By Janet McAfee
Valerie Masi, owner and operator of Best Paw Forward, is one of the most outstanding dog trainers in Southern California. She can handle any size dog with any issue, but her passion is helping dogs who have suffered mistreatment. In addition to certification from the program at National K-9 School of Dog training, Valerie earned a degree in Exotic Animal Training and Management at Moorpark College. With over 35 years of experience, she has solved just about every training problem imaginable. She now has a part time contract with Loving All Animals to provide training to their volunteers, foster parents, staff, and shelter dogs. She helps owners of newly adopted pups to ensure success.
Getting a new dog is an exciting adventure, but it is more fun when you know how to train. My recent discussion with Val included the following training tips. If you follow these steps you will have a social well-behaved and balanced dog that you can take everywhere, one that will be welcome in public, and one you can enjoy having by your side.
PLAN AHEAD – Everyone in the household needs to be on board adopting a new canine family member. Decide on some basic rules ahead of time. Do some research on various breeds. Mix breeds are more likely to have fewer health problems. Does a small, medium, or large dog best meet your housing situation? Puppies require extra time, activities, and potty training. Where will the dog sleep? Is your dog going to be allowed on the furniture? There may be an initial honeymoon period, and issues can appear later.
DOGS WANT STRUCTURE – Dogs thrive on consistency and structure, and everyone in the home needs to stick to the same rules. If you have ever had a dog in a training class, you see how avidly they pay attention to the trainer and enjoy every exercise. Daily structured walks help drain your pup’s energy in a productive way. A regular feeding schedule and potty breaks help with house training. Involve everyone including children in the animal’s care. Teach your dog that calm behavior gets the most attention.
EXERCISE – Just like us, dogs need physical exercise and mental stimulation. Daily walks are essential. A game of fetch in the back yard is great fun. Tell your dog to sit and stay before you throw the ball and shout “fetch” for him to bring it back and drop for you to toss again. This adds structure to a game of fetch and creates more fun. If you have only one dog, arrange a play date with a friend’s dog. Pet stores carry creative toys that hide treats and create a challenge for Fido.
DAILY WALKS – This is a great way for both of you to exercise and meet new people in your neighborhood. Keep your dog in a “heel position” close to your side for the first part of the walk. At the walk’s halfway point, release him from the firm heel position so he can explore and smell the flowers along the route. Keep him leashed as a dog should always respect the end of the leash for your and their safety. (Instructions for leash walking can be found online, though Val cautions on relying exclusively on online information for a well-trained pup).
HOUSE TRAINING – Puppies pee and poop quite often. Val does not recommend puppy pads as this trains them to go indoors, so they need frequent trips outside. A large crate may be used during your quick trips for errands. Puppies can be crated overnight, but never for more than 2-3 hours during the day. Adult dogs can be crated for 4 hours during the day. Initial success can be rewarded with treats but keep treats to a minimum later.
SEPERATION ANXIETY – This is often an issue when people return to the office after working at home. Begin by leaving the dog alone for short periods of time, then gradually extend the hours you are away. You may want to have a friend come by and walk Fido midday or take advantage of a doggie day care program. Sometimes adopting another dog friendly canine eases the loneliness and anxiety.
CHEWING – Puppy proof your home before the new canine arrives. Don’t leave your Armani designer shoes in the hallway. Don’t ever use old slippers or socks as toys…Dogs don’t know the difference. Bitter Apple spray from a pet store is a good deterrent to protect your valuables. Pupsicles frozen in small yogurt containers from salt free chicken bouillon and kibble can occupy them. Also good are hard rubber kongs with a dab of peanut butter inside and Dinosaur Nyla bones. Keep trash cans covered or out of reach.
GUESTS – Train them not to jump on people arriving by practicing with you. When they jump on you, move forward into the dog. If you turn your back, you are giving them an invitation to be dominant. It’s natural for dogs to bark when people enter their property but becomes annoying if they continue. Sound devices work with only some dogs. Spay bottles can be used to correct but be careful and do not spray a stream in their face.
Valerie advises, “Dogs use their bodies to communicate. They tell us many things if we carefully observe them. There is no cookie cutter approach to training. However, there is a distinction between the old fashion methods that incorrectly used punishment. In the past it was recommended you use a loud scary voice to train, but this can shut down a dog. Use a firm voice. Never hit a dog, but rather utilize positive reinforcement.” Animals reflect the people around them. There is no training problem that can’t be solved with love, skill, and patience.
You can contact Valerie Masi during business hours at (760) 885-9450. She can help with individual sessions, group classes, and boarding. Contact Loving All Animals for adoption information at (760) 834-7000 and www.lovingallanimals.org. A well-trained dog is a happy dog!