Group Classes or Private Lessons?
Which is Best? This depends on you, your dog and your goals. Group classes are helpful if you’re interested in dog sports such as agility, flyball, or rally-obedience, or any type of animal assisted therapy work. Group classes are not recommended for addressing behavioral issues or teaching good house manners. Group class instructors are not able to give you and your dog the individual attention you can get through private lessons, however, they are a good way to start the socialization process.
Private lessons are a great way to give a new dog of any age a solid start in a relationship that will last for life. Private training allows your trainer to observe you and your dog in your daily routine and/or in the specific situations in which you’re having difficulties. Smart Dawgs uses these private consultations to educate you about “all things dog” and to diagnose and treat specific behavior problems starting with basic “puppyness” all the way to aggression, separation anxiety and resource guarding. They’re also a great option for people whose schedules don’t permit them to attend regular, weekly group classes.
Why don’t you teach group classes? My focus is on pets so I work with you and your dog in and around your home. While there are advantages to group classes, I feel that it’s more important for a dog to learn good manners on his home turf where he’ll probably spend at least 75% of his life. With private sessions we’re able to progress at a speed that you’re comfortable with and address real-life issues that pertain to your dog, your home and your life-style. As an added plus, you’ll learn to control your dog without the leash so there’s never any risk of accidentally causing a negative association to anything!
Is my dog too old to train? Forget that old wives tale! Just like humans, dogs continue to learn throughout their entire lives. True, an older dog may take a little longer and he may have a few more bad habits for us to undo. Even so, dogs of all ages love learning when you keep it fun and show them that they’ll be rewarded for their efforts.
Do you guarantee your training? Job Michael Evans, one of the original Monks of New Skete said it best: “Trainers who use the unqualified term ‘guaranteed’ in their advertising or other promotional efforts do a disservice to the profession since there is no sure way to ‘guarantee’ the cooperation and performance of three separate living beings: the trainer, the client and the canine student. Similarly, implied magical methods or cures are unethical and misleading to the public.”
As a member of the APDT, I am committed to performing my services within their Code of Professional Conduct and Responsibility. Consistent with their codes, I do not give guarantees regarding the outcome of training. However, my standards are very high and I will make every effort to ensure your satisfaction with my services. After all, most of my business is from client and vet referrals.
When should I begin training my puppy? Now! The sooner you start the training, the easier it will be to make good manners a life-long habit.
Can you housetrain my puppy for me? Not without moving in! Housetraining a new dog is a 24-hour a day job, so I can’t actually do it for you, however, I can give you the necessary steps that will make the entire process much less painful for both you and your dog.
Can you take my dog and train him for me? Nope! But if you’re looking for doggie boot-camp, we’ve got a better idea – Day Training! We’ll do the training AND the homework for you, in your own home. Sending your dog away to be trained rarely works because dogs don’t generalize well. They don’t understand that Sit (or Down, Stay, Come, Heel…) means the same thing regardless of who gives the cue or where they give it. So instead of sending your dog to boot-camp in an unfamiliar setting (and being without him for several weeks!), keep him at home and let us come to you on a daily basis. Of course, you’ll still need to give us about one hour per week to learn some maintenance/management skills and work on the relationship, but we’ll do the rest!
Do you use treats in your training? Absolutely! My training methods focus on positive reinforcement rather than the old-fashioned use of force or compulsion to get desired behaviors. One of the first things I’ll ask you to do is make a list of your dog’s 20 favorite things in life to use as his “currency.” This includes not only food, but belly rubs, butt scratches, car rides, walks, chasing squirrels, playing with other dogs, tennis balls, Frisbees, Kongs…all of the things he normally gets for free. Once he learns that being good earns him all of these wonderful things, you’ll have a happy and willingly obedient dog. It’s the same concept as your monthly paycheck; no one has ever called that bribery!
Are you a “clicker trainer”? I do use clicker training, but I don’t always use a clicker. Clickers can be cumbersome, especially when combined with energetic dogs and treats! I prefer to use a verbal “marker” instead. Most people find this much easier and your dog will never catch you off-guard; you’ve always got your mouth with you whereas the clicker might be in another room when you need it!
Can my whole family participate? I encourage everyone to partcipate because successfully training your dog involves the whole family. However, with respect to your children, your puppy/dog will be the best judge as to whether they’re mature enough to participate without adding to his stress, especially during our training sessions. If your dog isn’t able to focus, then neither of you will be learning anything worthwhile.
Are there any breeds you won’t train? It sounds like a joke, but it’s true – my favorite breed of dog is the one in front of me at any given moment! I welcome and enjoy all breeds and have trained everything from 1 1/2 pound adult teacup Chihuahuas to Irish Wolfhounds and Great Danes big enough to ride.
I agree wholeheartedly with the APDT’s position statement that canine termperaments are widely varied, and that behavior cannot be predicted by physical features alone. As Dr. Phil likes to say, “The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.”
If I have a problem between lessons, may I call you? You’d better! Any time you have questions, whether it’s between lessons or years after the training has ended, please don’t hesistate to send me an email or, if you prefer, give me a call. I’m here to help as long as you have your dog!
What is your refund policy? Your dog may be withdrawn from training at any time, however, once the training has begun, all fees are non-refundable. Cancellations, “no shows” and appointments cancelled with less than 24-hour notice will be counted as one session.
What areas do you cover? I work primarily in the Pasadena area, but currently include Alhambra, Altadena, Arcadia, Eagle Rock, Glendale, La Canada, La Crescenta, Monrovia, San Gabriel, San Marino, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena, and Temple City.
What kind of results can I expect at the end of the program? That depends on you. Your dog will be learning something from you every second that you’re together. My job is to teach you how to use real-life as your classroom so that your requests have relevance for your dog. However, as with any training program, your ultimate success depends on your commitment and effort.