Dogs with trainer

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Do you want to keep your dog for life?
Of course, you do! To help him become your BFF, take him to training class. Whether your dog is going to be your
companion on the couch or travel the world with you, he — and you — can benefit
from training.

Training classes help ensure that your dog has basic good manners in
public, and they strengthen the bond between you and your dog. A training class sets you both up for a lifetime of learning: You can develop a foundation for teaching your dog, and he can learn how
to learn from you. In addition, training classes can be a valuable resource when you want to build on his skills to become
involved in dog sports, therapy dog visits or other fun activities.

One note though: Group classes aren’t always the answer for every dog or dog owner. In some cases, you may
want to work one-on-one with a trainer to resolve specific issues with
your dog. And always be sure to talk to your vet about any behavioral issues, as she will know if there could be a medical component to the
problem or if you should seek out a veterinary behaviorist for more
advanced treatment. 

How to Find the Right Trainer

The best trainers not only understand
dog behavior, they are also good at teaching and motivating people. They don’t
rely on a single style of training but have a whole bag of tricks they can draw
on to teach dogs with different learning styles.

Anyone can print up business cards saying
he or she is a dog trainer, but certifications from organizations such as The Association of Professional Dog Trainers, the Karen Pryor Academy for Animal
Training & Behavior
, The Academy for Dog Trainers or the International
Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
can help you find a trainer who uses
humane methods and positive reinforcement. “These organizations require trainers to have continuing
education to keep their certifications,” Vetstreet trainer Mikkel Becker says. “Training is always
evolving, so it’s important to have someone who keeps up with the latest

To find a trainer, check the websites
of the above organizations for members in your area. Seek out recommendations
from friends or relatives who have well-trained dogs. Veterinarians, groomers
and other pet professionals may also be able to refer you to good trainers.

When you find a trainer you think suits you, ask to observe a class or two before signing up. The trainer should be
patient and creative in working with students, and all the participants should
appear to be having a good time. Avoid trainers who use harsh or inhumane
methods or who yell at dogs or people. And don’t be afraid to talk to people in the class and get their feedback, too.

Therapy dog at hospital

The Basics of Training

Your puppy’s peak learning period is
from 3 to 14 weeks of age. Of course, he can learn well after that age,
but there’s no reason to let that time go to waste. A puppy kindergarten class
will help you take advantage of that period when he’s soaking up new
information and set his paws on the road to good behavior. Ideally, you’ll be able to enroll your
new pup in a class geared toward his age as early as 10 weeks. He’ll need to have
had at least one series of vaccinations before getting started and should be exposed only to other puppies and dogs who have also been vaccinated. Be sure to get the go-ahead from your veterinarian before exposing your puppy to other dogs or enrolling him in a puppy kindergarten class.

Puppy kindergarten classes offer a
great opportunity for your puppy to socialize with other dogs of all sizes and
breeds, as well as with new people. He will also learn basic behaviors, such as sit,
stay, down, come, leave it and loose-leash walking. Trainers should also deal
with issues like house-training, nipping and jumping up. Expect this class to
last four to six weeks. You may also want to look for some fun drop-in classes for puppy
playtime during the week.

By the time he is 6 months old, your
puppy may be ready to move on to more formal obedience training. This type of class
will reinforce what he learned in puppy kindergarten and sharpen his skills. Dogs are starting to head into
adolescence at this age, which can be a rocky time for owners. A good trainer
will help you understand what to expect and how to hopefully head off some problem behaviors.

Types of Training Classes

Once your dog has completed his puppy training, he should have the basics down, but
that’s no reason for him — or you — to stop learning. If you continue teaching him
things throughout his life, you’ll help him stay mentally sharp and hopefully out of
“You need to find a class where you can problem-solve and
apply what you learn in real life and in different situations,” Becker advises.

The following are some
types of classes that may be offered by trainers in your area for adult dogs. It’s always a good idea to check with your vet before starting any new activities with your dog, especially activities that involve vigorous exercise.

AKC’s Canine Good Citizen: Canine Good Citizen training classes teach the basics your dog needs to be safe and comfortable in
public and then test your dog on it. The AKC has also just introduced Urban Canine Good Citizen for teaching and testing city skills for urban dogs.

Therapy dog classes: Teach your dog the skills he needs
to make visits
to nursing homes, hospitals, schools and other facilities.

Small dog classes: Focus on ways to handle and train small
dogs, taking
into account their size and personality.

Dog sports: These classes teach the basics of sports such as agility, herding, nose work, rally, Treibball, tracking and other sports.

Human sports: These classes can help both of you participate in standup paddleboarding, kayaking, running, hiking, camping, skijoring or another activity with your dog.

General fitness classes: Fun and safe ways to
include your dog in
your workout and give him a workout as well. These can even include dog yoga.

Training focusing on a specific situation: There are classes to help get a dog ready for a new baby or deal with other challenges. 

Tricks and games: Focus on fun skills, such as roll over, sit
up, shake,
ring a bell and jump through a hoop.

One-off, drop-in classes: These often focus on a single behavior or command, such
as come, stay,
no jump or loose-leash walking.

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