The Association of Pet Dog Trainers, the largest educational and professional association for dog trainers in the world, has proclaimed January "National Train Your Dog Month." The goal of this campaign is to promote the importance of training and socialization to all dog owners. According to the Humane Society of the United States, between six and eight million dogs and cats are turned in to animal shelters each year, and about four million are euthanized for lack of good homes. Many dogs are turned in to shelters for common behavior and training issues that could easily be solved with the assistance of a professional trainer or behavior counselor. In fact, it has been proven that training and socializing dogs when they are young reduces or eliminates behavior problems in the future.
The first step is to find a trainer to work with. To do this you will need to decide what you want to do with your dog. Are you looking for basic good manners training, does your dog have aggressive or fear issues that will require the help of a person experienced in behavior modification, or are you interested in a particular sport, like K9 Nose Work®, Agility or Rally-O? There are training clubs that train for competitive dog sports, as well as individual trainers and training centers that focus on classes to help you teach your dog good manners.
Once you have an idea what you might be looking for ask your veterinarian, groomer or dog friends for a referral or go to the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT.org) or a breed-specific site to see their recommendations.
When speaking with potential trainers, one of the first questions you should ask is if they train using POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT. This translates as rewarding your dog for making the right choices, instead of the older method of using harsh correction to train through fear. If they do not use positive reinforcement, I would suggest leaving them as your very last option. You should also ask if it is possible to observe a class or a training session with a dog they are working with. Any club or trainer worth their salt will let you see what they do before you sign up. Note the way the instructor teaches, how he/ she relates to the class and the dogs as well as observing if the dogs and handlers appear to be succeeding in doing what the instructor is asking.
Once you have chosen your trainer or class then you and your dog can start the amazing journey together towards an improved relationship and better behavior! This is a great New Year Resolution that is a win-win for everyone involved.
I would like to close with a reminder about the dangers of anti-freeze to your pets! Last New Year’s Eve a friend of mine lost her beautiful American Eskimo Dog to anti-freeze poisoning. Dogs and cats find antifreeze quite tasty and if they find it they will drink it. Antifreeze is extremely toxic, causing kidney failure that is often fatal.
Very small amounts of antifreeze can be fatal. If a cat walks through a puddle of antifreeze and then licks its paws, it can ingest enough antifreeze to cause death. About five tablespoons can kill a medium sized dog. If you see your pet drinking antifreeze, or are at all suspicious that your pet may have had access to antifreeze, contact a veterinarian immediately. Signs of antifreeze poisoning depend upon the time after ingestion. In the first few hours after ingestion the pet may be depressed and staggering and may have seizures. They may drink lots of water, urinate large amounts and vomit. The pet may appear to feel better but in a day or two will get much worse as the kidneys fail. The diagnosis of antifreeze poisoning is made by blood and urine tests and antifreeze poisoning should be considered in any free-roaming dog or cat with consistent signs. Treatment for antifreeze poisoning needs to be started as soon after ingestion as possible, the earlier treatment is started, the greater the chance of survival. Once kidney failure develops, most animals will die.