I tried to sort some of the FAQ’s into categories for ease of finding what you’re looking for; these are some questions that pertain to training. If you have a question you can’t find the answer to check the FAQ page for all the questions or please don’t hesitate to text, email or call!
Q: Where should I go for training? Do you offer training?
A: I do offer training here and I can also recommend someone in your area if you’re not local to me.
Q: Do I need to socialize my puppy?
A: Socialization is another key element to having a well-balanced, happy member of the family. After your dog is fully vaccinated, take him/her as many places as possible, experience strange sights, sounds, smells, textures, flooring, etc. I don’t think of socialization as the puppy needs to be friends with everyone and every dog they meet but I do think they need to see lots of new sites. I play a game called “value no value” with the puppy. So in a nut shell, if you go somewhere and the puppy wants to meet a new person, I will let them sniff/interact with the person but then I’ll call the puppy back to me and have a big party, give them treats and pets and be silly. This teaches the puppy that those other people or dogs are ok, no reason be scared of them, but THEIR person is the best thing ever. This will create a dog that ignores new people, dogs or things it is unsure of. Remember: You are responsible for your puppy’s safety and growth! Pick how new people and dogs approach your puppy carefully as a bad experience could affect his personality/working ability permanently. Try to set your puppy up for success, not failure, and make each socialization experience is fun and rewarding. Present each new experience in a way that would be least likely to scare the puppy and take meat, treats, or a favorite toy with you to reward the puppy every time he conquers something that could have been potentially scary. If the puppy is scared do not pet or try to sooth it with your voice, this encourages fearful behavior; try to get the puppy focused on you or play with the puppy to conquer its fears using drive. NOTE: SOCIALIZING A PUPPY WILL NOT AFFECT ITS PROTECTION ABILITIES AS AN ADULT DOG. A WELL-EXPOSED DOG WILL HAVE BETTER NERVE AND STABILITY IN PROTECTION.
Q: How do I crate train my puppy?
A: Crate training is important. A dog that’s properly crate trained has the benefits of reducing the chance of having separation anxiety because they learn they have their own place and it’s ok to be alone. They’re also prevented from getting in to things they shouldn’t that could be dangerous to the dog’s health (or just annoying to their owner) when you’re unable to supervise your dog. There’s many methods of crate training a dog; this is the one that has worked for me time and time again. It’s a pretty simple, quick thing to teach a dog with a little patience, timing and tough love. One thing I do to help puppies think of the crate as a good place to be is feed them in them in it – in addition to the method I’m about to describe. I start my crate training process when I can be home for several hours at a time, preferably several days in a row, but that’s not completely necessary. I also do this I conjunction with housebreaking so you can kill two birds with one stone. First, I put the crate in a room with minimal stimuli and preferably where it may muffle the noise of a screaming puppy for the sake of your ears (a bedroom in the back of the house is where I start). Second, I put the puppy in the crate. Third, stay near enough to the puppy that you can hear them and get to them pretty quickly. The puppy is going to scream; there’s no avoiding that. Listen closely and when you hear the break in screaming – starting with a few SECONDS run over and let the puppy out of the crate. At this point, play with the puppy, praise the puppy, maybe take them out in the yard and offer a potty break. After the play time I then put the puppy back in the crate, listen for a break run the crying and let them out. The key to this training method is to NEVER let them out when they’re crying. Once you’re getting puppy to be quiet for a few seconds at a time and you’re rewarding that behavior by letting them out, all you have to do is start extending the duration of the time in the crate being quiet before releasing the pup. For example, on day 1 I’ll start letting puppy out of the crate when I get 3-5 seconds of quiet, then up it to 10-15 seconds, 20-30 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, and so on. Many owners feel bad for their puppy while it’s crying and want to take it out to console it. This only teaches puppy that they get what they want (out) when they cry – effectively teaching the puppy TO cry in the crate. Another common mistake is to take the puppy out when it is crying because it makes a potty because they want to clean it up right away. Smart puppies will learn that if the he or she potties in the crate, that gets it freedom, also training it do something we don’t want. If you start from the very beginning only letting it out when it is quiet you’ll have a pup sleeping all night in the crate in just a few days. Once your puppy is quiet in the crate in a far away room you can start repeating the method as you move your pup closer to you if that’s where you want him/her.
Q: How do I housebreak my puppy?
