Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know whether I should opt for private training/consulting or group classes?
How do I choose a dog trainer or behavior consultant?
Does Urban Dawgs carry insurance?
Are there risks involved in socializing my puppy before s/he is fully vaccinated?
What is Clicker Training?
Do I have to use a clicker?
Do I have to use food?
Why can't I just praise my dog?


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How do I know whether I should opt for private training/consulting or group classes?

Private training allows you to learn at your own pace in a comfortable environment and have the convenience of flexibly fitting training into your busy schedule. We can cover the all the basics (such as: sit, down, loose leash walking, sitting politely for greetings, stay, leave-it, coming when called) and address problem behaviors such as jumping up, counter surfing and pulling on the leash. Private training is the only option when it comes to diagnosing and treating specific and sometimes serious behavior problems such as aggression to strangers, family members or other dogs, chronic house-soiling, excessive or inappropriate barking, digging or chewing and fear and anxiety disorders such as separation anxiety. Group classes cost less than private training because the trainer's time is usually divided among 5 or more dogs/handlers and the class follows a pre-written curriculum. Group classes are an excellent way for people and well-socialized dogs to learn basic training skills as well as to troubleshoot issues such as poor manners, jumping up and pulling on leash. Dogs enjoy the training, the outing and the chance to socialize with people and other dogs. It is recommended to schedule at least one private training session prior to enrolling in a group class.

How do I choose a dog trainer or behavior consultant?
Did you know that ANYONE can call themselves a dog trainer or behaviorist? The law does not require any formal training or licensing. It is up to you to do the research to find the best qualified person to work with you and your dog. Look for trainers who use positive reinforcement to achieve desired behavior rather than punishment for undesired behavior. Avoid a trainer who offers guarantees. That trainer is either ignoring or doesn't understand the complexity of animal behavior. Avoid trainers who object to using food as a training reward. Food is an acceptable positive reinforcement training tool and should be coupled with physical and verbal praise. Avoid trainers who will not let you use any training collar other than a choke chain. There are humane alternatives to choke chains and pinch collars. Do not allow trainers to work with your animal unless they tell you beforehand exactly what they plan to do. Do not be afraid to tell a trainer to stop if she or he is doing something to your animal that makes you uncomfortable.
If a trainer tells you to do something that you don't feel good about, don't do it! Don't be intimidated, bullied, or shamed into doing something that you believe is not in your pet's best interest. If you believe your pet has been subjected to cruel treatment by a trainer, get the names and phone numbers of witnesses. Take your dog to the veterinarian immediately for a complete physical. Tell them that the results of the exam may be used as evidence in a court case so that they will document the procedures with that in mind. If you witness cruelty, don't be afraid to report it. Talk to your local animal control agency about what you saw. They can help determine if abuse occurred and what steps should be taken. Please be careful when choosing a professional to handle your pet.  You can read about our credentials here. Tips based on information provided by the American Humane Association

Does Urban Dawgs carry insurance?
Urban Dawgs carries liability insurance through The Hartford. We're dedicated to professionalism in every aspect of our business.

What is clicker training?
Clicker training is an exciting way of teaching new behaviors to animals. The term "clicker training" was coined by Karen Pryor, who helped bring clicker training to the world of dog training. The technique is based on the scientific principles of Operant Conditioning (behavior change through consequences) and Classical Conditioning (learning by association). In clicker training, trainers use an event marker (usually a noisemaker such as a clicker) to identify behaviors that they like. Then, after marking the behavior, it is reinforced, usually with a food treat. Behaviors that are reinforced (rewarded) are more likely to be repeated behaviors. For example, a trainer wants to teach his dog to sit. When the dog sits, the trainer clicks and gives the dog a treat. The click tells the dog, "That behavior right there -- that's what I want!" and "A reward is coming." If the trainer clicks and treats every time the dog sits, the dog will soon figure out that sitting earns a treat and begin offering the sit more often. The trainer then adds a cue, "Sit," to the behavior. As a philosophy, clicker training includes the works and ideas of Karen Pryor, Jean Donaldson, Bob and Marian Bailey, Murray Sidman and others who believe it's possible to train a dog, raise a family, or live a life based on reinforcement instead of coercion and force.

Do I have to use a clicker?
No, but clickers speed up the training and make it more fun! The clicker is just a tool - a noisemaker used as an event marker to identify behaviors you like. Some people use other tools instead of the clicker. Whistles, for example, are used frequently by people who are training animals to work at a distance. Flashlights are used by people working with deaf animals. Some people also use verbal markers, such as "Yes." However, the clicker is small, easy to carry around, more precise than words and consistently neutral (unlike our voices).

Do I have to use food?
When we train new behaviors, we have to reinforce the behavior in order to increase the occurrence of the behavior. To do this, you must use a reward that the dog finds reinforcing. Food is often the most powerful reinforcer you have. When working on a new behavior, we rely on food almost entirely. Ultimately, though, the reward doesn't have to be a food treat. The reward can also be playing with a favorite toy, running for a ball, playing with other dogs, a belly rub, praise or anything else your dog finds rewarding and is willing to work for in a particular situation. If your dog won't actively work for what you're offering (food or otherwise), it isn't a reinforcer in that situation. It's a common myth that using food in training will produce a dog that only works for food. Reward, don't bribe. If you're using a food lure, fade it quickly and then don't have the food visible when you ask for a behavior. The reward should be produced only after the dog has performed the behavior.

Why can't I just praise my dog?
We praise our dogs frequently - both in and out of training. But when we're teaching a new behavior, we want the dog to be motivated to work - so we use a higher value reward, usually food (often with praise). A human example: praise is great, but it is usually the paycheck that motivates you to keep driving to work.

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