How To Choose a Good Puppy Training Program

Puppy Training
Getting a new puppy dog is always tremendously exciting and fun, but it can be frustrating and confusing to train your puppy to behave and to understand and follow your directions. Puppy training programs can be very helpful, but you should have realistic expectations, especially about your personal involvement and the involvement of the rest of your family in the puppy training process.

NJ Veterinarian Paul Sedlacek encourages all his puppy parents to enroll in puppy schools that either allow owners to participate directly or to stay and observe the classes. There are also puppy training programs that work with your puppy and do not allow you to watch the process. Dr. Sedlacek acknowledges that those programs can be beneficial but strongly prefers those types of programs that allow (or require) owner participation and observation for various reasons. Most importantly, for puppy training programs to be effective, owners must learn the principles and rhythms of the communication dynamics that training establishes between your dog and you, especially if you have not had enough previous experience raising dogs and you require professional assistance in the first place. Without effective and extremely consistent reinforcement of everything learned even in the best puppy training programs, your puppy will soon revert to his previous untrained state.

Husky Pups, Obedience Training
Even Well Behaved Husky Pups Need Training

So puppy school is much different from elementary school for children in that, ideally, at least one person from the family should participate in the classes. You cannot expect to just drop your puppy off at class and then have your puppy perfectly trained when you get it back. That is because it?s not just the puppy that needs training, but also, you, the owner.  It will then be your job (or that of the family member who participates in the puppy training program) to train the rest of your family to understand and implement what you and your puppy practiced in class.

The other crucial distinction between puppy training programs is between those that use only positive reinforcement training and those that emphasize dominance training or that use punishment training. Dr. Sedlacek is fundamentally opposed to training any animal with punishment because it is unnecessary, less effective, and inconsistent with our approach to animal care.

2013 Eddy with wt pup1
Attentive Training Pays Off

Before selecting any puppy training or dog obedience training program, you should take the opportunity to observe the classes in person. Dr. Sedlacek advises that clients avoid using any such program that does not allow this. Ideally, you should visit several different programs to help you recognize apparent differences in style and the performance of instructors. When you observe a class, you should note whether the puppies seem to be enjoying themselves as well as whether the explanations and demonstrations of the instructors seem understandable and effective. Watch owners who do not duplicate the instructors? demonstrations at first and see whether or not the corrections and explanations from the instructors result in noticeable improvement. Note whether the instructors are responsive and adaptive to the learning speed and temperament of individual dogs (and owners) or whether the instructors seem to rely on the same style of interaction with every dog. Do they seem to make an effort to establish trust with each dog or do they appear not to notice that some dogs might be more fearful or apprehensive than others?

Puppy Training
Well-Trained Pups Are Still Affectionate – Dr. Sedlacek with Patient & Client

Referrals are also important, but those that come spontaneously from friends and acquaintances are likely to be more objective and accurate than referrals from individuals whose information is provided to you by the program representatives, for obvious reasons. You should take the trouble to confirm the information provided to you directly by the training program. Use the Internet to Google the principals and any named instructors; search for comments posted online about the program (and not just on sites linked to or suggested by the organization). Finally, you should confirm that the organization and its programs and instructors actually possess all of the certifications and other credentials that they list. With a little due diligence on your part, you can be confident in selecting a puppy training program that will benefit your new puppy and your family.


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