Tips to help you get started training your dog — and keep your goals realistic : NPR

Samantha Balaban and NPR’s Life Kit provide insight into teaching new tricks to dogs old and new.



MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

With shutdowns, work-from-home shifts, and the emotional roller coaster of the pandemic years, millions of people have turned to pets. Nearly 1 in 5 households in the United States have adopted a pet during the pandemic. This is according to the ASPCA. Whether you were part of the pandemic canine boom, recently adopted a puppy, or have had the family dog ​​for years, all dogs can benefit from lifelong training. From NPR’s Life Kit, Samantha Balaban has some tips for where to start.

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SAMANTHA BALABAN, BYLINE: I adopted Winnie from a shelter in 2019. She had no knowledge of basic commands and she came pre-programmed with a lot of anxiety.

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BALABAN: She needed two types of training, obedience – sit, stay, lie down – for which we took a group course given by a dog trainer, and behaviour.

KAYLA FRATT: My area of ​​expertise is mainly working with dogs that are aggressive, anxious, phobic, that sort of thing.

BALABAN: Kayla Fratt is a certified dog behavior consultant and runs Journey Dog Training. She’s kind of like the therapist in the dog training world. If you’re unsure which issues to address first, Kayla Fratt recommends a canine behavior consultant.

FRATT: Anyone who’s really taken the time to specialize in one of those bigger behavioral issues will have the chops to get you through something more minor, more typical as well.

BALABAN: To find a dog trainer or dog behavior consultant near you, start with a list compiled by one of the professional associations. Fratt, for example, belongs to the IAABC, the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Whichever method you choose – personal trainer, group lessons, a free YouTube video – you will need to be an integral part of your dog’s training. Kayla Fratt says working out doesn’t have to take up much of your day.

FRATT: When I was raising my pup, Niffler, it was probably about five minutes a day of actual training where I was like, okay, I’m going to pull out the treat pouch. We’re going to sit down and we’re going to work on something.

BALABAN: And when your dog does something good, like sitting quietly next to your desk, reward him with a treat. One thing to keep in mind is to be realistic about your workout goals.

Kim Brophey is the author of “Meet Your Dog: The Game-Changing Guide to Understanding Your Dog’s Behavior”. She developed a framework called LEGS.

KIM BROPHEY: And that represents the learning, what their experience in education has been; the environment, the genetics that they bring to the table inside and out, and then the self, which is the internal conditions.

BALABAN: Winnie, for example, came from a hoarding situation. She had spent many years learning that people weren’t always nice. She can unlearn that, but it’s hard. Your dog might pinch your heels or chase your kids because of G, genetics.

BROPHEY: It could be, you know, 10% Border Collie, 10% Australian Shepherd, 10% German Shepherd, 10% Standard Collie, and all of a sudden we know we have a sheepdog.

BALABAN: You can’t change your dog’s genes, but once you identify the root cause of the behavior, you can learn how to manage it. Sometimes, however, training is not enough.

ANDREA TU: Many of these behavioral disorders resemble psychiatric illnesses, and we can also prescribe medication to treat this problem.

BALABAN: Dr. Andrea Tu is a behavioral veterinarian. She says if your dog is experiencing fear, anxiety, panic, aggression, you should treat it as whatever medical need he may have.

TU: It’s a bit like having a diabetic patient. You don’t give your dog insulin for his diabetes because that’s what he needs to maintain the proper level of hormones in his body.

BALABAN: Since I adopted her, Winnie has taken obedience classes and received individual training to manage her trust issues. For stressful situations like going to the vet, she has medication for anxiety. I should note, however, that she declined to comment for this story. Whatever your approach, however, dog training will enrich your life and, more importantly, your dog’s life.

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BALABAN: Samantha Balaban, NPR News.

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MARTIN: To learn more about Life Kit, including how to adopt a dog, go to npr.org/lifekit.

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