FAQ’s of the Training Director   by Jane Collins

As Training Director at SMDTC, I am asked a lot of questions and I have learned that for every person who asks a question, there are others needing the same information, but for various reasons don’t ask.  So, I have decided to post some FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) on a regular basis.  If you have a question you would like to ask, or more input on an answer, feel free to send me an email at collinswjad@msn.com.

 

Q:  My almost 10 month old male German Shepherd is a really great dog overall.  During the summer and fall we enjoyed playing Frisbee most days.  But on days that I can’t go out and play Frisbee with him because I am busy or it is too cold, he is a mess with WAY too much energy.  I put him out in the backyard to play on his own and he just paws aggressively at the door to come in.  We still have a lot of winter to go!  What can I do to get him to behave better on these days he is acting ‘crazy’?

Lots of energy is part of being an older puppy of many breeds, and when the dog is approaching its adult size as a larger breed, things can definitely get out of control.  I commend you for having found a way to channel his energy on most days; unfortunately that energy never takes a day off!  Imho, I think that lack of adequate exercise and brain stimulation is one of the main roots of behavior issues for many pet dogs today.  You have also chosen a breed that REALLY likes to be with their people and may not spontaneously handle separation or change in routine well.  We have two issues here – how to get more activity/stimulation when you can’t go outside and the dog being outside on its own sometimes without damaging your door!  Because each topic requires a lengthy answer, I will answer the exercise question here and focus on the behavior at the door in a future answer.

The good news is that there are lots of things you can do indoors with your dog to take the edge off that energy.  Let’s start with a more active idea.  I love a tennis ball on a 10 – 15 foot length of parachute cord.  Make a hole with something sharp in each side of the ball, run the cord through it and tie it off.  Of course, you could also use another favorite toy. This way, you control the ball/toy and where the dog can take it as long as you hold the end of the cord.  If you have any open space in your house at all (sometimes a hallway works great) 10 minutes of chase the ball can make all the difference.  Dog won’t give up the ball?  Try trading it for a treat or another toy then bring focus back to the one on the cord.  If your dog is too big, or your space too small for this much activity, put your own twist on the game! Try Come games, having members of your family call the dog from different rooms in the house.  When Fido finds a family member its party and treats time!

Also, don’t forget to work obedience or other training into your everyday routine.  When your dog has to engage his brain it can burn as much energy as physical exercise. Just 5-10 minutes of work in a few sessions throughout the day will result in a much calmer pooch.  Tired of the same ole routine?  Jazz it up with a few tricks, or some simple nosework games by playing hide and seek with a favorite toy, a treat, or an old sock.  Reward with a treat when the object is located (or finding a treat is self-rewarding) and your dog will be eager to find it again and again.  There are also many commercial toys you can purchase that require problem solving by your canine.  A search of Canine Brain Games returned 674,000 results!

Ready to take it to the next level? Enroll in Tricks, Nosework, Agility or one of our many other classes (please check prerequisites).  You will have homework to keep both of you thinking, and coming to class is guaranteed to make even an adolescent German Shepard dog-tired the next day.

FAQ’s of the Training Director   by Jane Collins

As Training Director at SMDTC, I am asked a lot of questions and I have learned that for every person who asks a question, there are others needing the same information, but for various reasons don’t ask.  So, I have decided to post some FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) on a regular basis.  If you have a question you would like to ask, or more input on an answer, feel free to send me an email at collinswjad@msn.com.

Q:  How are instructors for classes at SMDTC chosen?

A:  The best place to find the answer to this question is in the Club Yearbook under the ‘About’ tab on the website.  Keeping the Yearbook current is a never ending job and so some specific areas (Nosework & Tricks) have been approved by the Training Committee but are to be added to the Yearbook with the update currently underway. If you read the Instructor Training Program section it will thoroughly describe the basic process.  But to answer the question, I will give a summary here.

