You CAN Teach an Old
Dog New Tricks
by Amber Keiper
Every dog owner knows that proper training is one of the most important things that we can give our pets. Good training ensures that the animal’s transition to the family is a positive experience for everyone.
I had the privilege of chatting with Carol Davis, the founder of Canine Companions Dog Training School in Hamilton, MA to learn more about the various aspects of dog training and why obedience classes can help a puppy or troubled dog transform into the friendly, well-behaved pet they have the potential of becoming.
Since 1981, Canine Companions Dog Training School has been teaching dogs and their owners the fundamentals of dog obedience and proper pet manners. Carol has trained over 5,000 dogs and is a member of the National Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) as well as a member of Old Colony Obedience Club in Danvers, MA. In 1988, Carol decided to add beginner and intermediate agility training classes after her students expressed an interest for it.
Amber: What form of training do you find most effective?
Carol: I believe in positive training and using small group classes. There is a big advantage of offering distractions for a dog in a class environment rather than one-on-one training. Dogs don’t generalize very well so it’s good to offer some distractions during training. It’s good for the people too because they see that their dog isn’t the only one with (behavior) issues.
Amber: What are some of the greatest challenges that you or your clients face during dog training?
Carol: The most frustrating and saddest part of my job is often dealing with people who really don’t want to spend the time to achieve what they could achieve. They see the problems, they give it a short try and then they just disappear. You have to wonder what that dog’s life is going to be like.
My goal is for everybody to have dogs that can be in their home – not in the basement, or in the garage, or in the backyard. Dogs that are not destructive but that are friendly: get along with people, other dogs…maybe cats – and as a result get to have a wonderful life.
Amber: Do you have a dog training success story that you are most proud of and would like to share with our readers?
Carol: I had a Welsh terrier many years ago who was bent on self-destruction. He was incredibly sound sensitive…if the telephone rang, he would attach the phone and try to chew it up. If the owners flushed the toilets, he would attack the toilet seat. The worst one was if the oven door creaked, he would try and jump into the oven. In class, if another dog’s collar rattled, he would go berserk and try to attack the dog.
I remember years later when nobody else knew what the dog had been like – and he kept coming to classes – everybody would say, “Oh what a wonderful, well-behaved dog that is!” And the owner would look at me and I would look at her and we’d both laugh. That was a case of basic perseverance.
Amber: Is there a particular breed or personality trait that would make for an ideal agility dog candidate?
Carol: I don’t really think that there is a breed that is best for agility unless you’re really trying to compete. We can have someone with a Great Dane do it and another person with a Corgi do it. The point is to have the dog and the owner do something fun together that they look forward to doing together…and it’s exercise!
It’s meant to be fun. There are times when I literally teach until it snows outside. Around the middle of December when it hasn’t snowed yet, I have to tell people, “Go home and enjoy Christmas!” They have a lot of fun.
I have also found that agility training has been wonderful for shy or timid dogs - the dogs that come in and go, “What’s that? I can’t do that. Are you crazy?” After eight weeks, 99% of them are happily bounding around and doing the things that they were scared of doing in the beginning. Agility really helps bring dogs out of themselves and make them more confident - I have had many cases of that!
Amber: Why do you recommend the BARF diet to your clients?
Carol: What I try to do is educate people. Before we talk about (pet nutrition) I sit down with them and say, “These are the things that are really bad for your dog.” I explain to them that grain and starch are probably the worst things that they can give their dog BUT that it’s also one of the cheapest things to feed a dog which is why dry dog food is always the cheapest and also the worst for their dog.
We talk about by-products, we talk about meals, sugar, and food coloring – we talk about all those things. I explain to them that canned food is still cooked food and that cooked food is dead food and that their dog’s digestion, coat, teeth - everything will benefit from live enzymes.
Then I explain the BARF diet and I show them what’s in it. I explain what a wild dog would eat. At the very least I want them to be educated consumers. Do the best you can for your dogs and understand what you are feeding your dog.
Canine Companions offers puppy classes, beginner and intermediate obedience classes and beginner and intermediate agility classes. There are also private lessons available for those who prefer one-on-one coaching.
For more information you can visit Canine Companions’ website, www.ccdts.com or call (978) 468-4321.
Amber Keiper is the Marketing Assistant and Raw Diet Educator for BARF World Inc. She and her husband have two rescue animals that are now healthy and proud BARF brats – a terrier mix named Chewbacca (“Chewy”) and a tabby mix named Chiquita (“Chiqui”).
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