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Back to School

Back to School

 

As another summer draws to a close it’s time to gear up for the exciting rush of going back to school. Kids pick out their backpacks, parents fill up calendar pages with baseball games, school plays, and band practice, and the family dog… well make sure you don’t forget about your furry best friend. For him, going “back to school” can be just as rewarding as it is for the rest of the family. Whether you brush up on your dog’s manners or take his training to the next level, don’t forget to take your dog to school!
 

THE IMPORTANCE OF TRAINING
Why send your dog to school? Training your dog benefits him, your family, and the community. Training teaches your dog rules and restraint. A well-trained dog is more likely to be embraced and enjoyed by the family, which means he’ll end up spending more time with the people he loves. Plus, a well-mannered dog will always be welcome in pet-friendly places in your area. Training has another great benefit, too—it challenges your dog mentally and physically, which will keep him busy and occupied. This gives him less of a chance to turn to destructive behaviors that come about from boredom and loneliness.
 

RUNNING THROUGH THE BASICS
When your dog first came into your life, you probably spent some time teaching him basic skills like Sit, Down, Come, and Stay. Even if you don’t have a lot of time during the back-to-school rush, you can take a few minutes out of your busy schedule to give your dog a refresher course in basic commands. Grab some small but tasty treats and see how well your dog remembers the Down cue. Don’t get discouraged if he’s a little rusty—with a little time it will come right back to him! If you’ve forgotten how best to teach basic commands, there are plenty of excellent training books available that will show you in step-by-step detail how to train your dog.
 

GETTING ADVANCED
Perhaps your dog is a wiz at the more common commands. It might be time for him to graduate to a more advanced class. Many dogs thrive on learning new things, and you’ll have the chance to show off newfound training skills yourself. In addition to training, there are myriad books for tricks and advanced training skills available. From jumping through a hoop to riding a skateboard, your dog could be a circus performer at heart. All it takes is some time and commitment on your part.
 

WHAT A SPORT
Maybe obedience skills or tricks aren’t your dog’s specialty. That’s okay! Why not go to school to learn how to compete in a sporting event? Canine sports like agility, disc dog, flyball, and canine freestyle (aka dancing with dogs) have become immensely popular in the past few years. Whether you live with a hyped-up Border Collie, an easygoing Golden Retriever, or an intense Jack Russell Terrier, there’s a sport out there that will suit your dog. Do an online search for training clubs and more information about these activities. You’ll end up having so much fun it won’t feel like school, it will feel like recess!
 

FINDING A TRAINER
One of the best ways to brush up on your dog’s training, or to learn more advanced commands, is to find a professional trainer to teach you and your dog. Unfortunately, just about anyone can hang up a shingle and call themselves a “trainer.” So how can you find the trainer that’s right for you?

  • Qualifications: How long has the trainer been in business? Not to say that newbies can’t be good, but your trainer should have experience with different types of dogs (and owners) and spent a lot of time around dogs. Ask if they belong to any training or behavior associations (like the Association of Pet Dog Trainers). This is a good sign that the trainer takes her job seriously.
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  • Certifications: While a person doesn’t need to have any certifications to be a trainer, someone who is recognized by a national organization is a very good sign. Look for designations like CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed), CBCC-KA (Certified Behavior Consultant – Knowledge Assessed), or CDTA (Certified Dog Trainer Advanced). These designations all come from respected certifying bodies, like the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.
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  • Methods: Ask the trainer about her training philosophy, and what tools and methods she uses. Old-school methods like hitting or collar jerks are not acceptable. They not only take all the fun out of training, these forceful methods can actually do harm to your dog. Look for a trainer who believes in positive reinforcement and understands the science behind positive training.
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  • Observe a class: Ask to monitor one of the trainer’s classes; if she gives you any resistance to this request, you should look elsewhere. Observe how the trainer interacts with the dogs and their owners. Are her directions clear and understandable? Is she encouraging or is there yelling? Do all the participants (dogs and humans) look like they are having fun? If so, this could be the trainer for you!

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