Dog Training | Boulder Vet Clinic
I spend a great deal of time discussing training, especially with new puppy owners. It’s a difficult topic because there is a ton of debate surrounding this issue. For example; use positive reinforcement, use treats, don’t use treats, crate-train, crate-training is bad, use choke collars, use shock collars, never use a choke or shock collar, “clicker” train, only use commands in a different language. You get the point. Many trainers are adamant in their opinions and it can be hard to know what direction to go.
I tell clients the first 4-6 months of a puppy’s life is the time to administer the “socialization vaccine” (you could also call it the “training vaccine”). This window of time is the best opportunity to teach your dog to become a responsible citizen. The reason I call it a “vaccine” is because I see more dogs with problems related to training and socialization than any of the disease we actually vaccinate for. Some example problems; dog aggression, leash aggression, kid aggression, human aggression (not just kids), jumping up on people, poor recall, unable to be restrained, unable to walk on a leash, and resource guarding (i.e. lashing out at anyone who tries to take away a high-value item like a toy or bully stick). All of these are an absolute headache for the owners, and they can have a dramatic effect on your dog’s quality of life. It can limit your ability to enjoy routine activities with your dog, and even have negative effects on your relationships with friends and family.
Some of these issues are more severe than others. However, I see a version of these in about 70% of the dogs I examine on a daily basis. I see it in my own home as well. My little Cavalier jumps up. That’s relatively minor, but it really annoys some people that come to our home. The reason he does this is because I never corrected this behavior. I told myself he’s not a 100 pound Yellow Lab, but I was lazy and never did anything about it. However, were he a 100 pound Lab, it would be a much bigger issue. That’s not a great excuse, but there is a significant difference.
Lazy is a word no one likes to hear, but in a lot of cases it’s the truth. If this offends anyone, note I said “a lot” and not “all”. I know there are some cases where owners have tried extremely hard, putting in many hours and working with trainers at a great expense to correct negative behaviors. But this is not the majority. For those that aren’t in the majority, I believe an honest self assessment would reveal that you haven’t actually put in the time. That’s not fair to the dog or the people with whom the dog interacts.
With most things in life, we can all do better. When I look at everything I do in my life, there is room for improvement everywhere I look. So I completely understand how dog training can slip down the list of priorities. In addition, you will not see sudden improvement. First you will see frustration and failure. But slowly there will be glimmers of improvement. With time, that improvement will expand and become habit. As a result, both you and your dog’s life will improve dramatically.
Regarding training styles, I always let people know I am not a trainer. Positive reinforcement and treat training has worked for me (especially for recall…i.e. calling your dog to return when off leash). My preferences aren’t to say you shouldn’t try other methods. The American Kennel Club has some good information on selecting a trainer with a directory of professional trainers (AKA Training Link Click Here).
I’ve sent all my dogs to Dog Days Training Center in Berthoud, Colorado. I love their philosophy and it has worked wonders for my dogs (again, my Cavy needs some more work on the jumping thing) but other than that, he’s a very well trained pup.
Also, there is an extremely informative Netflix documentary on a dog trainer in Oakland, California. It’s called Canine Intervention and I highly recommend it.
As for cats, I really have no idea. My cats do whatever they want. However, a guy named Jackson Galaxy is as good as it gets. He has his own show with tons of great advice, and originally started his cat behavior work through the Boulder Human Society.
So go out there and get it done. You can do it! Your home will be more peaceful, your family will thank you, your friends will be super impressed and jealous, and your dog will live a happier life.
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