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11 common questions to ask your trainer when training your dog and why

Every day thousands of dog trainers are asked questions by clients or prospective clients. From basic questions to more complex behavioral concerns, trainers have heard it all. Good trainers are more than happy to answer a dog owner's questions no matter how many times they've listened to the same queries. After all, owner participation is critical to a successfully trained dog.
Once you have hired a dog trainer and he or she has started working with your dog, do not hesitate to ask any questions that come to mind. Clear, effective communication between owner and trainer facilities clear, effective communication between dog and owner. The primary goal is a happy, trained canine, so if you have a question, let your trainer know right away. Here are some common questions to ask your trainer.
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1. How long will it take to train my dog?
Most trainers will say complete trainability, including with distractions, will take anywhere between four to 12 months. This range is achievable but only if you dedicate yourself to practicing consistently with your dog.
2. If I use food to train my dog, will he only obey if he sees the treat?
No, not if you use the food correctly during the training process. To use food rewards properly, offer the treat with praise after your dog has performed the correct behavior. The dog will learn that even if he does not see the treat, it may be hidden, and he should obey your command regardless.
3. Shouldn't my dog obey me because he loves me and not just for food?
Ideally, yes, but you are often asking your dog to do something that he might not want to do and to do so no matter how many distractions are going on around him. Sometimes your dog needs another motivating factor besides his relationship with you to encourage him to listen and obey.
4. What is clicker training and how does it work with dogs?
A clicker is a small, inexpensive plastic device that makes a simple "click" sound when pressed. This sound doubles as a quick training tool for your dog. For example, your dog will learn that a click when he does something correctly will mean that a treat is on its way. The clicker speeds up the training process; however, once the behavior is taught, you can leave the clicker behind.
5. How long will it take to housetrain my dog?
Generally speaking, housetraining a dog takes about four months provided that you have established a regular, consistent schedule for getting your dog outside to do his business.
6. Is people food bad for dogs?
In excess amounts, any food is bad for dogs. Small high-reward treats such as cheese or meat can help keep your dog focused in a highly distractive environment. Always treat in moderation.
7. What training equipment should I use?
Use equipment designed with your dog's well-being and safety in mind. Avoid your dog pulling or straining on a leash connected to his collar and instead use a properly fitted harness with a 6- to 8-foot leash. You will have far more control, and your dog will avoid injury with this equipment.
8. How can I tell if my dog is stressing out during training?
The obvious signs – growling, whining, snapping – are easy to spot, but you should also look for more subtle signs of stress. Eyes wide open, panting heavily, stiff-legged, tail held high or low between the legs, ears set back, extended neck, licking of lips and body shaking are all signs your dog may be experiencing stress. Locate the source of the stress and eliminate it or remove yourself and your dog from the immediate environment.
9. Should I use a "balanced approach" to training my dog?
No, avoid the "balanced approach" methodology at all costs. This style consists of both rewards and punishments, but this approach fails more often than not. If your dog barks frequently, shouting a loud "No!" gives him what he wants: attention. He will only bark all the more because he has learned that barking equals attention. Punishments that involve harmful and hurtful treatment of your dog accomplish nothing more than eroding your dog's trust and confidence in you.
10. How do I show my dog that I am the boss?
You don't. The "alpha" philosophy of dog training is outdated and has been proven ineffective. Staring, forcing, pulling or physically correcting your dog will only confuse him and cause him to act out more.
11. If my dog does not respond to training, does that mean he isn't smart?
Not at all. Dogs are highly intelligent beings, but like any other creature, he needs guidance as to how to behave in polite society. Treat him with love and respect, and train him in a positive, consistent manner.
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There are many nuances and variables associated with training dogs as each canine is an individual. For training to be successful, everyone involved –owner, dog, and trainer – need to be communicating clearly. Should you have a question for your trainer – even if it is simply "Why does my dog do that?"– ask. You will be a better dog owner for it.
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