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Positive Dog Parenting

by Rolan Tripp, DVM and Susan Tripp, MS/P

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Dog Obedience Classes

Should my dog be six months old before training?

No!  The BEST investment anyone can make with a new puppy is joining a reputable puppy socialization class, puppy daycare, or attending a puppy socialization while the pup is 2 to 4 months old. 

See Puppy Off Leash Training

Most pups are ready for an adult on leash obedience class at about 6 months of age. Look for classes that use positive reinforcement and not pain to teach dogs.

Teaching your dog a basic vocabulary gives you a means of communication and helps your dog learn that you control everything he/she wants in life.

If your dog sees you as the giver of everything good, your dog will be more motivated to learn from you and follow your instructions. However, you need to teach your dog exactly what you want and help the dog to understand what certain words mean.  The basic vocabulary that can help the dog learn how to act around you and your home is: come, sit, down, wait, stay, watch, shake, back, touch, off, give, drop, leave it, etc.

Dogs will follow and try to please a reliable, benevolent teacher. If the dog does not see clear rules of the home, some dogs will try to take charge to fill this gap. Dogs that misbehave are typically either confused about the rules or have the misguided notion that their family needs them in the leadership role.
Remember, dogs are a proud member of a different species. When we teach our dogs basic words to follow, we are, in fact , teaching them a foreign language.

Dog obedience classes is one way to get help in teaching your dog an English vocabulary. However, avoid all classes that use physical force to teach canines. The best methods are gentle and require your dog's brain to be engaged not your brawn.

Before you begin teaching your dog, try to learn more about how dogs learn and communicate. It's only fair to learn "dog language" before we expect dogs to learn "human language".

Most animal behaviorist agree that dogs that are labeled "bad" are simply "confused" about what people have been trying to communicate to them.

How do I find a good class?

Avoid teachers who rely heavily on firm collar corrections. This is called "compulsion" or "force training." Although force training may appear to produce results and rapid learning on the part of the dog, there are unacceptable disadvantages.

Force training damages the bond between the person and the dog and may create lasting fear or defensive aggression.  

Why should I look for reward-based training?

Reward-based obedience training shows the dog EXACTLY what TO DO and what is right instead of punishing the dog for what is wrong until the dog figures out what you want.

Look for classes that use food lures and treats. Food lures show the dog exactly what words mean and produce quick and fun learning for both of you.

Food lures are phased out. Food rewards are used occasionally along with praise and other reinforcers like games or toys. Would you work very long without ever getting a paycheck.  Let's be reasonable!  Always praise your dog for good behavior. Reinforce the best responses with a variety of rewards, including food. Keep your dog excited about learning and pleasing you. The best rewards are life rewards. If your dog is given instructions daily to earn everything he/she wants, your dog will be well-trained.

American Kennel Club ( offers basic courses like the "Canine Good Citizen" ( and "Obedience Champion," "Search and Rescue" or "Therapy Dog" certifications ( There are many FUN classes that you can take with your dog, including agility training, tracking, tricks class, and flyball.

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