Why hire a professional trainer rather than train my dog myself?
While it may seem simple to train your dog as long as you know what you want and are consistent in your speech and actions, effective training is actually much more complex. You and your dog start out “speaking” two very different languages, and establishing effective communication between you requires a knowledge of both languages as well as familiarity with how dogs learn. Even what seems like common sense to you might end up teaching your dog the very opposite of what you meant to teach. Most likely, you do not have the time to develop the expertise that certification requires trainers to have. Therefore, if you try to train your dog yourself, you may be wonderfully successful, but you may end up needing to hire a trainer to undo your “training” and re-train to achieve the results you originally wanted. In any case, please know that you will remain an integral part of the training process. Our role is to coach you as you train your dog. If you are even wondering about whether you should hire a trainer, please call for a free consultation and we will be happy to discuss all of your options, including sharing resources that will help you train your dog yourself.
Why choose Helping Hounds?
Helping Hounds is unique among area trainers because we offer:
- Individual focus for the entire time of the session rather than attention divided among several students;
- Lessons catered to your individual concerns and training goals;
- Lessons tailored to the learning style that suits you best: listening, reading, watching demonstrations, and (of course) participating yourself;
- Sessions in your home so that your dog learns behaviors where he or she will apply them, and so that you do not have to spend extra time on travel;
- An option for you to have us spend extra time training your dog while you are busy elsewhere (at work, etc.);
- A wide service area throughout the metro Washington DC area;
- Flexible scheduling – we understand how busy you are, so the training sessions do not have do be on the same day or at the same time each week;
- Very competitive pricing (both in comparison to other trainers’ individual lessons and, as the saying goes, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance!”); and
- A thorough knowledge of resources for dogs in the DC metro area so that we can refer you to everything from veterinarians to retail stores to group classes to specialty services (free workshops and other opportunities to learn to help your dog without incurring further expenses, veterinary behaviorists, TTouch practitioners, specialty trainers who are experts in a certain area, trainers who teach specific skills such as tracking, etc.). These are invaluable resources that can help you become a better pet parent in almost any way you want.
When is the right time to begin training a puppy?
It is never to soon to start training a puppy!
- What most people do not realize is that they are training all the time, whether or not they intend to. Dogs learn something from every interaction. For example, if your dog jumps on you and gets pet, she learns that (or has at least banked one experience in which) jumping up gets her attention.
- Furthermore, some types of training are particularly helpful for young puppies, such as crate training and socialization.
- That said, bear in mind that puppies’ cognitive development and attention spans are not the same as those of adult dogs, so consider carefully what to teach your puppy and when.
How long will it take to train my dog and what is the schedule?
The length of time it will take to train your dog depends on a number of factors, such as:
- your training goals;
- whether your dog has had prior training;
- whether your dog needs to “un-learn” undesirable behaviors or just add new desirable ones; and, above all,
- how much and how consistently you practice with your dog.
Most clients want to have a session roughly every week, but if you are very motivated and practice a lot, we are more than happy to schedule the next lesson for as soon as you want it. Obviously, schedules are not rigid – they need not be at the same time on the same day each week. They times, days, and even frequencies can vary according to your schedule.
What are the training and behavior problems you can change?
There is no such thing as an “untrainable” dog; contrary to the saying, you can teach an old dog new tricks; and, even if you have tried unsuccessfully to change a behavior problem in the past, working on an issue in a new way or simply at a different time may make a huge difference. That said, some behaviors are harder to change than others. Most obedience issue can be changed successfully, and some relatively easily:
- housetraining and crate training
- mouthing (puppy biting)
- pulling on the leash
- jumping up on people
- excessive barking
- resource guarding
Some behavioral issues, however, such as anxiety (general, situational, separation, etc.), reactivity (dog-human and dog-dog), phobias, and resource guarding, are more complex. Behavior modification plans for these issues can and do definitely, and often vastly, improve the behavior as well as help you deal with the effects of the problem, but the root of the problem may never be fully cured.
What is the difference between obedience training and behavior modification?
Obedience training engages your dog’s thinking process and capability for rational thought. For example, “I went to my bed before and got a treat. Maybe if I go to my bed again I’ll get another treat.” It basically facilitates effective communication with your dog so that you and your dog essentially have the same term / signal in your relative languages for each behavior you train.
Behavior modification, on the other hand, deals with your dog’s emotions (usually fear), which may or may not be rational. While obedience training essentially changes your dog’s mind about behaviors (in other words, simply teaching your dog), behavior modification changes your dog’s feelings about behaviors or situations, usually about external stimuli such as people, other dogs, places, objects (e.g., skateboards), etc., that trigger fear in your dog.
Though these two processes have different purposes, methods, and goals, they also have several characteristics in common: both help you understand your dog better, improve your dog’s confidence, and strengthen the bond between you and your dog.
How does pet tracking work and will it really bring my lost pet home?
Pet tracking uses the capability of tracking dogs to detect a scent at least 100,000 times and maybe as much as a million times better than humans can to follow the path your pet took when it went missing. The handler presents the dog with a “scent item,” something that has your lost pet’s scent on it, which tells the dog which scent to find and follow. It’s analogous to showing the dog something the color red and telling her, “find and follow the red line.”
Pet tracking is not magic, and chances are very slim that, during the track itself, we will actually find your lost pet. After all, we are probably at least hours, if not days or weeks, behind your pet and we cannot expect to make up that time in an hour or two. Pet tracking is, however, incredibly useful:
- for finding the initial direction the pet went (for several blocks, not just right or left out of the front gate);
- for narrowing down your pet’s location within a larger area, such as a 5,000-acre state park;
- for discovering habits she or he follows along the way (e.g., Does he go through back yards or along front sidewalks? Does she circle the neighborhood over and over or does the track go in a straight line?); and
- most of all, for when you are not (or no longer) getting calls from the flyers you have put up, usually because your pet has moved to a new area. The track will find where that new area is, which will tell you where to put up fresh flyers.
The vast majority of recovered pets make get back home due, either directly or indirectly, to the flyers posted about them. Pet tracking tells where to put up those flyers to maximize the chances of reaching the right people and getting your pet home safe and sound.
Why would I have Helping Hounds run the search for my lost pet rather than run it myself?
The main reason Helping Hounds offers this service is that a modern, thorough lost pet search is very labor intensive and incredibly time consuming. It involves myriad tasks, including but not limited to:
- pet tracking to starting and frequently update a blog and a Facebook page;
- contacting vets and other dog-related businesses;
- maintaining constant, 24/7 availability, usually via cell phone, so you do not miss a single call from someone trying to contact you with information about your lost pet;
- extensive internet outreach to listservs, neighborhood / city sites, related Facebook and other web pages (e.g., DC lost and found dogs, Pet Harbor, etc.), rescue organizations and many others;
- physically going to (not just calling) all area shelters at least every two or three days;
- delegating tasks and frequently communicating with volunteers (if you are lucky enough to have them) and making sure that they are all in touch with one another; and
- (again, if you are lucky and the search has advanced to this point,) maintaining feeding stations, checking motion-sensing cameras, and conducting surveillance.
Most people simply do not have time to do all (or even most) of this themselves, they have no experience at it, and even the responsibility of organizing and managing volunteers (Godsend that they are!) is often difficult, frustrating, and time-consuming. Finally, if your pet goes missing, you will probably be so exhausted, physically and emotionally, after the first few panicked days of searching that having someone else, someone more capable, knowledgeable, and available, take over the search is not so much a luxury as a necessity if you want to keep up an intense search.
© 2016 Helping Hounds LLC