Frequently Asked Questions –
FAQs – Doggie Manners –
Los Angeles Puppy Dog Training
What makes you different from other dog trainers?
Well, I am the only dog trainer in the world who is concurrently being endorsed by the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors, certified by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, the AKC as a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, and a clinical member of the International Association of Dog Behavior Consultants. Dog training is my full-time profession. I have taken and will continue to take classes and seminars as well as read, read, read, and read some more to expand my knowledge. Check out my Dog Training Resume’.
How does that help you? I’ve learned many methods of training and tricks of the trade, and I can therefore choose what best suits you and your dog. I learn from every person and every dog I work with and then use that knowledge to help my next client.
Our sessions together are fun and enjoyable for both you and your dog — we laugh a lot, but we work on what’s important to you. I want you to both look forward to training and see positive results. I care about you and your dog and want you to have the best possible relationship.
Do you guarantee that you will train my dog?
Honestly, I can’t. I belong to the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, and their Code of Ethics says that I cannot make that kind of a guarantee. Please let me explain why. You know how to drive your car, and you generally do a pretty good job. But, can you guarantee that tomorrow morning you will not have an accident going to work? Can you guarantee that you will not exceed the speed limit? You have 100% control over your behavior, and you still can’t make those guarantees. There are so many factors that affect your behavior. If you find another trainer that says s/he can guarantee anything about your dog, then in my opinion that’s disingenuous and unethical.
Here’s something I can guarantee: that I will give you all my knowledge and experience to help you and your dog. I will be with you every step of the way to give you support and answer your questions. I have a lot of resources at my disposal (my personal library of over 1,000 books, tapes, DVDs, videos; online discussion groups; and conversations with other trainers to name a few), and I’ll guarantee that I’ll do the absolute best job I can to help you achieve your goals — by giving a customized approach to you and your dog and my commitment to work with you.
Please take a look at the Testimonials to see all the good things past clients have said about me and also About Us to see my extensive training and experience.
What is your philosophy or method of dog training?
I use a reward-based training system. As your dog is learning, I reward him (and you!) for doing something correctly. The “old” method of training was punishment based, and the handler jerked the choke chain to punish the dog as he was learning. No one ever taught the poor dog what was right, but he found out quickly what was wrong. I was never comfortable with that punishment-based system, but that’s the only way of training that was around at that time. Some trainers still use that system even today. That’s unfortunate because there is a better way. (How do you feel about going to a doctor who has not kept up on current medical advances???) I don’t think it’s fair to punish a dog for doing the wrong thing when he has never been taught the right thing – he’s not a mind reader.
I like to show your dog what to do in baby steps, rewarding him when he does that step correctly, then making the next step a little more difficult, rewarding him again, and repeating that process until he learns the desired behavior. It’s laying a good foundation both for teaching what you want your dog to do and also for bonding with your dog.
We are actually teaching your dog to learn and to enjoy learning. Once your dog knows how to learn, training becomes a fun game, and you can teach him to do anything that he is physically capable of doing. It’s building a good relationship with your dog. When the training session finishes, your dog is usually VERY disappointed because he wants to continue!
Using a reward-based system does NOT mean being permissive. There are consequences for behavior — and that sometimes means punishment — whether it’s good or bad. What’s important is how you administer those consequences.
Do you use punishment?
That is such a loaded question in today’s world where many dog trainers claim to be positive only. “Punishment” goes by a lot of different names — “correction,” “instructive reprimand,” and many more. Please continue to read to hear the definition of “punishment” when it comes to dog training.
Punishment many times is equated with physical punishment — hitting the dog, popping a choke chain, etc. — and not all punishment is physical. There are a lot of trainers out there that say they don’t use punishment. But it depends on what the definition is. Webster’s definition of punishment is imposing a penalty for a behavior. Having to pay a penalty decreases the likelihood of that behavior recurring in the future. So when you’re driving your car and the light turns red, you’re being punished because the presence of the red light is preventing you from going forward. Are you harmed for life because you were punished at the red light or if you went through the red light and got a ticket? I don’t think so.
But, let’s differentiate between punishment, discipline, and abuse. Punishment means subjecting a person or animal to a penalty for a wrongdoing — in other words, anything that tries to make a behavior stop — and discipline implies giving guidelines to your dog in order to bring him under control. An example of discipline is having your dog sit until you release him to go for a walk so he won’t barge out the door (which, by the way, takes only about five minutes to teach). Punishment when it is used as discipline or as a teaching tool is not abuse. That’s the way I use it. Think of it more as a penalty for overstepping his bounds.
