Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Nicole Larocco-Skeehan (pictured above with her dog, Uluru) weighs in on some common training questions and gives the dish on her rewarding (and sometimes crazy!) job as a dog trainer:
Is there a “right” time to start training your dog?
It's always a good idea to train, but the sooner you start the better! If you've just brought home a puppy or adopted a new dog, give him about two weeks to acclimate to the new living situation and recover from any health issues. After that, it's time to dive in!
Back-to-school season is a great time to train pets as the heat of summer is subsiding and vacations are over – so there's nothing to keep you from practicing. For dogs whose humans are no longer home once school starts, one-on-one time in the form of a group class with their favorite human can be just what the veterinarian ordered to beat those “back to school blues.”
What is the biggest mistake people make when training their pets?
The biggest mistake is not being patient enough to work through a training plan in order to achieve the desired results. Many times, dog training takes time, patience and practice. And the more you put in, the more you get in return. People looking for a quick fix often feel disappointed when their dog isn’t “better” after one session or one class. But I promise, if you put the work in, you won't be disappointed with the results.
How is training shelter dogs different than training owned pets?
Dogs in a shelter are living in an intrinsically stressful environment, as opposed to their owned counterparts who generally live in a comfy home with minimal amounts of daily anxiety. So when training a dog in the shelter, I must keep in mind that the dog is likely trying to manage stress to some degree. And by nature, the learning process can be inherently stressful. I must be careful to give impeccably clear direction, reward often and break training into short and upbeat sessions.
What’s the most rewarding part about your job?
There are so many rewarding parts to my job. I mean, I work with adorable dogs all day, every day! But the best part for me is being able to teach humans how to communicate effectively with their dogs. More recently, my career has taken a bit of a fun, new turn; instead of training owners to communicate with their own dogs, I've actually begun training other dog trainers! I've been invited to lecture at several universities, conferences and seminars, and I've filmed two DVDs aimed at training dog trainers that will come out early next year. I've also recently been contracted by a publishing company to produce a textbook for dog trainers! Although I'm not handling as many dogs as I once was, I'm so excited to be able to help even more dogs and their owners by sharing my knowledge with other dog training professionals.
What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened to you on the job?
Well, I work with animals, so it's a safe bet that when you ask for a crazy story, it likely involves poo. The one that comes to mind right now is when my dog pooped in the ring while we were competing in an agility trial. Ugh. . . how embarrassing!
Learn more about Nicole and check out her other helpful training tips on the fetch! blog!