January is National Train Your Dog Month, so I had to highlight a dog trainer I greatly respect, Christine.
Christine teaches at a prestigious Ontario dog training facility, McCann Professional Dog Trainers, the Harvard University School for Dogs.
When we first got Cisco, we researched thoroughly which dog training facility would be best for us, but most importantly, our working dog. Cisco is a working breed, a Black standard Schnauzer, and he was not easy to train. After several days turned into weeks of researching, we found the best dog training school.
After we got Tito ( same breed ), we also took him to McCann's. Both of our Schnauzers completed Agility Level 2. Unfortunately, due to our insane working schedule, we had to stop training them at McCann's, but the training continued at home.
Christine was one of Cisco's and Tito's trainers and kind enough to spare her time to answer a few questions.
1 - What inspired you to become a dog trainer, and how long have you been working with dogs?
My parents were both involved in training and showing their dogs in obedience competitions.
As a young child I spent many hours watching obedience classes and my parents train and compete. I started training my aunt's dog when I was 12 and competed with her in obedience trials when I was 14. So, over 40 years of involvement. In my mid-twenties, turning my hobby into my profession seemed a natural progression. I left my job as a lab technician and pursued teaching family dog, obedience classes.
2 - What training methods or techniques do you primarily use, and why do you find them effective?
Each dog is an individual, and I find that the dog shapes my method or technique. I have owned many different breeds over the years ( Cardigan Welsh Corgis, Belgian Malinois, Saluki, Chinese Crested, Sheltie).
I start each puppy with fun, positive ways towards good listening skills. I want my pups to realize early on that "working" with me is valuable and rewarding. For teaching house manners, I use a balanced approach in a fair and consistent way. As my pup grows and obedience-type training progresses, I will use a balanced approach. I always teach a skill in a positive manner. Once the dog truly understands the skill, I will use a fair "correction" to remind the dog to listen to my voice.
Verbal control keeps dogs safe...I want my dogs to listen no matter what the distraction.
3 - Could you share a success story or memorable experience from your training sessions?
One of my most memorable moments was from many years ago. I had my Malinois, Sabre, off-leash in a quiet park. Suddenly, we flushed a cat out of the grass in front of us, right under Sabre's nose. The cat took off with Sabre in hot pursuit. I called, "Sabre, come," and she turned off the cat and went back to me. It was such an adrenaline moment, but she listened. All the time and effort I had spent had truly paid off!
4 - What advice would you give new dog owners trying to train their dogs at home?
One of my favourite quotes is from Bob Bailey: "Training often fails as the owner expects too much of the dog and too little of themselves." We get out what we put in!
Puppies come to us as blank slates. They do not know it is wrong to nip or to go to the bathroom on the carpet. It is up to us to teach them. Be fair, clear, and consistent when practicing with the pup. If the pup is not "getting" something, it is not the pup's fault...it is how we are approaching the skill. Stop and re-evaluate from the pup's perspective. If you are having trouble, contact a professional for advice.
Your efforts are well worth the results!
5 - How do you approach handling behavioural issues such as aggression or anxiety in dogs?
I treat each dog and family as an individual case. There is no "cookie cutter" method, as so many factors are at play.
What may work for one anxious or aggressive dog may be completely wrong for the next. Reading the dog's body language quickly, understanding its triggers, knowing when to reward and when not to, and understanding the owner's capabilities are just some parts of the puzzle when dealing with reactive behaviours.
6 - What's the most crucial aspect of building a strong bond between a dog and its owner through training?
Dogs are drawn to people who they perceive as good, fair and predictable leaders. This is achieved through training your puppy or dog and being consistent and clear with rules. Good leaders are calm and confident and can keep emotions in check when needed.
Dogs love to have fun...be sure training sessions are short and upbeat. I try to add quick sessions to my daily routine. I may practice a sit-stay while my coffee brews, practice a "go lie down" as I fold laundry...I want listening to be a way of life. I incorporate play as a reward. I want my dog to enjoy time with me.
7 - I know your dog, Honda, is 14 years old. What have you learned from Honda?
At the moment, Honda (a Chinese Crested Powderpuff) is my only dog. We unexpectedly lost a young dog last year to cancer. Honda is the smallest breed (at 13 lbs) I have owned.
Honda has taught me that even the smallest dogs love to work and be active! He is always keen, even at 14, to interact and show off his skills and tricks! He has titles in scent detection, competing against much larger dogs and proving that little dogs can do it all!
8 - Where can we find you on social media?
McCann's trainers have taught us so much and helped us understand our dog's breed, which I find so important when getting a dog.
Our walks are a little different than most people's; we incorporate sit, stay, lay down, and other commands on our walks.
They love to train. It can be simply throwing the ball at the park and asking them to bring it back and drop it.
But without our excellent training, we would not have this beautiful relationship with our boys. I firmly believe that one of the ways you can build a bond with your dog is through training.
If you are looking for training classes for your dog, I highly recommend McCann Professional Dog Trainers.
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