Puppies – they make everyone smile, don’t they? Even when they chew on shoes, dig into the trash can, run around the house, or jump up on your legs to greet you.
The trouble is, they do need to learn when not to do these things. An untrained or poorly trained puppy will grow up to be a dog that, at best, creates nuisances every day – and at worst is a danger to the other pets and people he or she comes in contact with. You simply cannot shrug off a dog’s bad behavior the way you would a roommate or spouse who leaves dirty socks on the floor.
It’s important to start training your puppy as soon as he or she is ready to learn (which is usually at seven to eight weeks of age; house training should start at four to six months). Traditionally, it was recommended that puppies not start their basic training until six months old, when they have had all of their shots and boosters. However, we now know that six months is too late; by then a puppy may develop neuroses, phobias, and aggression that will stick around for a lifetime.
Why is good training necessary for puppies to grow up to be healthy and happy dogs?
- Good training can, literally, save your dog’s life. Teaching your dog to “stay” and “sit” and “wait” will prevent him or her from running out into traffic or bolting from your house or car. Teaching your dog to “let go” of things will prevent contamination from poisons or decomposing carcasses.
- Good training makes dogs more pleasant to be around. Dogs who bark constantly, jump up on people’s legs indiscriminately, run around the house and knock things down, “go” on the floor, etc. raise the stress and anger levels of everyone around them.
- Good training helps when you must leave your dog for long periods of time and need to have someone else watch him or her. Very few people, even the most experienced pet sitters, will want to spend time with a near-feral canine.
You will find some good puppy training tips online, of course. However, you can also hire a professional dog trainer if you feel better about an expert’s touch. What should you look out for before hiring?
- Is this trainer certified? Unfortunately, anyone can legally claim to be a dog trainer without taking any lessons. That is why it’s important to check the letters next to a trainer’s name. Is the trainer a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT, educated by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers), or a Certified Applied Animal Behavior Therapist (CAAB, requiring at least a master’s degree), who works to alleviate severe behavior issues?
- What is the trainer’s philosophy and methodology? Beware of “New Age” terminology such as “dog whisperer,” “alpha dog,” and “pack leader.” Puppy training is actually very simple; it does not need hocus-pocus evolutionary psychology. Run, don’t walk, from trainers who use cruel punishments such as choke and electronic collars, roughhousing the puppy to show who’s “alpha,” air horns, and the like.
- Does the trainer keep up-to-date on new methodologies? Just as you would expect your child’s teachers to always keep learning, your puppy’s trainer should be aware of the latest facts (not the latest fads) about dog behavior.
- Does the trainer overpromise? Dogs are not exactly like humans, but they have this in common: it takes time and patience to learn new behaviors and change damaging ones.
Where can you find a good puppy trainer? Your local ASPCA is a good start. So is the website of Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (www.ccpdt.org)
So is JobQuotes.com, which has a list of dog trainers who can help teach your pup to be a good canine citizen. We allow customers to rate our professionals honestly (the only way that matters). Why not get started now, so your pup is ready for those summer parties?