Teaching the Everyday Pet Owner
I, too, teach puppy classes -- and obedience classes for beginning older dogs. I get the usual mix of dogs and owners. I have dog aggressive dogs, dogs that have years of reinforcement for doing the wrong thing, dogs that live outside or rarely get interaction with their owners. I have owners who have families and little time for dogs, owners who know absolutely nothing about dogs and want an immediate fix or "the dog goes," owners who have a background in traditional training and have created some scary problems.
What do I do? I teach them. I have eight hours over a period of seven weeks with these people. Of those eight hours, I know they're going to remember only a fraction. So I make sure they come away with the most important lessons: set your dog up for success, reinforced behavior is repeated behavior, catch your dog doing something right.
I don't spend any time at all teaching people to correct their dogs. They already have plenty of experience doing that. I teach them alternatives. I show them how to manage problems and how to define the solution they want. I explain dog behavior in terms they understand and help them recognize tiny steps.
Does it work? Absolutely! These people who were inches away from giving up the dog are laughing and enjoying them the next week, amazed that their dog could learn so quickly and easily. All these people needed was to see a small change - - it gives them hope. Within a few weeks, they can't even come up with examples of problem behaviors for us to work on in class.
I give them solutions which work and work well. I make sure they undertsand what it takes to make the new behavior a permanent behavior. Positive training *is* a quick fix -- it not only changes the dog's behavior, but it changes the owner's behavior, and it fixes the relationship between them.
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List and Site Owner: Melissa Alexander, mca @ clickersolutions.com