A: My housebreaking method is done simultaneously with my crate training method and again, with a bit of patience and tough love you’ll have a house-broken pup in just a few days. To me, it is better to have a bit of a tough lesson in the beginning and have a reliably crate and house trained dog than have to battle accidents for long periods of time or a dog who tears up items, and possibly ingests unsafe things. When I am letting my puppy out of the crate to reward it from being quiet I immediately carry it out to the yard and spend 20 -30 minutes outside. If the puppy goes potty I make a spectacle of myself with praise and play as soon as they are finished to let them know that they did the right thing. I call this a “dog party.” Basically, you want your praise so ecstatic that if your neighbor was to peak over the fence while you were doing it you would be embarrassed for them to see. If the pup potties then we go inside and play, cuddle, train, etc (normal things) before doing another repetition of the crate lesson. If the puppy does NOT go potty then they do not earn their freedom and fun with you, they go right back in the crate. Then after you get your opportunity to release your puppy when it’s quiet, then back outside you go. Puppy potties: dog party and freedom/playtime for a while. Puppy doesn’t potty: back in the crate. They typically understand that they earn their freedom quickly by doing their business outside and you have a crate and house trained puppy in a matter of a few days.
Q: What is a fear period?
A: A “fear period” I typically define as a puppy who was previously acting normal and now is acting strangely afraid of things. There is a couple of times in a puppy’s life when it is more susceptible to experiencing a fear period. Typically that is right around 8 weeks and again at between 6-15 months old with the change of hormones entering puberty. A classic sign of a fear period is when your normal pup is let outside and one day he just suddenly starts lighting up barking like crazy at a trash can thats been there his entire life, or is terrified of people when he never was before. When I have a puppy that is experiencing this I try to ignore it, because often times the more we try to work through it, the more we can make it worse and leave permanent damage. Most times fear periods go away on their own and I just put the puppy “up” during this time. One thing that we must make sure we do NOT do is try to console the puppy by petting it and talking to it in a sweet voice. To a human that understands a spoken language this may console them, to a puppy who doesn’t they hear “good job, be afraid, thats the right feeling.” I ignore the symptoms or try to get the pup’s state of mind changed by playing with a toy, ball, flirt pole, etc. I generally don’t use food either unless you can effectively change their mind THEN give them the treat as a reward.
Q: How do I overcome something my pup/dog is fearful of?
A: Let me form this first in a scenario a human might better understand: Let’s say you’re TERRIFIED of spiders. Deathly afraid. Or snakes, or bees, or mice, or clowns, or water it is that you’re terrified of… if I say “here, look, spiders, won’t hurt you” and I try to hold you down and make you touch one, do you think that would make you less afraid? or would it make you freak out and possibly make it way worse? Generally it’s the latter… now if I tell you I need a shovel from the shed out back and I say “just watch out theres a few spiders in there.” You’re responsive is instantly “oh heck no, I am NOT going in there.” Right? Now, on the other hand, if I say “I need a shovel from that shed out back… Watch out because there’s a few spiders, BUT there’s a million dollars in the back of the shed and if you get me the shovel you can keep the million dollars.” Doesn’t that make you more inclined to go get the shovel? It doesn’t have to me money – it can be whatever you’re strongest motivation in life is – that’s just an example because most of us could use the extra money lol. So now how does correlate to a dog, what would be his million dollars? A well bred German Shepherd should have drive. Drive for a toy, drive for food, drive to be with his pack (you), etc. So, in short – we find out what motivates him the most and use that as his million dollars in the back of the shed. I spend a lot of time working puppies, building that drive – especially food and toy drive so that it’s like crack cocaine to them. Then, as I take them out into the world I always have something of high value with me and if I encounter something that bothers him I can pull out that toy or that food and work him through it. His mind focuses on the thing he wants, instead of the thing that is scaring him and he forgets all about it. Pretty soon I can walk him by that machine making that funny noise or whatever is scaring him because he has his toy and he’ll be less inclined to be afraid of it next time because he overcame the fear through drive, didn’t leave with a bad experience burned into his memory forever and is more confident overall going forward. Many people have expectations that their puppy should have no fear at all, none, because they’re from strong working lines – then they’re disappointed and angry that he does, often giving up on him or making it worse with their unhappy feelings (that the dog can feel). But by giving the dog “wins,” we build a dog that when he is an adult, nothing scares him. If we try to force them to “see this traffic cone isn’t scary” using saturation of walking by it 100 times often we can make them more afraid. I can help immensely with building drive in your puppy/dog too, just give me a call and we can set up a lesson as it’s far to in-depth to type out here in a short FAQ page.
