Each year, the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), the largest professional association for dog trainers in the world, proclaims January “National Train Your Dog Month.” The 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 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.
Even the most basic training can reap benefits. Dogs who have learned to sit and exercise some self-control can be trusted not to dash through doors, jump on guests, or grab things from your hands. A well-trained dog is a welcome member of the family and can socialize with guests and join the family on outings.
Once dogs have the basics, the two of you can go on to enjoy a wide variety of dog sports; everything from agility, to dock diving, tracking and competitive obedience. There is a sport to fit every breed of dog.
Since January is the time for New Year’s resolutions, it is the perfect time for current dog owners and those who may be considering getting a dog, to learn about the importance of training. There are a lot of dog training resources out there, and it’s important to know what to look for. The APDT website has helpful information for dog owners at www.apdt.com/petowners. Look for books, DVDs and online videos that emphasize the use of modern, humane, reward-based training.
Rewards can be anything from treats, to toys, to access to favorite activities. Reward-based training focuses on giving rewards when the dog gets it right, and taking away those rewards when they get it wrong. For example, if your dog can sit and hold still while you open the door, release him to go through (reward). If he gets up to dash through, simply shut the door (reward removal), and try again. There is no need for physical punishment or nagging. Just make it black and white, so the dog can figure out what works.
When looking for a trainer or training class, keep a few guidelines in mind. The dog training industry is not regulated, which means anyone can call themselves a dog trainer, whether or not they have the qualifications.
The most commonly accepted certifications/titles are Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT); the instructor has met training requirements, passed a certifying examination and must complete continuing education requirements to remain certified. Many CPDTs may not have the education or training experience to deal with complex behavior problems, so it’s important to interview a trainer on his or her education and experience.
Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAAB) hold a masters or Ph.D. level of education and have met experience requirements. Many focus on behavior research with universities and focus on dogs with more serious behavioral issues.
Veterinary behaviorists (DACVB) are veterinarians who have received additional education on behavior and passed an exam. They are qualified to prescribe medications to help with behavioral issues. Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists and Veterinary Behaviorists are the only ones qualified to use the term “behaviorist.”
When choosing a class or instructor, ask questions about the person’s training qualifications and philosophy. Ask to observe a class and make sure you feel comfortable with the methods used. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior has a good outline of what to look for when choosing a trainer. Check out their site at http://avsabonline.org/resources/position-statements. Taking the time to train your dog will enhance your relationship and help ensure you and your dog have a long and happy life together.
Lori Morrison CPDT is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and owner of Waggin’ Tails Ranch in Ellensburg. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.