Why training? I’ve had dogs before!
You’ve probably driven for most of your life, too. But when the car breaks down or needs preventative maintenance, don’t you call a mechanic?
The most common cause of death in dogs under one year of age is misbehavior. Over ninety percent of all dogs surrendered to shelters, given away, or euthanized have had no training at all. All dogs need to know basic manners, and it’s nice if your dog is prepared for the unexpected. Even if your dog is generally well-behaved, is he ready for all that life holds?
If a visitor holds open the front door too wide and your pup escapes, will he come when you call? Do you frequently put the dog outside or in another room when you have company over, because it’s “just easier?” Does your dog bark or ignore you when he encounters distractions such as new people, strange dogs, or anything else that pulls his attention away from you?
Training is one of the single most valuable gifts you’ll ever give your pet. The number one reason for dogs being surrendered to shelters and animal control is behavior problems. More than five million dogs are euthanized each year at shelters and vet clinics, sentenced to death for behaviors which could have been remedied or prevented with a little time and effort.
A dog is far, far more likely to die of behavior problems than of parvo—and we vaccinate for parvo! Think of early training as a “misbehavior vaccination.” Please practice a little prevention for the health and sanity of you both!
What Training Methods are Used?
With hundreds of hours in continuing formal education in animal training; we know what works!
That said, here’s what we do: We use positive reinforcement to train a new behavior to replace the unwanted behavior, which is far faster and more effective than just trying to get rid of a bad habit. For example, we don’t teach a jumping dog “not to jump,” we teach him to sit to greet a person. We use dog-friendly and humane methods, primarily marker-based training and anything important to the dog (attention, petting, toys, treats) as earned rewards. In short, we’re behavioral clicker trainers.
“Eh? I hear a lot about this clicker training. I’ve heard it’s magic, and I’ve heard it’s just a fad. What is clicker training, anyway?”
First, here’s what clicker training is not:
- a gimmick
- a cue (one click for sit, two for down)
- a gadget to get the dog’s attention
- a shock collar controlled with a remote “clicker”
Instead, the sound of the clicker is an event marker, pinpointing the exact instant the dog performed a behavior we want to reinforce. This is faster and much more precise than a “good dog!” The clicker sounds the same each time, resulting in clearer information for the dog.
Because of the clear communication, clicker training is generally very fast, comparatively. In addition, clicker trainers focus on positive reinforcement techniques and use very little punishment, as the subject is learning to do a new behavior (such as sit) to replace an unwanted behavior (such as jumping up on a person) instead of learning to not do a behavior (“no jumping”) which is a much more difficult concept for a dog.
Of course, the marker doesn’t have to be an actual clicker—dolphin trainers use a whistle, and deaf dogs respond well to a flashing penlight! Trainers have been using “clicker training” since the ’30s and ’40s with a variety of marker signals. But clickers are cheap, easy to use, crisp, and distinct from most everyday noises.
This clarifies the training process for both dogs and humans, as it’s easy to see what we are marking and what we are training the dogs to do! The clicker is only a training tool to jump-start the process; once the behavior is learned, the clicker is no longer needed—until you want to train new things!
Is My Dog Too Young?
Our puppy sessions are specifically for young brains. A puppy does have a shorter attention span and different neurophysiology than an adult. But puppies are learning from birth! We can choose to use that ideal time for learning what we want, or for learning habits we might need to retrain later.
Occasionally people ask why some trainers do not begin training until about six months old. It’s true that young puppies cannot be trained with traditional modeling and choke chains; their undeveloped structure is subject to injury from collar pops and pressuring handling, and they cannot maintain focus for the long periods of block heeling common in many traditional classes. But they do quite well with inducive shaping methods and classes designed for their young brains.
To use a rough analogy, a four-year-old child will not do well in boot camp, but he might thrive in a Montessori school.
But doesn’t my puppy need to finish vaccination first?
A human child remains a helpless infant much longer than a puppy. Yet we do not isolate them at home, away from exposure to the world—rather, they are proudly shown off at Grandma’s, taken shopping, carried through restaurants. They share life with their parents. Very few doctors would recommend hiding an infant from the rest of the world.
Yet many people do this with their puppies, denying them the opportunity to learn appropriate body language and behavior with their own species (which often leads to social problems later) and appropriate interaction with friendly humans. This gap in his education is covered by the natural puppy exuberance, but as he matures the problem becomes more defined.
A dog is far, far more likely to die of behavior problems than of disease. The age of eight to sixteen weeks is the optimum socialization period, with the first four being the most critical; it seems a shame to waste this opportunity in a healthy puppy’s life.
Don’t risk your puppy by exposing him to dangerous situations with unknown dogs—but don’t waste this single opportunity to give him the best start in life.
Is My Dog Too Old?
People also frequently wonder when a dog is too old for training. I am fond of answering, “If the dog is still breathing, he’s still learning!”
In fact, most of our client dogs are not puppies! Old dogs can and certainly do learn new tricks!
I Have a Family. Who Can Train the Dog?
Everyone regularly involved in the dog’s life is welcome to attend training sessions. Children old enough to focus (or to practice and then quietly entertain themselves) for the duration of the session are welcome to participate.
Where is CIA Located?
We’re right where you need us.
We no longer maintain a separate facility, focusing on in-home sessions for maximum convenience and customization. In-person training is available throughout central Indiana. We also offer virtual training all around the world.
What Do I Need for Training?
Less than you might think—but the right gear can make your work simpler and more comfortable on your hands. Check out our recommendations guide.