be harmful to your animal. There really is a benefit to your dog if you are willing to do a bit of extra work and weed out undesirable trainers.
A new trend has emerged in dog training, one that favours reward over punishment.
A new trend has emerged in dog training, one that favours reward over punishment. Although this style of training is gaining momentum, there are still trainers out there who believe in a less evolved, punitive method of dealing with dogs. The information you receive from a trainer has a direct influence on your relationship and bond with your dog as well as the dog’s relationship with the rest of the community.
Some dog training associations are beginning to self-regulate. This is good, but it’s only a partial measure and will not cover all dog trainers. Nor is a trainer’s credibility ensured just because they have their own business, work at a boarding kennel, pet store, or veterinary clinic.
Watch out for more punitive-method based dog trainers who use buzz words that can be misleading. It is similar to the phenomenon of “greenwashing” in the cleaning supplies industry: cladding a product in green packaging and not changing the toxic ingredients does not make a product environmentally sound.
There are two main styles of training: praise-based and reward-based (using treats). They both sound good, don’t they? In reality, one of them is not so nice.
This method finds its origins in the army, where dogs were chosen for a variety of duties. The animal was praised if it did something correctly when asked. If the dog did not execute the request properly, he was corrected, often harshly. Dogs trained in this manner work to avoid punishment. For this reason, trainers who use this method will not work with a dog younger than six months (see Your Puppy’s Development). This is also the origin of the myth that it is not possible to train a dog until it is over six months old.
This method of training has gained momentum. It finds its origin in the teaching of B.F. Skinner. Characteristic of Skinner and his followers is an emphasis on teaching animals to perform by a strong focus on reward. The animal receives a positive ‘payoff’ (food) for desired behavior and there is a de-emphasis on any type of punishment for undesired behavior. This style of training is nice, in that it is forgiving if the handler makes a mistake. Positive reinforcement conditions reliable behavior versus the dog working to avoid a correction. This characterizes the approach to training used on this site. If you find you would like to know more about the development of these concepts, we provide reading and website recommendations later in this section.