With Naperville being such a dog-friendly place, we’ve got great dog parks, pet stores, and even dog walking/running/sitting services. Missing from this list is one of the most helpful services you can do for yourself and your pet. It’s dog training.
Training can often be the difference between a very happy relationship with your dog and one that’s not so pleasant.
There are many fine dog trainers in Naperville and various training methods that people subscribe to, no doubt. One that you may find helpful for you and your pet is Sandy Finley of Perfect Manners Dog Training. I remember first meeting up with him and his dog at a Starbucks on Ogden. We sat inside chatting while his dog sat outside nearly motionless for 45 minutes waiting for us…while tons of strangers walked right beside him…without being tied to anything to keep him from wandering away.
Sandy took some time to answer some training questions that we and other dog owners commonly have. Enjoy.
There are various viewpoints on how to best train a dog. What’s your general training philosophy?
Dog training methods vary from the very negative to the purely positive. There are advantages to both ends of the spectrum. My approach is a balanced method that is determined by the temperament of the dog and the goal(s) of the owner. If the dog is being trained to simply be a good family dog and has a normal temperament, I will veer more toward the positive. Likewise were the dog being trained for police work and had a fairly “hard” temperament, I would place more emphasis on negative reinforcement. I would respectfully suggest that any dog trainer that is inflexibly wedded to one rigid methodology is probably inexperienced.
What are some of the most common training mistakes you’ve seen dog owners make that are easily correctable?
The number one mistake is giving commands and then not following through and enforcing them. You are always training your dog. If you do not enforce your commands, you are training your dog that your commands are meaningless.
At what age is it best to start training?
Crate and Potty Training should begin as soon as you get the dog home. Formal training should begin no sooner than 12 weeks of age.
How long does it take to get a dog to understand basic commands? How long to get into more advanced behaviors?
A rule of thumb is it takes anywhere from 25 to 40 repetitions for a dog to fully associate (understand) that a command results in a specific behavior. Actually there are very few “advanced” behaviors. Once a dog learns the core commands of sit, down, stay, come, heel and fetch, then all other commands are simply refinements. As an example, watching a dog drop to the ground from a dead run while 50 yards away appears very advanced. In reality, the dog is merely doing a down command. Getting the newspaper, bringing his leash, bringing the TV remote control are all simply variations of the fetch command.
Are certain breeds more prone to being better-behaved or more easily trained?
To a certain degree, yes. Some breeds such as herding dogs were bred specifically to work with the herder and follow his commands. Other breeds such as terriers were bred to control vermin, especially mice. Were a terrier not of an independent nature they would fail miserably at what they were bred to do. Consequently, some dogs who were bred to work with humans rather than to work independently are generally easier to train. However, there are exceptions to every generality.
What’s the hardest case you’ve ever dealt with that ended up being a success story?
After doing this over 30 years, I can only say that there have been an awful lot of hard cases. I can’t name any ONE that was the absolute hardest.
Can a person learn to train their dog by watching one of those “realty shows” on TV? Is there any merit in what those programs show?
I think there is merit in that the reality shows give people hope that bad dog behaviors can be corrected. I’ve saved many a dog life because people called me rather than euthanize their dog. In the bad old days, the first choice was to simply put the dog down. The downside to reality shows is that they can and do get people and dogs hurt. Many things I see on TV shows make me either cringe or laugh. As an example, in the real world, a trainer should not work with an aggressive dog unless he’s muzzled. In the real world of dog training, drama is not a good thing.
What is a good way to help a dog stop pulling while on a walk?
Your dog pulls because he doesn’t respect your authority. Either call me or train the dog yourself in the core commands and the dog will expect to follow you rather than pull you.
Do you have any favorite Naperville spots to go and hang out with your dog and/or with friends?
I like to go to Dog Patch in Naperville and play with the rescue dogs. I’ll normally take my dog who’ll make new friends.