Striving for correct, healthy, performance-driven, versatility

Training and Socialization

Introduction and My Personal Experience

I have been involved in dogs since 2004, and have been to many training and breeding seminars. I have trained my own dogs by attending different types of classes at different locations and also working with them at home and in various environments. 

To build on this foundation, I have also completed training courses offered by Penn Foster to become a certified dog trainer. I do not advertise this, nor do I offer formal classes (maybe some day), but use it as a tool to help my owners that may be struggling and using the knowledge gained from the classes to train my own dogs and prevent certain unwanted behaviors. 

I take great pride in being able to have my dogs with me in all sorts of situations and social events. I take them to parades, sporting events, car shows, farmer's markets, flea markets, and places that are busy, loud, and full stimulation. They stay in hotels, at family member's homes, friends, Air-BnBs, campgrounds, and often I hear from outsiders, "I didn't even realize you had a dog with you". That is my ultimate goal. 

Training Techniques 

There are many types of training and equipment available to train your dog. 

Positive Reinforcement- I promote and prefer rewarding the dog with positive reinforcement type training for the behaviors that I want, and ignoring the behavior I do not want. This means no yelling, or yanking. 

Clicker Training when coupled with positive reinforcement is incredibly productive, however I do understand it is not for everyone. It is my preferred method of training because the results are much faster than using a word or phrase for reward. It took me many years to realize this. 

Train and Board Facilities -I do not advise sending your dog away from the home to a training facility where your dog stays for a period of time. The problems with this type of training is multi-faceted. In order to create a bond with your dog/puppy it is paramount that you learn to communicate with and train your own dog. There have also been many instances of dogs who have been neglected at these "board and train" types of facilities. 

Training Equipment

So as to not take away from the text, I will put the list of training equipment types and their uses at the bottom of this page. 

Mika, Siege, Brody, Khoi

Laying a Solid Training Foundation

When you first bring your puppy home it is easy to just let them be cute, and do whatever they want. The problem with this is that without laying a foundation of behaviors that you may or may not want, that puppy quickly grows into a large powerful adult dog who becomes stronger, smarter, and more difficult to handle over time.

By and far, the best way to turn a young puppy into a well behaved adult dog is to get them socialized and immediately into a training class. Hold on a second Corey........ what about vaccines? The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) put out a statement in 2008 on their position, to encourage veterinarians to recommend that the consequences of not getting a puppy trained and socialized early, outweigh the risk of them not being fully vaccinated. In other words, get your puppy into a training class as soon as you bring him/her home. 

The second most important thing to do is get the puppy out of the house and into the world! When the puppy does not receive enough interaction with new and novel sights, sounds, and experiences, it can become reactive, timid, fearful of new people, and unable to be handled by anyone other than you. This will be difficult to undo, and will require a lot of training once it is done. 

Socialization... what is it?

When most think of socializing a puppy, they think of people coming up to them and petting their dog. This is not the desired outcome. The goal of socialization is for your dog to be able to focus on you, and maintain the behavior you are asking for, in various environments and situations that involve people and other animals. A result of teaching the puppy to focus on you instead of everything in the environment leads to the outcome of strangers being able to pet your dog when asked. 

It is best to start focus work when the puppy is small and easier to handle. This can be accomplished by attending a first puppy kindergarten style class.

It is very important to remember that is you have another dog at home, your puppy needs to experience the world without the other dog. This means lots of social outings with only your puppy. If you always bring your adult dog on all outings, your puppy will look to the older dog for reassurance and will be less focused on you. 

Puppy's First Class

The intent of your puppy's first class is not to leave with a dog who is an obedient machine. The purpose of a first puppy class is to learn how to communicate with the puppy, and begin to teach the puppy that focusing on you (the handler) is rewarding. Often these classes also offer dog socialization in the form of a short observed and closely monitored playtime. Because not all puppies are properly raised (many come from rescue situations) it is important for the trainer to keep an eye on the playtime and separate any puppies who are overexuberant. Some breeds also do not pair well together and the trainer should be looking to ensure that an athletic large breed puppy, isn't allowed to beat up on some of the smaller more laid back breeds. The trainer will also take into account that some puppies may be overwhelmed and could be entering one of the many fear periods. 

This class typically will have you teach your puppy some basic obedience commands, but the overall goal is teaching you how to communicate and for your puppy to begin learning how to focus on you. The trainer will usually go over other things such as biting, barking, house training, and any other problems you may be encountering at home.

It is important for all members of the household to learn the commands that you will decide to use with your puppy to maintain consistency throughout the training process.

Responses to Environment Due to Under Socialization or Escalation of Behavior

1. Fear Response

Fearful dogs are not fun to have in the home. They may growl or bark at strangers, and exhibit cowering and tail tucking behavior when a visitor comes into the home or near them. These are all signs of under socialization and/or poor temperament. Your dog may bark when someone knocks on the door, but after letting your guests into your home, he/she should calm down fairly quickly and be willing to greet new people... on his own terms.

2. Territorial Response

A territorial response is similar to a fear response, only it is typically not coupled with tail tucking and cowering. A dog can become territorial of many things such as property, your home, your car, or even you. The behavior is characterized by protection behavior (usually barking or lunging) at the offending person or dog and can develop into a reactive behavior if not properly corrected by reducing stimuli.

3. Reactivity or Reactive Response

Reactivity is the overreaction to external stimuli. That can be dogs, people, or other animals. Reactivity is characterized by barking and lunging at stimuli that creates a perceived stress. 

Reactivity is a behavior that is common. However it can be reversed by consistent training and reduction of stimuli in the environment. When a dog encounters something that sends him over the edge, he has already reached a point in which there is no return for him. By getting his attention and moving away from the stimuli (and offering high value treats), you will begin to change the behavior and his reactiveness to external stimuli.

