The Old Trainer: Want to be a trainer? Practice!

July 14, 2012 

— I am 13 and I love dogs. I read your column every week and I have taught my Beagle, Sally, a lot of commands. I want to be a dog trainer when I grow up.

Can girls be good dog trainers?

-- Madison, Merced

A: Yes they can, Madison. Dogs don't care if it is a woman or a man training them. Lots of times women are better at it then men.

There are three qualities a trainer must have: confidence, patience and a love for dogs.

Confidence it is the most important. There is an old saying in sports, "you can't do something you don't believe you can do." That is especially true in dog training because a dog can just look at a trainer and know if she is confident or not.

You acquire confidence by trying things that are hard to do and succeeding. Every time you succeed at something -- like all the commands you taught Sally, for instance -- you increase your confidence.

Patience is easy. Just give the dog time to think about things and to understand what you want. He is trying hard to learn so give him plenty of time and encouragement. Always treat the dog the way you would like to be treated.

You already love dogs, so work on the other two requirements. Train dogs every time you get a chance. The more dogs you train, the better trainer you become. You learn from the dogs while they are learning from you.

Practice with Sally and keep training her. Contact your local animal shelter and tell them you want to be a trainer and that you have experience. They will give you training tips and let you train their dogs.

If you have a problem just drop me an email, and we will figure out how to solve it.

Dear Old Trainer: We have two Labs and two Goldens, and we have had a wonderful time teaching them the tricks from your column. How about a new trick for us to work on?

-- Maya, Mammoth Lakes

A: Maya, I like tricks that teach the dogs something of value, plus allow them to have fun. Here is one I use every morning that does both. Call your pack and have them sit.

Call each dog by name as you give each a small treat. Keep going around the circle until each dog gets 6 to 8 treats.

Make them behave until they hear their name called. That way they learn to wait for their turn and they learn what each dog's name is. Once they do, you can control the pack by giving individual commands to each dog.

After a few days, toss the treat to them and let them catch it. Increase the distance gradually until you are several feet away. It won't be long until they will snatch it out of the air with the nonchalance of a pro.

Jack Haskins writes as The Old Trainer. A trainer for more than 30 years, he has rescued, trained and placed more than 2,000 dogs.

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