Training a new dog can be a daunting task for anyone, especially when you are unsure about how to start the process. Luckily, there are several local experts who share their tips on to how to begin training and how to maintain the lessons and commands you teach your dog.
Tari Nestrud, owner of Paws and Claws Pet Resort in Hudson, Wis., makes it her mission, along with running her business, to ensure that pet owners are responsible and learn how to properly train their dogs. Paws and Claws currently offers personal-in home training but they are expanding to include day training, where owners can bring their pet in for the day to receive training, as well as stay training which is a more intense and immersive process where your pet stays at the resort for days or weeks to become properly trained by dog training experts.
Red Star Kennel, owned by Mark Keating and Irina Shimko, in Hudson, Wis., also offers dog training services including private day lessons and a boot camp, where dogs remain at the kennel for four weeks to correct behavioral issues such as aggression and anxiety.
Both Nestrud and Keating agree that one of the biggest issues pet owners face when training their pets is lack of consistency and failing to treat their puppies like puppies and not adult dogs. You must treat a dog like you would a small child since they only know they are succeeding if you let them know. You should also keep commands simple and to the point to avoid confusion. Use a high-value reward system to let them know they are performing commands correctly.
Nestrud tells pet owners to focus on positive reinforcement like rewarding your dog when it does something good and ignoring bad behavior, rather than scolding and punishing. Praise makes dogs more eager to continue training.
“We want to get you to your goal as quickly as possible with the least amount of conflict,” Keating says.
When searching for the best dog for your lifestyle, Nestrud encourages aspiring pet owners to keep an open mind about different breeds because she has seen a variety of breeds thrive in many different situations.
“There are so many variables to each breed and individual dog, not to mention the mixed breeds, that it’s hard to assign a specific dog to any given demographic,” Nestrud says.
When choosing a dog for a family, Keating recommends looking first at the categories of dogs and avoiding certain ones such as herding dogs, because they can be too territorial and have the instinct to control children. Families should instead look at breeds such as Cavalier King Charles spaniels and poodles. Keep in mind, individual characters of dogs are just as important as the breed, since all dogs will have varying positions in the hierarchy.
Both Keating and Nestrud want pet owners to know they can always teach their dog new tricks or commands, no matter how old they are. The saying “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is completely false. You can create new behaviors at any age with a dog. But if you're trying to replace a bad behavior with another behavior, that can take more time with an adult dog. “It really just comes down to animal training. Any animal trainer who knows how to communicate with an animal the way they understand, will be successful,” Keating says.