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The Importance of Positive Training

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

After the recent program on the BBC “6 Puppies and Us” I thought it would be a good idea to write about the importance of positive training highlighting what we can offer.

Judging by a lot of comments on social media a lot of like minded people were in complete uproar about the portrayal of these puppies first year of their life.

If you are reading this then you have probably already got your puppy or at least chosen it and waiting to collect it to bring it home to you.  You have already made the correct decision in contacting me for training.

In the first 20 weeks of your puppy’s life it is CRUCIAL to get their foundation training right.  Puppy’s are really open to learning new things. Whether this is house training, walking on a lead, meeting people or learning to cope with everyday life situations.  They don’t know how to do these things on their own and need you to show them.

Unfortunately on the program a Pet Corrector was used.  This was completely incorrect and I realise there are many differences in opinions about training but frightening a puppy into getting him to stop doing something that is natural and quite clearly he wanted attention for is not the way to go about it.  Any attention a dog gets whether it is positive or negative is attention.  In our Puppy Life Skills we can help you to overcome all the problems that you may be experiencing with your new puppy.  Whilst you might think that it is ok to use a pet corrector because it is not physically harming your puppy it is frightening it and can have an impact on him mentally.  Puppies have fear responses and by frightening it into not doing something you are not teaching it you are just making him fearful.  Training is the most important thing you will ever do with your puppy and dog and this needs to continue throughout its life.

A Little Bit About Me and My Dogs

We have three dogs.  A 9 year old rescue Labrador called Harley, a 5 year old Labrador called Phoenix and a 6 month old Labrador called Bumble.  All are very receptive to training but at different levels.  I rescued my Harley 7 ½ years ago.  He had been beaten and quite clearly had no or little training and we believe he has had doors slammed on him.  He was so badly abused mentally and physically that he was completely shut down and he had lost the ability to learn. This was the result of negative training. It was through having Harley that I decided I wanted to be a dog trainer.  It has only been in the last two years that Harley has gradually built up his trust in people and he is now opening up to training.  I went to a training class with him that was run by a behaviourist when I first had him and was told that I would never be able to do a thing with him, in that class she used a pet corrector on another dog that was barking.  Her attitude and techniques made me more determined to follow my dream of being a better trainer than she was.  Harley is now much more relaxed and trusting and he loves doing scent work and playing with my other two labs.  I have had Phoenix since he was 9 weeks old and we have been extremely lucky with him.  Is is a lovely calm dog and he has been used as a Stooge working with reactive dog because he has a very gentle non reactive nature.  He is very calm and yet can be very playful.  In 2013 we moved house, got married and I re-established my business in a new location.  Phoenix’s training needs got put on the back burner and we paid the consequences, he became restless and started barking more for attention.  I started doing more work with him on a 1-2-1 basis, training him basic gun dog skills and I attended a course in York with Philippa Williams, the UK’s top gun dog trainer using positive reward methods.  Phoenix gets very excited when I get the gun dog dummies out as he knows we are going to play.  He is much more relaxed and settled.  In November last year my husband and I decided to take on a puppy from a client who was unable to keep him for personal reasons.  Bumble joined our family at 17 weeks of age.  He had been coming to classes and I had been helping out his owner, a friend of mine, with a bit of day care whilst she worked to help Bumble to adjust to everyday life.  His owner made the decision that they could no longer keep him and my husband said we could have him.  Bumble has attended Puppy Life Skills, has just about completed his Bronze obedience and he started agility this week.  He is a lively and intelligent boy who loves to please.  He is developing into a great young dog.  None of their behaviours would have developed this way without positive training.

What We Offer

We encourage clicker training in our puppy life skills, bronze, silver, gold and advanced obedience classes and it can also be used in agility. Clicker training is an operant conditioning method of training.  We condition the dogs to the clicker generally using a tasty treat and then the clicker is used to mark the correct behaviour. This is also known as shaping.  There is no force used in our training.  We can use it to stop unwanted behaviour by rewarding the puppies and dogs for all the good things they do.  It is very rewarding for the dogs and owners when they achieve a fantastic end result.

In our puppy life skills classes there are often two trainers.  I am very lucky to have Vicki Utting working with me assisting me in my puppy classes.  Vicki came to me over a year ago as a client with her working Springer Spaniel puppy Marley. Vicki has worked extremely hard with Marley who is a very lively and keen to learn dog.  Through Vicki’s hard work he has settled and works really hard to please Vicki, they have a fantastic relationship.  He attended puppy classes, bronze, silver and gold obedience, he completed lead work training and has more recently been doing agility and advanced obedience.  Vicki now also has a show Springer Spaniel bitch called Lacey, she has just about completed her Bronze obedience and I am sure she will be in further training classes in the future.  Vicki has learnt first hand the importance on consistent calm training so is a real asset to my business.

As a trainer it is my job to educate the public in how to care and train for their dogs correctly using kind and gentle reward based methods.  It’s amazing what can be achieved with a little time, patience and understanding of your breed.

If you haven’t yet chosen your puppy or dog and want some advice on breed type for your family and lifestyle then I can also help you with this by advising you on behaviour traits of specific dogs you may be interested in. I will look at your home environment, your work routine and your interests. There are so many breeds out there and it is quite daunting when you have never had a dog before or had one as a child and not had all the hard work to do. It’s so important for the dog’s happiness not to just choose a dog based on looks or breed type. You should ask yourself “Will that dog be suitable for our home and lifestyle now when its a puppy and when it is a full grown adult dog?” Rescue centres are overflowing with young and old dogs.  Too many people rush into buying a puppy or a dog without doing their research and the dogs suffer.

We offer a friendly professional service and want to help as many dog owners as possible. Whether you have had dogs for years or this is your first one, you’ve come to the right place. You will be surprised at what you learn.  I encourage families to attend classes and although it is important to only have one handler at a time so your puppy or dog doesn’t get confused you can switch part way through the training class so you can all be involved.  Even very young children can be taught how to behave and respect dogs and they can teach it things too.

My classes are all fun based I don’t do competitive agility or obedience.  There is a relaxed environment as it is so important for clients to be relaxed and happy whilst you are training your dogs.  When you complete your obedience training you will be assessed on your ability to handle your dog.  I don’t believe in setting a pass mark as this can discourage people in completing the training. Instead it is up to individuals how much work you put in to achieve a great result at the end of your training course.

I find it so rewarding watching the puppies develop and mature into happy relaxed dogs and seeing their owners love and devotion to them grow as they teach their dogs new things.

That old saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” utter rubbish.  Now its “The sky is the limit!” the more you put into your puppy’s / dog’s training the more you will get out of it.

I look forward to working with many clients this year current and new!

Happy training everyone

Naomi and the Paws Team.

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