Abuse is treating someone or something with intent to injure, harm, or damage. Abuse is hanging your dog on a choke chain if he digs a hole in your yard. Abuse is kicking your dog when you are angry with him. I do not abuse dogs.
I will not do anything that makes you uncomfortable. I care just as much how you feel as how your dog learns.
If you scream “no” at your dog because you don’t like what he is doing, you are punishing him because you are trying to make him stop what he is doing. Punishment is *anything* that tries to make a behavior stop. Newsflash — if you keep repeating “no” and your dog does not stop, your “punishment” is ineffective! It actually degrades the relationship between you and your dog because it is a miscommunication — or even noncommunication from your dog’s perspective — since your dog doesn’t know what you want him to do.
So instead of saying “no,” what do you want him to do? Let’s say he is jumping on you. Do you want him to play baseball? Bake a cake? Tear up your couch? Pee on your leg? Get a toy? Or do you want him to have four on the floor?
When you tell me specifically what you want him to do, then we can train him to do that. Just saying “no” is too vague for many dogs — they need more info. You may be upset at what he’s doing, but he needs to know exactly what you want him to do. And, even worse, you may think you are punishing him when you actually are rewarding him — what you intend and how your dog interprets what you do many times are different.
If I see my dog lifting his leg on my new couch, yes, I’m going to tell him “no” because I want him to stop what he’s doing! So “no” in this instance is an interrupter — but it’s still a punisher because it’s trying to stop the behavior he is doing at the moment.
But before I use punishment in most instances, I make sure that your dog actually does know the behavior. (But there are exceptions. He may need to get out of danger immediately, and punishment is the safest alternative. He may exhibit a self-reinforcing behavior which needs to be stopped, such as stealing food off kitchen counters.) He may actively disobey you when you are absolutely certain he knows a behavior. If a dog is punished for not sitting when he’s never been taught to sit, then he might as well be punished for not playing Mozart on the piano when he’s told to do that!!! Also, if your dog knows a behavior in your living room where there are few distractions and you expect him to perform that behavior someplace where there are tons of distractions and he’s never been trained around distractions, that’s not fair either. He needs to rehearse the correct behavior in a distracting environment.
So the answer is yes, I do punish, and we discuss how to punish effectively if that is what you choose to do. Punishment done correctly is a learning tool just as rewards are learning tools. The punishment is used sparingly and is generally pretty mild — stepping on his leash, not letting him go outside until he sits, making him do “doggie pushups,” etc. It’s denying him something he wants because he did not do something you want. You can also think of it as a payment for a privilege or an instructive admonishment.
And the ratio of punishment to reward is extremely important — it should be 98+% reward and no more than 2% punishment. After your dog learns what to do, you will not need to use punishment except in rare circumstances. It is the totality of your relationship that’s important, not a few instances of punishment.
How long will it take to train my dog?
I work with your dog at every session, but I’m not really training your dog. I’m training you to train your dog. Here’s a big secret — dog training is 80% people training. I’m not going to be living with you 24/7, and there is no way that I can know everything you want your dog to do – and unless you’re clairvoyant, you can’t know what issues you will run into tomorrow or the next day. So you learn both specific obedience exercises as well as training skills that you can use in the future.
Each exercise has its own timetable. Your dog will probably learn one exercise quicker than another. For example, he may learn the Sit in just a few attempts but take longer to learn the Down. Or your dog may learn the beginning steps of an exercise easily but may take longer to learn the later steps. Also, dogs have good days and bad days just like we do. And we may have to experiment to find out his learning style. There’s more than one way to teach an exercise, and we’ll find out what works for him (and you). Just have a little patience, and you’ll both do well.
One final comment. There’s two sides to this: we will train your dog to do (or not do) something that is relevant to him such as barging out the door when he wants to go for a walk, and then we will train him to do (or not do) something that is relevant to you such walking by your side. He will generally learn things that are relevant to him faster than he learns things that are relevant to you. Sometimes it takes several attempts before that light bulb goes on. Again, have patience. Give him a chance to understand what you want. We’re showing him a lifetime of training in just a few short sessions.
