In the 1980s veterinarian and animal behaviourist Ian Dunbar discovered that despite evidence on the peak learning periods in animals, few dog trainers worked with puppies before they were six months old. Dunbar founded Sirius Dog Training, the first off-leash training program specifically for puppies, which emphasizes the importance of teaching bite inhibition, sociality, and other basic household manners, to dogs under six months of age. Dunbar has written numerous books, and is known for his international seminar presentations and award-winning videos on puppy and dog behavior and training.
According to a January 2007 article in the Indian scientific journal Current Science, some professional dog trainers find Millan's methods outdated, flawed and "unscientific and inhumane." Millan's detractors say that what Millan calls "calm submission" is actually a state of helplessness that is the result of averse dog-training techniques. A study in Applied Animal Behaviour Science said Millan has been influential in popularizing punitive techniques, but that bad behavior from dogs was caused by fear and anxiety, not a lack of the owner's alpha status. Malcolm Gladwell, writing for The New Yorker, said that critics were responding to a "highly edited" version of his approach on television, which exaggerates the frequency and intensity that he uses when he disciplines the dogs.
The idea of using treats to train is often equated with bribery. Truthfully, dogs do what works. If using treats gets them to do what you want, then why not? You can also use the world around you as a reinforcement. Every interaction you have with your dog is a learning opportunity, so when you think about it, you probably don’t use food very often except during active training sessions. So why does your dog continue to hang out? Because you reinforce him with praise, touch, games and walks. Just remember, the behavior should produce the treat; the treat should not produce the behavior.
When you have to leave the puppy alone, you’ll need to confine it to a crate. This will prevent the puppy from peeing and pooping all over your home, and will also help teach it control, since it won’t want to soil the crate. However, young puppies need frequent bathroom breaks, so you’ll also need to ask a friend or pet-sitter to stop by and let the puppy out throughout the day until it’s old enough to go for longer stretches without needing to use the bathroom.
Millan's work focuses on handling a dog with what he calls "calm-assertive energy". He believes that dog owners should establish their role as calm-assertive pack leaders. According to Millan, dogs have three primary needs: exercise, discipline and affection, in that order. In other words, it is the owner's responsibility to fulfill the dog's energy level needs through challenging exercise; then to provide clearly communicated rules, boundaries and limitations; and finally, to provide affection. According to Millan, a common pitfall for American dog owners is to give a great deal of affection with very little exercise and even less discipline. He encourages owners to understand the effect their own attitudes, internal emotions and physical postures have on a dog's behavior, counseling owners to hold strong posture (i.e., shoulders high and chest forward) and to project energy that is calm-assertive.
There is only one acceptable methodology for potty training a dog of any age: positive reinforcement. Traditional advice suggested swatting a dog or rubbing his face in his waste for mistakes in the house, but those techniques do nothing to make the potty training process more understandable for your dog and can actually damage your relationship with him. Keep in mind, dogs don’t view their waste the way we do – to them, pee and poo is pretty interesting! Punishing your dog for going in the house won’t help him understand what he should do instead and might make him afraid to go near you at all, inside or out. Successful potty training requires patience, kindness and remembering that your new puppy is just learning the rules.
In 1935, the American Kennel Club began obedience trials, and in the following years popular magazines raised public awareness of the benefits of having a trained pet dog, and of the recreational possibilities of dog training as a hobby. After WWII, the increasing complexities of suburban living demanded that for a pet dog's own protection and its owner's convenience, the dog should be obedient. William Koehler had served as principal trainer at the War Dog Training Center, in California, and after the war became chief trainer for the Orange Empire Dog Club—at the time, the largest dog club in the United States—instructor for a number of breed clubs, and a dog trainer for the Walt Disney Studios. In 1962 Koehler published The Koehler Method of Dog Training, in which he is highly critical of what he calls "tid-bit training techniques" based in "the prattle of 'dog psychologists'". Amongst the training innovations attributed to Koehler is the use of a long line in conjunction with a complete absence of oral communication as a way of instilling attentiveness prior to any leash training. Koehler insisted that participants in his training classes used "emphatic corrections", including leash jerks and throw chains, explaining that tentative, nagging corrections were cruel in that they caused emotional disturbance to the dog. Vicki Hearne, a disciple of Koehler's, commented on the widespread criticism of his corrections, with the explanation that it was the emotionally loaded language used in the book that led to a number of court cases, and to the book being banned in Arizona for a time. Despite the controversy, his basic method forms the core of many contemporary training systems.
Individualised training is used with dogs that have an urgent or unique training problem such as fear, hyperactivity, aggression (and other related problems), separation anxiety, biting, excessive barking, insecurity, destructive behaviors, walking difficulties, and inappropriate elimination. This type of training would normally be undertaken where the problem naturally occurs rather than a class situation. Class training can be effective in encouraging socialization and play with a peer group. Classes are often offered at a more affordable rate and can cover both problem behaviors and teach new skills. Classes can range from puppy and beginner training to more advanced training and skill training such as performing tricks or therapy work.
Remember that training is an ongoing process. You will never be completely finished. It is important to keep working on obedience training throughout the life of your dog. People who learn a language at a young age but stop speaking that language may forget much of it as they grow older. The same goes for your dog: use it or lose it. Running through even the most basic tricks and commands will help them stay fresh in your dog's mind. Plus, it's a great way to spend time with your dog.