All Dogs should go to School
Veterinarians often advise clients about behavioral issues with their pets. Statistically, behavior problems are the number one reason dogs are given up in the first year of their life. Hopefully your pet will be with you for many years, so an obedience class or two is a small investment towards a great partnership.
I am a veterinarian with a strong interest in behavior; I have taught hundreds of dogs in group and private obedience classes. I still attend obedience classes with every new dog I acquire. I do not want a dog that obeys in my backyard, when I am alone, or with family. A well trained pet should obey when the doorbell rings, when the front door is open, and when walking down the street. In other words, you want a pet trained for normal life. For this you need to go to a strange environment with lots of other young hell hounds and say do this!
Calgary is loaded with great dog trainers in all quadrants but unfortunately anyone can market themselves as a dog trainer with no licensing. The Calgary Humane Society has a great series of classes with great trainers. Different breeds do need different approaches to teaching. Sporting breeds, like retrievers, and working breeds, like Border Collies, learn very differently from terriers and hounds. Toy dogs want to rule the world. Does the trainer understand your breed? Ask for references. What are the trainer’s credentials? Have they competed in obedience trials? What is the focus of the class? Some trainers teach general obedience, others concentrate on competitive obedience, and a few trainers in the city are able to help owners with dogs with specific problems such as aggression. Private classes are occasionally warranted. Don’t be afraid to walk away from a trainer if your if your instincts say you will not be able to work together, the best training experiences are FUN!.
The younger a puppy is started in obedience the more long term effects it will have. If all puppies in a class are vaccinated, the risk of disease is outweighed by the benefits of early training. Make sure the trainer checks all puppies’ vaccination records, no exceptions. Puppy classes are a foundation for learning with commands introduced as fun play as your puppy is socializing with other dogs in strange different environments.
Novice obedience classes start at six months of age. Obedience classes can lead to tracking, fly ball, and even dance classes. Learning is limited by your imagination. There are many ways trainers lead you through these stages and many tools that can be used. Good trainers use all of the tools as required by pet and owner. Various collars, halters, and harnesses are available and motivators range from liver, to a thrown ball, to a click associated with a treat, to a simple vocal “good dog”. Trainers teach owners the timing that is critical and how to use their tools. Actually trainers train the owners, who then train the dogs.
Owners come to me with problems ranging from separation anxiety, general destructiveness, barking at the front door, dominance issues, housetraining problems, and aggression. In all cases, I will recommend obedience classes as part of the solution. Even fearful behaviors such as thunder phobias benefit from confidence built in obedience classes. A confident and well adjusted dog is a partner you will enjoy and want with you in all your daily activities. Good judges and high scores to you if you decide to compete!
Content provided by Jennifer L. Scott, D.V.M