How do you work with dogs
who have behavior problems?
Many behavior problems simply disappear when you find out how he thinks and then train him to do what you want. Other problems (for example, housetraining, barking, and aggression) may take longer and need a commitment on your part. Before our first meeting, you fill out a behavior, training, and health history to help discover the cause of the problem. Then we sit down together to formulate a plan that you are comfortable with. Then you receive practical, clear-cut solutions to help both you and your dog. Here’s a headstart so you can read my approach about Dog Behavior Problems.
Every dog trainer has his or her own approach to training. All dog training is NOT the same. I have had several clients who have had previous trainers who have come out for one lesson and said that they can “fix” aggression or separation anxiety in one lesson! Please understand there are no quick fixes. It is changing habits and making adjustments, and the time it takes depends on many factors — the environment, how long the behavior has been occurring, your interactions with your dog, learning new behaviors, etc. And patience.
Having said that, a large percentage of my clients — generally about 70-80% — report an improvement in their dog’s behavior after just a few days of training! No kidding. Read what they say through their Testimonials.
Is my dog too old to learn?
Probably not. Many people think that because their dog is past the puppy stage, that he cannot learn. That is absolutely not true. You are learning every day, and so can your dog.
One woman came to me because she had an 11-year-old Cocker Spaniel who was dog aggressive and needed an obedience refresher course. She had gone to other trainers in the past, and it had not helped her dog’s behavior. After about the third lesson, her dog stopped aggressing. She learned what to do, and her dog learned how to handle himself appropriately — and, by the way, we never had to address the aggression issue because it simply disappeared with training the owner! Does this happen all the time? No. But it happens a lot. When you know how to act, then your dog knows how to react. So that’s what we work on — training you to train your dog.
Dogs do, however, get the equivalent of “Doggie Alzheimer’s.” It’s called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, and it happens when they are in the later stages of being a senior citizen. There also may be some dogs who have physical problems that may affect their ability to perform or when it may be just too stressful for them. But that applies to very few dogs.
Can we train two or more dogs at a session?
Yes. There are two options for private training. We can work on an hourly rate, which is self explanatory.
Or you may decide on a package of lessons where I work with you with each dog individually — and there is even a discount for the second dog!!! The discount for the second dog is generally one-half the fee for the package rate for private sessions.
If you are taking the group class sessions, then the fee is the same for each dog, and each dog needs to have a separate trainer — in other words, one person per dog during class.
How long does potty training take?
I get a lot of calls about potty training, many of them being, “I’ve tried EVERYTHING, and he’s still not trained.” Some dogs are more difficult to train than others — small dogs especially because they are generally more active and their “juices” get going more often than larger dogs.
Potty training dogs is a people training issue more than a dog training issue. A frequent question is, “Shouldn’t he be able to hold it when I’m gone?” So I ask you bluntly: How many times a day do you pee? Is it longer than you’re asking your dog to hold it? Why is your dog held to a higher standard than you hold for yourself??? And: Did you pop out of your mother’s womb knowing how to use the toilet??? Someone had to teach you, and your dog needs the same type of instruction.
There are several reasons why a dog pees or poops in inappropriate areas:
- incomplete potty training
- potty training that is confusing to the dog
- marking behavior
- submissive urination
- excitement urination
- inability to “hold it” due to medical problems
Each one of these reasons has a different method of training. But for those who want a quick summary of how to house train your dog, here it is – Take him where you want him to go when he has to go, and then reward him when he goes. And also
- Supervise or confine your dog when you can’t watch him.
- Reward him when he eliminates in the correct place.
- Feed him on a schedule.
- Clean soiled areas with enzyme-based cleaners.
Oh, but I can hear you say, “But what happens when I go to work?” That’s when we need to talk so we can formulate strategy specifically tailored to help you and your dog. I come to your house and assess what is going to work for you and discuss why what you’ve been doing hasn’t been working. A consultation on puppy potty training is generally one session lasting 60 minutes with telephone or email follow-up. For dogs, it is a two-hour session. During the session, you learn how to help your dog be potty trained. He can become potty trained in as little time as a few days, but realistically, you should figure about two to four weeks.
Read more about Puppy & Dog Potty Training.
I’ve written a book on Puppy Potty Training which you will receive for free when we work together! This book won the 2015 Golden Global eBook award.