One thing that sets SMDTC apart from many other trainers in the area is that ALL of our instructors have earned performance titles in the area(s) in which they teach, and the title requirements increase as the level of instruction increases.  As potential instructors are working on earning titles, they can also be assisting classes they plan to teach (as well as other classes).  Minimally, future instructors are required to assist at least two sessions of a class before they can then apply to apprentice under another instructor (with required titles earned).  Most of our instructors have assisted a several classes of a wide variety before becoming instructors.  Following a successful apprenticeship, a recommendation is made to the Training Committee and the instructor is approved to teach that class.  The process repeats for each new class the instructor wishes to teach.

The above procedure works for classes that are already offered by the Club, but as new classes are added, like Nosework or Tricks, it is necessary to ‘start from scratch’ and approve a group of members to instruct that have earned titles in that new area, attended pertinent seminars, and been involved in curriculum development.  Once the class is established, future instructors will be qualified through assisting and apprenticing.

This process has been in practice for many years and continues to provide consistent, high quality instruction for our classes.  There are situations, however, when specific situations require the process to be accelerated in order to meet the needs of the Training Program as a whole.  From the Yearbook: “Instructor qualifications may be modified for an individual at the discretion of the Training Committee.” (4/06)  Careful consideration is given to each situation to modify requirements at the minimum variation possible for otherwise experienced instructors to teach additional classes for the benefit of the Club as a whole.

FAQ’s of the Training Director   by Jane Collins

Q: Why aren’t there any classes available for enrollment right now?  I had hoped to enroll my puppy in Puppy Socialization.  He will be too old for that class in January.  What can I work on with him until there is a class starting?

Answer:  It is correct that the last new classes of 2016 have now started and no new classes will begin until January of 2017.  Past experience has shown that overall enrollment and attendance decrease during the busy holiday season and potential snow days are harder to make up due to crowded schedules.  The break also allows our instructors and assistants, who give SO MUCH of their time to SMDTC, to focus on their families. (Although a few classes will last into December; a special Thanks to members working those classes.)

You are correct to want to start training your puppy as soon as possible.  This is a window of time that will close quickly but can have a big impact on forming your dog’s personality. But training can take many forms.  What can you do with your puppy right now?  The most important thing is to help him experience as many new things as possible.  Our Puppy Soc. curriculum encourages owners to introduce their puppies to 100 people over the six week class. Along with meeting new people goes taking the puppy to several new places.  Bass Pro, some hardware stores, pet stores, parks, and many other places will welcome your puppy (and older, well behaved dogs).  In a perfect world your puppy would be introduced to a new person, place, texture, noise, smell, etc. every day.  Do the best you can in this busy holiday season.

Next, be sure to gently handle your puppy every single day.  More than just a pat or scratch on the head – be sure to look inside his ears, hold his paws, rub his belly, run your hand along his tail.  Help him become familiar with grooming tools including nail clippers.  Start gently rubbing his gums and move towards brushing his teeth.  If he will need to be professionally groomed, arrange an introductory visit now.  Also keep you appointments with your vet so his vaccinations stay on schedule.

Finally, get a copy of Social Graces Molding the Model Dog by Margie West.  This book is part of our curriculum and can help with many issues such as house breaking, crate training and preventing behavior problems.  There are also several other good sources for puppy training information, just make sure that you choose trainers using positive reinforcement and reward based training methods.

FAQ’s of the Training Director   by Jane Collins

As Training Director at SMDTC, I am asked a lot of questions and I have learned that for every person who asks a question, there are others needing the same information, but for various reasons don’t ask.  So, to help as many people get as much information as possible, I have decided to post some FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) on a regular basis.  If you have a question you would like to ask, feel free to send me an email at collinswjadmsn.com.

Q:  I was wondering what I should do when [my puppy] gets mad because I remove her from something she should not be in. She growls and tries to bite me. She is only 4 lbs but has a really strong will. She is only 10 weeks today, I really need to get a handle on her now. Any suggestions?

