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The importance of training the basics

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By Sue Williams Bsc, GODT(MT), MCFBA, Chairwoman Guild of Dog Trainers 10 December 2014


This week I have been really busy helping clients with their puppies. Two pups I saw had attended classes. The first was a 6mth old Lab who had been going to classes since he was 12 weeks old. His owners came to see me as they were concerned that his behaviour was going down hill as he was turning into a delinquent teenager and not responding to commands unless he chose to. He had been trained using food incorrectly. The second, a sensitive 14 week old collie who had been told in a class to put a chain on the pup and pull her around to make her walk on a lead and to use a similar technique when she mouthed! Thank goodness the owners chose to ignore the trainer and came to see me! These cases really upset me and made me think just how varied peoples opinions on how to train puppies are. Training is about education and teaching it has to be effective but kind, fair and fun unlike what these two pups had experienced.

So far my training with Kali has focused on the basics. Often people underestimate the importance of the basics yet in my opinion these skills are arguably the most important your puppy needs to learn. They are in essence what makes a dog sociably acceptable. In addition they create a foundation which can be built on whatever you intend to do with your dog. They also make sure your dog can lead a fulfilled life. Imagine how much fun your dog would miss out on if it never went off the lead or worse still there are hundreds of dogs who are not even walked as their owners can’t cope with being dragged down the street.

In my opinion every dog needs to understand and respond to a recall, slack lead walking, basic positions, play retrieve and have a basic stay.

When I’m out with my dogs I am often asked how I teach my dogs to be so well behaved and happy. Im so proud of comments such as these.

I love dogs they are my passion and I want to share what I have learned so that other people can benefit when they train their dogs.

My success is no big secret it’s simply down to years of practical experience. I know that the reality is most people won’t have had the time or opportunity to have gained my skill but they still need to find an method they can use effectively to train their pet. As a result I developed a system based on both solid academic theory and my hands on experience with literally thousands of dogs from pups to adults. It’s simple yet effective and allows you to guide and educate whilst making the learning process fun yet still maintaining control.

I call this system ‘Operant Dog Training’

Im often asked surely giving a dog a choice on how to act allows it to think for it self and therefore you are not in control?

Well the answer is yes and no. Yes I actually want to create a dog who can make a decision and think for itself. The important part is when im giving a choice I’m setting it up so I know what choice the dog will make. People often mix up what control means they think that it involves adopting a bully boy approach. This couldn’t be more wrong. To do this would be destructive and your dog would learn little if anything other than to resent training and further more it would damage your relationship. With my method I am most definitely in control as I am in effect controlling the choice made and therefore whether a reward is given. In actual fact I create control using the techniques. Its all very low key, subtle and the dog enjoys itself.

Operant Dog Training is something I use with all the dogs I work with and teach it to my clients. The results are amazing! Dogs learn quickly and are happy to respond even with high level distractions. Kali is a great example of the system, being a Malinois she offers me challenges associated with high drive, prey orientated breeds. A working Malinois is not a novice dog so I hope she highlights just how effective these training methods are and that you decide to use these fun, kind techniques with your puppy.

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