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Do we need dog training classes?

I do receive many requests from people asking about my training classes, only to find they live too far away from my centre, here in Benitachell.

Most people that come here say that the sociability training is one of the main reasons for their attending the classes.

The next question is usually do I travel. The only problem with this is it is costly, time consuming and their dogs will lack this sociability aspect that a normal class provides. Still it is always a possibility.

The next question is usually where to find dog training classes in their area. Unfortunately, only one trainer has ever contacted me with their information in order that I can pass this on.

Last week an owner did find in his local pet shop, two instructors in his area. I suggested he went to observe the classes to see if he liked the style. One was an English instructor and the other Spanish. At the Spanish school their training was the enforcement method, using choke chains and spiked collars that, when used, obviously hurt the dogs. This was not acceptable. He then went to the English classes; again, choke chains were the order of the day and instructors were quite verbally abusive towards the handlers, so he rejected this too. He asked would it be possible to train a dog without necessarily going to organised classes by reading the right books, interaction on web sites or watching videos and DVDs.

Whilst we can learn so much by using various media methods currently available to us, it is important to remember that dog training, for the handler, involves learning many motor skills. No one can learn to drive a car by simply reading a book. It may well give the reader some insight, but there is no substitute for the experience of actually driving a car along with a qualified instructor.

Last week I described how to teach the emergency stop. I know that a number of owners will find their dog will not respond correctly. I know from experience, with my classes, I can make any dog STOP providing it will come to me when I call it. That it loves a treat or a toy and is excited enough to pay attention. Yet when the owner tries, the dog fails to stop. Though the dog works for me, then the errors are always the handlers timing, body skills and perception.

Though they have watched me work their dog, they cannot always successfully copy what I do. This is because there is also communication between their dog and me. I am looking to see is the dog looking at me, is it interested enough or do I need to sound happier in order to gain their dogs interest and attention. It is also necessary to look at the dog to know the right time to throw the item. Owners are only just getting to grips with the actual body action, so reading their dog to know when to throw only comes with experiencing the exercise.

The next point is all dogs and handlers are different, so as an example, watching me train one dog does not mean copying the same body action, will work on every dog. Dogs will need some fine-tuning or adjustment by their handlers. This means having an instructor present, so they can see the errors and suggest corrections.

I have toyed with the idea of making a DVD of basic training, but it requires the teaching of each exercise to cover so many eventualities it would become boring. Possibly, if the DVD were organised like a flow chart, then if the exercise is successful, you jump to the next one and miss out all the needless advice if the answer was negative.

Another problem is that some dogs will do one thing and others something else. What if the problem is your dog does not like treats or toys? Each media format must be able to advise what the handler should do in each case. What if the dog does like toys but the handler just does not know how to excite their dog enough. Only having an instructor present is he or she able to recognise the problem, and then offer the appropriate advice.

An example is a handler calling their dog to retrieve an item. The dog comes so far back, then stands still and drops it. The handler also stands still and keeps calling fetch, only for the dog to come to them, minus the item. The instructor should teach them not to stand still, but eagerly rush up to the dog and play with lots of praise. They should then immediately throw the item away again, so that the dog becomes excited and learns to bring it back because it wants to chase it again.

What if the problem is the dog does not like to chase anything?

With all these many alternatives, they remind me so much of the puzzle books John Rogerson loved to read. When you reached a point and based on your answer to a question, it would send you forward or backwards in the book until you eventually successfully reached the end. In fact, some of Johns training techniques utilise this type of question and answer system, when he is teaching student behaviourists.

Maybe if we could use live video links so that we can see what is happening, then possibly this could work, but in reality, an instructor needs to have hands on training, in order to be successful with most of the dogs.

In saying this, it does not help those who do not have a local dog-training class, so what is there on offer. There are many web sites that, if you pay, they will supposedly tell you all the tricks of the professionals. Alas, I have downloaded two such expensive top sites and found nothing new for me. For people trying to train their dog, they do not explain the exercises sufficiently to work on most dogs. Do not waste your money unless you can try first.

There are so many books; it is hard to make recommendations. I can only advise you to read a little from each book. If you find it easy to understand and that, you enjoy reading it then it may well work for you.

Two weeks ago, as I was searching the internet for anything new in dog training, I came across this very nice website of Dove Cresswell, on www.dog-training-online.info. She is a young professional animal trainer for the film industry.

Her training is a simple step by step approach with sound and pictures. This means that you can listen to her instructions and see how to perform basic training, as well as teaching tricks. She does not use any harsh enforcement methods of training and is easy to listen to, as she explains each exercise.

More importantly, Dove offers you the opportunity to listen to a few free exercises. Therefore, if you like her method, then you can purchase a link into her site, so you can learn the rest for about twenty pounds. It is well worth a look.

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