Because it is less likely he is getting in some good walks due to his reactivity, it is important to incorporate other ways for your dog to receive mental exertion. If the reactive dog is not able to safely be around other dogs, his brain and body still need to be stimulated. Stimulation can be accomplished by chewing, training new commands, or hide and seek games for food. 

Reactivity can absolutely be reversed, but it is a slow change that requires a lot of work over time. With the right tools and lots of encouragement, you can get through reactivity.

Biting Behavior

Most bites are preceded by a growl, and I have found that most dogs who bite have been punished for a growl. By removing this incredibly important piece of communication behavior, you are eliminating your dog's way of telling you they are uncomfortable. There is very little ta person can do once the dog learns bite. At this point a canine behaviorist should be contacted to help try and change the dog’s behavior. 

Most rescue groups will not accept or place any dog into a home that has been known to bite. It is a liability and safety issue. If your dog learns to bite, it is a death sentence. A dog that has learned to get its way by biting is a ticking time bomb and should never be left alone near children.

Training Tools of the Trade

Basic Flat Collar

These collars can come either with a belt style buckle as pictured here, or a snap style buckle and are adjustable within a few inches. These collars do not have a good purpose for training. Their sole purpose is to hang your identification or rabies tags. The reason I do not recommend these for training is because the dog can easily slip out of these types of collars. 

Martingale Collar or Limited Slip Collar

This is the collar that I recommend most people train with. The collar is so designed that if the dog tries to back out of the collar, it will slightly tighten to prevent the dogs head from slipping through. These collars are adjustable. The side loop also sometimes comes with a chain but I prefer the nylon loop.

This collar can also be used for identification tags. 

Choke Collar or Slip Collar

The choke collar was once highly regarded as an effective training tool. The choke collar is designed to tighten when the dog pulls and then loosened once the tension is released. These collars are popular with trainers who use the "jerk and snap" or "jerk and pull" method of training. I do not recommend this type of training as it is not based in positive reinforcement.

The same style of collar (although mainly made of nylon, leather, or very thin metal links) is used for show-dog leads to prevent the dogs from backing out of the collar. The show lead version is very thin, so as to not be obtrusive when looking at the dog's conformation and is only used to keep the dog's head up when trotting around the show ring.

Prong Collar or Pinch Collar

The Prong or Pinch Collar is used in situations where the dog's behavior has already escalated to a point where the handler needs more control. While this is not my preferred training tool, it does have a place in some training circles if.... and only if... it is used correctly. This collar should only be fitted snug and high on the neck, directly behind the ears. It should not lay loose at the bottom of the neck as this is how damage occurs. The collar should only be used when training is directly occurring and the dog should never be left unsupervised with it on. The prongs on the collar should not all face the same direction, but should be as the photo depicts.  The collar in the photo is a Herm Sprenger brand. 

Electronic Collar or E-Collar or Shock Collar 

The Electronic Shock Collar has a remote and two metal prongs that make contact with the dog's neck. A correction is delivered to the dog's neck by way of a static shock. I do not recommend use of an electronic collar unless in very extreme cases, or when off-leash control is necessary. 

The use of Electronic Shock Collars have been known to cause life altering physiological and physical problems to dogs when used repeatedly over time. These collars are highly used incorrectly without the guidance of a trainer and often create an anxiety induced behavioral situation.

GPS Collar or Activity Monitor

These collars do not deliver any sort of electronic shock to the dog. Think of them as a Fitbit for Fido. These collars track your dog's daily activity using GPS. The variety of options vary from brand to brand, so ensure if you are looking to pick one up, it has the options you are looking for. Most offer a free app to monitor your dog's activity, coupled with a monthly or yearly subscription. They can be useful if you travel a lot or if your dog accidentally slips out the front door and takes off down the street. 

Basic Leather Leash

I personally prefer a leather leash over nylon. Leather doesn't burn your hands if it is quickly pulled though your fingers like nylon does. Over time these leashes become supple and soft. Just ensure if you switch to leather that your dog doesn't have a penchant for chewing on it. 

The best leash for training your puppy in a class or home setting is a 4 or 6 foot leash. 

Traffic Lead

A traffic lead is a good tool to use in situation where your dog will be in close quarters with you, or when you need something to quickly grab during training to redirect your dog's behavior away from something stimulating. These leads are short and typically made from nylon, biothane or leather. 

Multi-Function Lead or European Lead or Police Lead 

The Multi-Function lead is typically 6 or 8 feet in length with multiple clasps and rings. It is designed to be used in multiple configurations and is handy for training or walking. It can be used as a long leash, a short leash, a shoulder lead (hands free), a traffic lead, a double lead, as a slip collar (slip lead), or to tie the dog to a post when visiting a store. 

I like these leashes for their length and typically use them on longer walks or during training. My personal preference is leather.

Long Line 

A long line can be very useful when working with your dog in a large open area such as during recall work or when working on off-leash behaviors while still maintaining control. 

These are made from either nylon or biothane and can drag on the ground behind your dog while they are working. If your dog gets distracted, you can quickly grab hold of the long line and have control of your dog.

Flexi Lead or Retractable Leash

A Flexi or Retractable Leash is designed with the leash rolled up inside the plastic compartment. It has a brake to stop the line from going in and out. 

These are probably one of the most dangerous tools on the market for walking your dog. There have been many reports of people and dogs both sustaining injuries due to misuse or broken Flexi-Leads. Using a Flexi sends mixed messages to your dog because of the constant tension. Your dog is also able to run out into the street when it is fully extended creating a potentially dangerous situation. I do not now, nor will I ever support the use of a Flexi or Retractable style lead.