5 Questions to Ask Before Dog Training Can Begin

I happen to be bringing most of my training team to the IAABC Conference in Anaheim this weekend. There are several tracks about training for aggression, reactivity and other behavior topics, even interspecies stuff with both dogs and cats. But the topics that really interest me the most are the two talks on client interaction, “Taking a Case History” and “Improving Client Compliance*”. That is where the focus of all our training programs should be.


IAABCI’ve had two clients recently that had a different plan for their dog training direction. One client we knew we shouldn’t work with. The other we didn’t know until they finished and didn’t creep so silently into the cold dark night. Finding out what a client’s expectations are and then using that information effectively is the crux move in a dog behavior and training program.

Of the two cases I mentioned above, the one we never started, at least had a happy ending, We told the client that we weren’t a good fit for their training needs, and they wouldn’t be fully satisfied if they did proceed with a training program. Their response was actually a lovely one and a blessing. They thanked me for listening, and for being so candid with my suggestions.

The other one had some murmurings of “This isn’t going to work!” “We can’t do that!” and “No we didn’t actually follow your suggestions.” The better job that we do of finding out what our clients want and working in tandem with them, the better our results will be.

There are 5 questions we need to ask in any training series.

  • What does the caregiver want to know?
  • What does the caregiver want the dog to know?
  • What does the trainer think the caregiver needs to know?
  • What does the dog need to know?

And even more importantly:

  • What does the puppy want to know?

It’s important we deliver the information in a way that works for everyone. Here is a detailed look at dog training from the different viewpoints:

What the caregiver wants to know?

  • How to get my puppy to stop biting?
  • When can I take my dog to play with other dogs?
  • When will he calm down?
  • When can he run free?
  • How long do I have to do this for?
  • What are the right things for care and diet?
  • How do I teach the puppy commands?
  • When can I stop using treats?
  • How do I get him to stop pulling?
  • How do I get him to stop chewing?
  • Why do they stop on walks?
  • Can I bring everyone in my family to class?

What caregiver wants the dog to know?

  • Manners around family and visitors
  • To potty outside or in the right place
  • Not to run out the door
  • To come
  • To stay
  • Not to bark or cry
  • Not get in trash
  • Be generally sociable

What does the trainer think the caregiver needs to know?

  • To watch and read the dog
  • To let the dog make choices
  • Principles of learning
  • Stimulate, and enrichment, to set up the environment
  • Allow rest time, not overwhelm
  • Timeline for socialization, health and development
  • To do right for the dog and not do damage it
  • How to start w/o mistakes
  • Why they can’t let them play on leash

What does the dog need to know?

  • The world is safe
  • Housebreaking
  • Good behavior and manners
  • How to live without: jumping, biting, being destructive
  • Coping skills
  • Socializing
  • Social skills with dogs
  • To be comfortable when alone
  • To be comfortable on a leash
  • Basic training- Impulse control, sit, down, wait, stay and come when called
  • Place or “Station”
  • Proper confinement behavior, crate pen, tether
  • Comfort during husbandry veterinary care and restraint
  • If I do something good I get reinforcement

IMG_0854What does dog want to know?

  • When do we eat?
  • What can I do?
  • What did I do wrong?
  • Where can I pee?
  • How do I avoid getting yelled at again? (Or avoid any punishment)
  • Why do you keep doing that?
  • Why do you keep saying that?
  • What are you trying to get me to do?
  • What do you want from me?
  • I don’t understand, can you make that more clear?
  • When can I play?

I actually prefer the term collaboration to client compliance, because we really are working in a team with them. When we look at each of these questions, we can make sure we have designed a dog training program that covers everyone’s needs. Because if you look at the answers to the questions, you will see that each point of view comes from a rather different perspective.

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    • Trained nearly 10,000 dogs
    • Over 20 years consultation and testimony experience in administrative, criminal and civil cases
    • Voted Best Dog Trainer in Los Angeles 2009-2014 CityVoter and MyFox LA Hotlist


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