I’m finally ready to admit that it took a village to train my wily terrier, Monty – at least in the early days. More specifically, I needed training to learn to understand Monty as well as he understood me. He recognized very quickly that I was a pushover, and he used my inconsistency to take over the house. But I tried several training programs before I found the one that was appropriate for our special needs. Here are some things to consider when choosing the right training program for you and your dog.
Do you need a little, or a lot of training?
Training comes in different levels of intensity, and your overall needs drive the level you need. Here are your basic options:
- Do-it-yourself: I’m sort of a research freak, so I tend to read books, watch dog-training shows, and search the Internet for dog training tips. I learned a lot from Victoria Stilwell to use body language and teach basic commands. I believe that when you first try the do-it-yourself approach, you get a valuable opportunity to recognize what kind of help you need from a professional trainer.
- Classes: If you’ve never owned a dog before, you may consider signing up for a training class from your local park district. At the very least, your dog will learn to behave properly around other dogs while working on basic commands like “sit” and “stay.” But classes held at dedicated dog training centers are probably a better choice if you recognize specific issues with your dog. When Monty developed a fear of firecrackers, the classroom trainer was willing to shoot off a cap gun during a classroom session a few weeks before Independence Day. This helped many dogs in the class.
- In-home training: A good trainer who comes to your home provides one-on-one attention, which is always great. Just as important, if your dog’s problems relate specifically to in-home behavior (often territorial issues, such as barking constantly at the window or attacking visitors at the door), it makes sense to conduct the training where the problem exists.
- Doggy boot camp: If you have ever watched any of Cesar Milan’s shows, he sometimes takes dogs with extreme issues to his Dog Psychology Center to rehabilitate them in a pack environment. Then he trains the dog’s family to continue the work at home. This can be expensive, but it can make all the difference in extreme cases. But when you bring the dog home, you have to continue the program on your own. Yes, Monty went to doggy boot camp, and I still remember the look of surprise on his face the first time he misbehaved at home and I corrected him.
In the end, all training becomes do-it-yourself
Monty’s doggy boot camp trainer wasn’t kidding when he said this about my 33-pound dog: “We figure Monty must be 180 pounds because that’s how big he thinks he is.” Whatever training methods you choose, your dog eventually has to listen to you. The training does not end when you bring him home from training. Make sure you know how to continue training at home, and work with him every day to reinforce what you both learned and develop a valued lifetime bond.