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All Dogs Can Learn New Tricks with Training

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Sit, stay, and lay down. These common commands may seem pretty simple to teach your new puppy, but with the help of a professional dog trainer, you can take your pet's skills to the next level.

Dog training"Owners will learn the critical part about living with a dog: how to read a dog's body language," says Dr. Karen Selbert member of the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association (WVMA).

This will allow owners to intervene on their puppy's behalf, and avoid dangerous situations as the dog matures, adds Dr. Selbert.

"Owner's will experience how positive reinforcement results in a bond of trust that can change their relationship with their dog," she says. "Hopefully, they will learn to appreciate their puppy for who she/he is, discover her/his strengths and weaknesses, and learn skills they can use for life."

Before attending a training class, owners must complete the mandatory first step of finding the right trainer.

"Good trainers are like good veterinarians," says Dr. Selbert. "They stay up to date on the latest information in their field and they are skilled at communicating this to their clients."

Dog owners should also look for trainers that maintain some type of credentialing with the ability to demonstrate their participation in continuing education.

To find a trainer near you, Dr. Selbert recommends visiting forcefreewisconsin.com to see a listing of trainers belonging to Force Free Training of Wisconsin. This highly selective group of active, local dog trainers offers science based training methodology that fits well with the veterinary fear free protocol.

"Many, if not all, seek and offer referrals and easily collaborate with veterinarians seeking to meet their patient's needs," she adds.
Dr. Selbert encourages dog owners to ask the following questions before deciding on a trainer:

- Do you belong to any professional/trade association? Why or why not?
- Where did you learn your training techniques?
- When did you last attend a continuing education event?
- What equipment do you use and why do you use that equipment?
- What successes do you students experience?

There is no required credentialing for trainers, and therefore a lack of accountability. Asking these questions will help to ensure the trainer you are considering is dedicated to providing quality education to the people and dogs they work with.

For pet owners looking to start class with their new puppies, Dr. Selbert believes is it important to start class as soon as possible.

"Since the critical formation period closes at around 12-16 weeks of age, it is imperative that puppies gain some non-fearful exposure to as many new and different things as they would expect to see in their lifetime," she says.

While they should never be forced to meet scary new stimuli, known as flooding, puppies should be carefully introduced to new things and monitored for any signs that they are concerned or uncomfortable. Proper socialization is key to making training classes successful for the puppy and owner.

Prior to the first training class, owners should do their homework and read up to understand as many of the basics of learning as they can.

"Typically a good trainer will provide reading homework to be completed prior to the first active dog-person training session," says Dr. Selbert.

During class, owners should pay attention to two competing things: the dog and the instructor, with the dog always coming first.

"The owner should always be attending to the dog, studying nonverbal cues and determining if the dog is anxious, stressed, or even paying attention," she says. "While attending to the dog and the instructor can be a challenge, the trainer should be accommodating to the pet's needs."

Training classes are a brief opportunity to learn something new, so it is up to the owner to take the skills learned in class and practice them at home.

Classes and training can seem to be time consuming, but the time spent in these are an invaluable investment.

"People that take the time for puppy classes are the people that want the best outcome," says Dr. Selbert. "They are willing to do at least some of the work that we often view as the essential foundation for building a relationship which should be seen as the minimum commitment to owning a dog."

The training classes will also make visits to the veterinarian less stressful for all parties involved.

"A well trained pet is much more easily persuaded to comply with veterinary restraint and procedures," she says.

Training classes aren't just for puppies, they can be for dogs and owners at all stages of life. By asking for help from a professional, young and old dogs with their owners can learn new tricks.

"By working with a professional trainer, dog owners learn and develop ways to communicate with their pets," concludes Dr. Selbert. "This is the best way to ensure you have a trusting relationship with the four legged members of your family."

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4610 S. Biltmore Lane, Suite 107
Madison, WI 53718
Phone: (608) 257-3665
Fax: (608) 257-8989
Email: wvma@wvma.org

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