A: So smart of you to want to catch this now, even though she is so tiny.  Dogs can build behavior habits quickly, which can be good and bad.  We will work to replace the bad habit with a good one.  Next time she is into something, grab a toy (prepare in advance to have one handy) and use that to distract her from the problem activity.  Start playing with the toy right next to her and she will likely start investigating you and the toy.  Once she is engaged, lead her away from the problem area.  You could also use a food treat.

THEN you need to find a way to keep her from the undesired area/activity in the first place.  At 10 weeks that can be tough!  She really needs to be in your direct supervision or in her ‘safe place’ (I suggest a crate) at all times.  This will help with potty habits, too!  This doesn’t mean you are holding her at all times, or do nothing but play with your puppy (unfortunately!) but it does mean she is in the same room you are and you can see her, with hazards removed or not in her reach.  You can use a baby gate to barricade or use her leash to restrict what she can get to; just slip the handle of the leash under a table leg to keep the puppy close by.  And, of course, make sure that toys she can safely play with and chew on are always within reach.

Q: I feel like my dog already has some basic training.  Can we go ahead and enroll in Public Manners class, skipping Home Manners, the prerequisite?  

A: This is a question I hear a lot, from both the general public and club members.  It could be that your dog is ready for Public Manners if you have been in classes at other training facilities, or trained in the past and have been working at home.  However, the only way to know for sure is to meet for an evaluation.   Sometimes it is hard to objectively judge you own dogs’ training level.  I have met some people who tell me on the phone their dog is nearly ready for competition but can’t keep the dog off of me so we humans can greet each other; others who aren’t sure if their dog is ready to move up but are already doing heads up heeling in the parking lot of my office with traffic going by (if it is more convenient we sometimes meet there for evaluations).  

Since dogs are very situational in their understanding of commands, they may follow commands readily in one familiar location but seem to have forgotten all their training in another.  So when it comes to being ready for Public Manners, it is important that dogs not only have an understanding of the basic commands we normally evaluate at the end of HM, but can reasonably be expected to reliably perform them in multiple situations and with varied distractions, including a room full of new dogs and people.  

Another thing I consider is if the dog is under enough general control that the handler will be able to pick up on new information that they would have otherwise learned in our Home Manners classes but isn’t a part of the end of class evaluation, such as basic attention exercises, working from heel position, (or even an understanding of what heel position is) and how to help the dog find it.  It comes down to the ‘whole picture’.   If the instructor and/or assistants have to‘re-teach’ HM during the PM class it is a lose-lose for everyone: the dog/handler in question who don’t get what they could from class, and the rest of the class who is ready to move forward but can’t because of time continuously being spent on a dog/handler that doesn’t have the foundation for the next step.

I am sensitive to the cost issue for people paying for classes and I know we all have limited time.  I do find dogs/handlers that are ready to start with Public Manners class and are approved to do so.  I am always glad to hear people are enthusiastic about moving forward with training.  However, going back to the basics or repeating a class is almost never wasted time or money.  Actually, the more interested a handler is in patriating in ANY dog sport in the future, the more I encourage emphasis on foundation training.  There are NO shortcuts in dog training. Training a dog is a process, not a defined occurrence; a marathon, not a sprint.  If your dog is awake, he is learning:  either forming new behaviors or reinforcing what he already knows.  

While I know not everyone has the time to take all of their dogs through classes for every level of training, my opinion on the high value of these early classes is reinforced when I frequently see some of our most experienced trainers starting their new dogs with Puppy Soc, Home Manners and Public Manners and then moving systematically through other classes as recommended in the class progression chart, sometimes repeating classes as necessary to meet their goals.  Several are instructors themselves and could certainly teach basic commands without being class.  But there is so much more that the dogs experience from being in the class environment that they find it beneficial to put their time into being there week after week.

So, is your dog ready for Public Manners?  We’ll just need to meet and figure that out.