Rea Cord, Executive Director
According the American Veterinary Medical Association events page, the month of January is both National Train Your Dog Month & Walk Your Pet Month. Those two certainly go hand-in-hand as who wants to walk a dog that wants to drag you down the street the entire time!
When it comes to dogs, a significant reason many are turned in to Shelters is because of a clear lack of training, as well as not enough exercise, meaning a frustrated dog with no manners. Since many families get new pets over the holidays, January is a perfect month to look into training so that everyone can get off to a good start. And as far as exercise – with so many making New Year’s Resolutions to get more active or lose weight, what better way than by walking/hiking/jogging with an eager dog that also wants to go out for exercise and playtime.
So how do you find a dog trainer if you need some help? Of course, you can look on-line or ask on social media, but we recommend you ask your Veterinarian as a start. Just like any field, trainers come in many types and it is important to know a trainer’s philosophy to make sure it meshes with yours. BUT, here is the caveat! A trainer can take your dog from you and in five minutes likely have it responding more than you ever did, much to your chagrin. Why? A good trainer simply knows how to clearly communicate with your dog. Most of us owners talk too much, we give confusing verbal and physical signals, and our poor dog is simply not understanding what we are asking of it. An experienced trainer keeps their verbal and physical communication with your dog very clear and concise and it is like the proverbial light bulb going off for your dog. Kind of “OH, THAT is what you want me to do!” In reality – training a dog is about 75% training the owner as to how to effectively communicate with their own pet.
Of course, our dogs are as different as we are so some pick up on lessons quickly while others take a bit longer. Knowing your dog’s attention span is very important as one dog may work great for 15 minutes before losing interest and for another 5 minutes is all they can give you before they simply tune out. Some breed types are quicker on the uptake than others and knowing what really makes your dog tick also makes a big difference. Does your dog respond to treats? Or toys? Or clicks or whistles? Every dog is different so finding what gets their undivided attention can greatly improve the chance of training success.
One caution – some folks think they can send their dog ‘off’ to a trainer and they will come back and be the perfect dog – NOT. Remember – you, the owner, are a HUGE part of the training process and you have to also learn how to communicate what you want to your dog so it will understand. You can send a dog to a trainer but part of that will also be YOU spending time with your dog AND the trainer so the dog trainer can train YOU, the owner. Training of any kind takes patience and perseverance on everyone’s part, and it never really ends. Refresher training should honestly take place throughout your dog’s life – for both of you! A professional golfer isn’t successful only playing golf during tournaments – they practice, and get coaches, and research and practice more – true success entails dedication!
So get out those comfy walking or running shoes, teach your dog first how to walk nicely on a leash, and start out 2020 with daily nice long walks/runs with your dog – the reward will be a tired and better behaved dog, and perhaps a more fit & more relaxed YOU as well!
Rea Cord, M.S.
Humane Society of Elmore County
255 Central Plank Rd
Wetumpka, AL 36092