Q: Isn’t a dog’s temperament just “all how you raise them”?
A: Short answer: NO. Medium length answer: this may be an unpopular opinion for some, but I’m going to say it. Genetics matter A LOT when it comes to a dog’s temperament. A dog’s genetics give it the make up for what it’s temperament can be. You can raise a Border Collie with herding genetics it’s entire life without seeing a sheep, take it out to a pasture when its 5 years old, show it a sheep and it will instantly have an innate desire to herd. Sure, there are many environmental factors that can come into play: traumatic/good experiences, environment it is raised and interactions with humans, developing Â or squashing the natural instincts it has. What it cannot change is the dog’s genetic make up. That is why you see 7 week old bird dogs stalking and pointing, 6 week old Malinois biting your pants leg, and 8 week old game-bred pit bulls fighting very seriously with their siblings. GENETICS. I’ve seen many cases where a dog has sat in a back yard, never really interacting with any part of the world, maybe he is neglected and starved, when he is saved and goes out into the world he acts totally normal and is happy to meet every human ever. No one can say that that dog was socialized properly and that’s why he’s so good-tempered, thats just who he is genetically. And on the other hand I’ve heard so many stories of dogs where the owner has put so hard and put so much time into trying to expose and socialize it, taken it to trainers of every type and it is still terrified of everything (or extremely aggressive) and unfortunately, that too is just who that dog is genetically. Genetics vary within litters and within breeds but that’s WHY we have breeds, to have an idea of what the dog will look and act like before we get it, to have dogs which fit a specific purpose. We as Americans have done a poor job with this – we breed dogs for a look and not for a personality type or working attribute and have ruined what the breed was intended to be and our ability to predict what a dog will act like. But thats a tangent for another day. All this is to say good breeders work very hard to breed dogs with temperaments that they would WANT to reproduce, they breed dog’s with the future generation – not just heir pocketbook – in mind, to produce dogs that do what they were bred intentionally to do and to have their attributes that they are supposed to.
Q: Positive only training vs. balanced training?
A: Another unpopular opinion, probably: positive only works positively…right up until it doesn’t. By that I mean, we can teach a dog something using positive only methods and he will appear to know that command, right up until he doesn’t want to or something else is more interesting, important or distracting to the dog. I teach everything to my dogs positive in the beginning then I moved to a balanced approach. Here’s an example that may help you understand why I feel this way: let’s say you have a very reliable recall on your dog, that you’ve trained positive only. You give them a treat every time they come to you and that’s worked well so far. Let’s say your dog’s food drive is a 6 on a scale of 1 to 10… One day you’re in the park with your dog who is off-leash and you call your dog to you, he comes, you give him a treat and allow him to go back to playing. This time, your dog sees a squirrel and his prey drive is an 8 out of 10. He chases the squirrel, you call him and he blows you off. Why did that happen? Because his prey drive is always going to out motivate him than his food drive and he’s never had any consequences for not coming when you call, even though he knows the command well. Another example: same dog with a 6/10 food drive has 10/10 motivation for dog aggression. Let’s say your dog sees another dog and goes nuts, jerks you down from pulling the leash so hard, gets away from you and attacks the other dog. When you get up and make it over there, they’re in a full blown dog fight. What are you supposed to do? Wave a cookie around and say “No no Pookie, stop attacking that other dog and I’ll give you a treat” ….? How many of us think that is going to work? I hope the answer is zero but likely there are people think that. This is not to call anyone stupid, but I am thinking the way a dog thinks. A pack of dogs don’t work like that so why would it work when I tried to do it? All this is to say is that there is a time and place for corrections. The level to which you correct a dog varies exponentially based on the dog’s personality – it may be just saying “no” to a soft do and it make be a hard jerk on a prong collar for a harder dog… the timing in which you give the correction is very important as well. I start every dog using positive methods. Once the command is understood by the dog, I add consequences to not following the command, which gives me a trained dog who is reliable in obeying. It can be a life or death thing…if the dog runs out in the road, I call them and they don’t come then they could be hit by a car and killed. I don’t want to be Hitler to my dog, but they still HAVE to do what’s asked of them.