As a professional trainer I am reminded every day of how important it is for people to start training their dog the day they bring the dog home. If we don’t train our dogs they do not know right from wrong, and often hear the word “no” over and over again but are never shown what the correct behavior is. Lack of training is the #1 reason dogs end up in a rescue or shelter. Sometimes it is an owner’s own neglect that causes the behavior issues, but more often it is just because they are not informed of the right way to train their dog.

Dog training over the past 15 years has changed dramatically. It went from people saying rub their nose in it if they go to the bathroom in the house, to an age of electric collars.

More recently, positive reinforcement and “clicker training” entered the dog training world. “Clicker training” is an animal training method based on behavioral psychology that relies on marking desirable behavior and rewarding it. Desirable behavior is usually marked by using a “clicker,” a mechanical device that makes a short, distinct “click” sound which tells the animal exactly when they’re doing the right thing.

Owners sometimes find it difficult to maneuver a clicker, leash, treats, and dog all at the same time. Another option, with the same principal of the clicker, is using a “marker”. A marker is similar to the clicker, however it is usually a word or a sound. You are marking your dog’s behavior (hopefully the good, not the bad!) with the marker and a reward. The reward is usually a treat.

The problem that I have come across in this day and age of “I need it now” mentality is that many people are turning to quick fixes in training. They want their dog to mind their manners, walk nice on the leash, like all people and other dogs, and they want this yesterday. Well I would like a million dollars, but that isn’t going to happen either! Owners want to do the best for their dogs, however when they see that it takes much longer to do things positively they get frustrated. I do try to remind them of the saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day!” However, it all goes back to our society, we want it now. We can’t expect our dogs to be trained as quickly as we google a recipe or update our Facebook pages.

Please don’t have that way of thinking. Many of you consider your pets just like your children. You don’t put those high demands on your children, don’t do it to your dog. When our kids are babies, we learn how to read their body language since they are non-verbal and cannot tell us what they need or how they feel. We need to do so with our pets. Take a little time to do some research, learn about their stress signals, learn about what is and is not acceptable in dog greetings, teach your dog a new command, etc.

Most importantly, you can have that perfect dog, and it really is very simple. Start training the day you bring them into your family, and never stop training! There is always something to learn. Don’t get complacent and assume my dog knows everything they need to know. Just as we need to keep our minds sharp and our confidence up, so do our dogs. An old dog can learn new tricks!

We can help with all your training needs! Contact Alison Pennington at 803-210-9380 or email

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