My dog is only 8 weeks old. When can I start puppy training classes?
Immediately! Yesterday! Joy for Dogs agrees with the American Society of Veterinary Behavior’s position that puppy socialization can and should begin as early as eight weeks. Puppies have a very short window when they are open to everything and it’s important to expose them to as many new experiences as possible during this time. They can learn to fear anything that they do not encounter during this critical time, and fear can lead to aggression. The combination of immunity acquired from the puppies’ mothers and the first round of vaccinations makes the risk of catching disease relatively low. The consequences of fear due to missed socialization, however, include a very real chance of death – most dogs in shelters under the age of three are there because of behavior problems. Puppies in Joy for Dogs’ puppy kindergarten classes only need to have had their first round of shots to participate.

What training methods do you use?
Joy for Dogs uses up-to-date, evidence-based positive reinforcement training methods, always aiming to use the Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive approach. This means we use the dog’s own motivations, whether that be food, toys, attention, etc., to change behavior. Joy for Dogs agrees with leading veterinary behavior specialists that punishing a dog can have many negative side effects. Therefore, we do not punish or correct dogs using devices such as choke, pinch or electronic collars. Joy for Dogs employs a “toolbox” approach – combining lifestyle changes, useful products and teaching behavior, including clicker training, to achieve results.

Joy says: The main reason dogs don’t get trained is that they simply do not understand what their owners want of them. Example: You come home, dog jumps all over you. You push him off and say “Off!” Later, he’s on his bed playing nicely with a toy. You ignore him because you are cooking dinner. What has the dog learned? That jumping up on you gets your attention, while playing nicely with a toy does not. He also has probably learned to jump when you say “Off” because that’s what you always say when he jumps!

I’ve been to obedience class and my dog still won’t come when I call her. How will you get my dog to come?
Coming when called, or Recall, is one of the most important skills we can teach our dogs, and requires consistency in practice and we need to make it absolutely clear to the dog what we expect. For Recall to be useful, to save your dog from a skunk, an aggressive dog, or a car, your dog needs to understand it as “come every time you call, immediately.”   We have to work on both of those aspects of it, and the behavior has to become generalized, so that your dog understands that it applies everywhere – on the street, in the park, in your yard, etc. We also have to work on adding distractions – even though your dog may come inside when there’s nothing else to do, at the park with squirrels and other dogs is another story! I will help you will all the aspects of it to build a rock-solid Recall.

What is your availability?
Weekdays during school hours are preferred, but limited weekend times are available. We generally schedule 1-2 weeks ahead for weekdays and 3 or more weeks ahead for weekends.

How many sessions should we do?
It depends on how much help you want and how much you are comfortable doing on your own. For most people, between 3 and 6 sessions is enough to get a good start on training. Some people want more help, and others want to advance their pup’s skills, so 12 or more sessions is not uncommon in these situations. Usually we schedule a first session, and at that session, we discuss your goals, make a plan, and start on it, and at the end of the first session we can make an estimate of how many sessions you will need to accomplish your goals.

What is your process? Are you going to train my dog?
I can teach your dog new skills, like Stay, Leave It, Leash Walking, Paw, etc. Your dog will improve faster, and will be less likely to forget skills, however, if you work on them daily as well. I will leave you with a plan and specific instructions for working on each item (homework!). I usually put 1-2 weeks between sessions. Some people prefer that I do all the training — for example, if they are busy and don’t have a lot of time. If that is your situation, then I would recommend more sessions and closer together, such as a total of at least 12 and twice a week, so that the dog does not forget between sessions. Many skills, like Come and Drop It, are best reinforced daily, and at random times – this will ensure your dog generalizes them so that he or she responds every time. Dogs catch on quickly to “the game” and they may behave spectacularly while I am there, and then later when you ask – not so much.  Practicing multiple times per day for a few minutes accomplishes more than once a day for 20 minutes.

Isn’t hiring a dog trainer like hiring a plumber? Shouldn’t I just go with the one who calls me back first?
Actually it’s more like hiring a therapist, because we will be working closely together. Over the 10+ years that I (Joy) have been training, I’ve found that connecting with people, gaining their trust, explaining training concepts without condescending, and respecting clients’ wishes are as important, perhaps even more so, than the ability to teach skills to dogs. I’m really training you, the owner, because my goal is that after we are done, you can continue to support your dog in learning good habits, because I will have equipped you with the knowledge and ability to communicate with your dog. I aim to help clients build relationships with their dogs and enjoy the wonderful companionship of a lifetime with an “easy, good dog.”