There is no formal apprenticeship system in dog training, but opportunities to work with other experienced trainers and a large variety of dogs is essential to your education. Volunteering with shelters and local rescue groups is also extremely helpful to introduce you to a range of canine personalities, breeds etc. When you look for a trainer to mentor with, make sure the that trainer is committed to furthering his or her own education, is open to learning about a variety of methods, and is devoted to humane training methods.
The University of North Texas in Denton’s Department of Behavior Analysis is offering graduate and undergraduate courses on behavior modification through positive reinforcement shaping. Students do their hands-on research at zoos and animal shelters and at home. Training a pet is a course requirement for graduates and undergraduates alike. To learn more about this and other university programs that involve modern animal training, visit the Department of Behavior Analysis at the University of North Texas.
Expect your dog to break the rules frequently in the beginning. He is not being stubborn or difficult. Dogs have a hard time generalizing, which means that something he learns in the living room will have to be learned all over again in the kitchen and again in the bedroom. It's easy to get frustrated when you feel like he should understand already, but he still doesn't. It helps to have a sense of humor. It can take 30-50 or more perfect repetitions before a dog truly "gets" a command.
When you pick up your dog, remember to ask what and when he was fed. Replicate that schedule for at least the first few days to avoid gastric distress. If you wish to switch to a different brand, do so over a period of about a week by adding one part new food to three parts of the old for several days; then switch to half new food, half old, and then one part old to three parts new. For more information about your dog’s diet, check out our section on Dog Nutrition.
Positive reinforcement lets your dog know that you are pleased with him, and he will repeat that behavior the next time. Rewards can consist of food, toys, or petting depending on what your dog responds to best. Once he gets it, reward him with food, toys, or petting only some of the time (but verbally praise him every time). This way he’ll work hard to please you, hoping that he’ll receive a reward.
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