The first dog I remember was Toby. He was a doberman pincher, I was about 3 years old. My father trained him with what I now believe to have been the Koehler method. For those not familiar, it’s a dominance-based training method that many feel focuses on negative consequences and once promoted ‘breaking’ the dog by occasionally hanging him to show him who is boss. It wasn’t wrong then, it was current, at the time. But to think about it is horrifying to me.
My own first dog was a black lab mutt rescue from the Animal Protective League. I was about 23 years old. When learning about dog training myself, I ran across this book and adopted training methods recommended by the Monks of New Skete. Still focusing on alpha-pack leaders (the handler), sometimes using seemingly harsh punishments for the worst infractions, it was much gentler than Koehler.
Kill them with kindness, the kindness we want ourselves
Twenty years later, and we found ourselves with a 7 week old Cane Corso, Italian Mastiff. Our goal was to train him gently as possible, make him a giant lovable therapy dog. We had a few lessons with a modern trainer. While the trainer wasn’t the best fit for us, thankfully, she opened our eyes to modern training methods. Basically treat the dog like a child, gently speaking, never saying ‘no’, spend time reading to him, build a rapport and relationship based on mutual trust. They were methods supported and taught by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT).
What works for one might not work for all
Learning about canines now, later in life, and various training methods, has led me to a few conclusions. One is that every dog has a purpose, and that purpose is different for every dog owner. Each of the training methods above may apply to certain situations, for certain dogs, in certain roles. I try to reserve my own judgement on the appropriateness of any particular training method chosen. But… for me, and our therapy dog, modern reward and motivational training techniques have worked great. Coming from a more traditional dog training experience, I was skeptical and thought this new kindness stuff was crap. But I’m now a believer.
Canine Good Citizen (CGC)
So, fast forward a few years, and we seemed to have trained ourselves a wonderful gentle giant dog that will soon be suitable for therapy work. AKC offers the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test, which to us, is basically a minimum standard to meet by any dog in public or around any strangers. A natural progression of the training was to pass the CGC test. It is also the first step in many therapy animal certification programs. I had purchased the Citizen Canine book by AKC before we even brought him home, and we’ve been working on techniques ever since.
American Kennel Club (AKC) has wonderful programs such as the Canine Good Citizen test. Remember your dog doesn’t need to be a full-breed or AKC registered to participate in most of their programs.
Money, money, money
On my quest to find a qualified evaluator who offers the test, I ran across many local private dog trainers who were happy to charge up to $60+/hour for consultations and training. But we were already pretty much ready to test, he has been socialized to death, we didn’t want to spend another $500+ paying for unnecessary private training. A half dozen trainers, phone tag, missed emails, incomplete information, and run arounds later, and we ran across OCA, the Obedience Club of Asheville.
Throughout my dog training experience, I’ve run across more than a few dog ‘experts’ who held fancy, and sometimes long titles and grandiose initials after their names. Certifications. Qualifications. Sometimes even a college degree, or two. Turns out some of the worst advice I’ve ever received came from an ‘expert’. For me, I’m skeptical and never trust a title. Exorbitant prices and fancy certifications don’t equate to more knowledge… it equates to ‘good marketing’ and earning a living. For the ‘trainer’. A dogs skills and relationship with handler are the ultimate demonstration. Titles are shown by demonstration, not in hanging a certification on the wall.
Obedience Club of Asheville offers the best group basic dog training class, bar none.
OCA offers an 8-week group class teaching modern-based dog training methods. It’s offered a few times a year. The class is hosted by about a dozen or more volunteer dog training experts. And let us tell you: they were exceptional. These kind, caring, experienced dog trainers spend countless hours …for free… sharing their dog training knowledge, just because they love dogs. Each week, a dozen or so exercises were demonstrated and practiced in class. Then we were provided a list of what was taught, so we could practice at home. The best thing is, this class cost only $100, I think less for a rescued dog and even free when you’re a member of the club. Taking the OCA obedience class qualifies you and your dog to take the CGC test on the last day.
I am no expert, but we’ve had nearly a half dozen canines in my life. I have personally learned about and trained 3 dogs now. After all I’ve read and experienced, even after all of our at-home training, the group class offered by the Obedience Club of Asheville was the best thing ever. It’s something not to miss for your new dog, and from now on, it will be the first on our list.
Sign up for OCA’s Basic Obedience Class
Classes are offered a few times a year. The class just ending was at the Fairview Community Center, 1357 Charlotte Hwy, Fairview, North Carolina 28730. It’s across from the Food Lion grocery store, next to the Fairview School.
Check out the Obedience Club of Asheville’s website to learn more and sign up for the next class!