Here Is How I Work – Dog Training – Dog Trainer – Behaviorist

Here Is How I Work – Dog Training – Dog Trainer – Behaviorist

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Sam Basso
PHOENIX , AZ AREA: (602) 708-4531
OR, if you are out of this area, inquire about a telephone or e-Lesson
Email: [email protected]  

Zoe is a good example of a dog I trained. The owner started her as a puppy, did the lessons diligently, she did very well, and has turned out to be a superb companion. She's also full of spirit and a lot of fun. Good dog training makes your dog a better dog, not a "robot"

I receive calls every day asking about my dog training services. The first question most people ask is “what do you charge?“

To answer this question, I first need to know more about their dog and their goals. Sometimes that requires an in person evaluation because some things can’t be described well over the phone and I have to see it with my own eyes. I also have to explain what I do, otherwise people just look at the price and don’t realize how much more they are getting by working with me instead of an inferior trainer.

Every dog trainer defines ˜BASIC OBEDIENCE‘ in a different way. For some, it means a 7-lesson puppy class. For others, it means an 8-week class including 30 other dogs. In other words, they define basic obedience as an introductory course, generally for beginners

I do private lessons and group classes. I train the dog and the owner. Basic Dog Obedience I is 18 lessons. I come every day, Monday through Friday, for approximately 3 1/2 weeks. In that time, I make sure the dog AND owner are trained. Then, I do group classes. These are in series of 8 lessons, and we drill you and your dog on each behavior until you get it right, around other dogs and people. I think it is best to combine both private lessons and group classes for most dogs.

Here's Zoe doing a "Down" command. This is 2 years after we did the lessons. As you can see, she can still do the work, and the owner has done his maintenance lessons along the way.

I define Basic Obedience from a perspective of accomplishment. I feel that a dog and owner have completed Basic Obedience I when the dog is mostly well mannered, the dog is mostly reliable and obeys on and off leash with the basic commands (Sit, Down, Heel and Here), and the owner knows how to work with their dog. In other words, if the dog can’t obey the basics, then the dog hasn’t yet completed Basic Obedience. Therefore, in my classes, my Basic Obedience course is the equivalent of a dog taking about 1 1/2 to 2 years of weekly group lessons. So, other trainers would say that a dog has completed their Puppy, Basic, Intermediate and Advanced obedience classes simply because the dog has attended¦ regardless of whether the dog will obey. However, to me, Basic Obedience has NOT been completed until the dog OBEYS the basic commands in the real world, as best as that individual dog is capable of. That is also true of my group classes¦ I want you to be a competent dog handler / owner.

For most customers, they want their dogs trained in BASIC Obedience. In my classes, I train the owner and the dog.

To me INTERMEDIATE Obedience generally involves teaching and perfecting off leash obedience. ADVANCED Obedience would include, but not be limited to, commanding the dog to retrieve (not just for fun) any object you ask them to retrieve, sending the dog to run 100 yards away from you to a distant point, stand out of motion, jump a barrier or wall on command, and directional commands at a distance. In my opinion, ADVANCED obedience would include those remaining exercises that you’d use in high level competition, as well as specialized commands used for dogs that do real work, such as guide dog work, hunting and police/protection.

A dog has completed Basic Obedience when the dog and owner can perform a certain set of skills. In fact, you might even be working at the Intermediate and Advanced exercises at the same time you are working on the Basic exercises, but until they are proficient, then I don’t say that the dog has completed that level of training.

My viewpoint is more like the way a person earns their various color belts in Karate. White belts are generally worn by beginners.

Then, as the students accomplish more and more, they move up to brown, blue, yellow, orange, green, purple and, ultimately, black.

You don’t get a new colored belt just because you take a certain number or type of class. You get it because you pass tests of proficiency that indicate that you have earned that designation. Similarly, I don’t say that a dog has completed Basic Obedience until both the owner and dog have a certain level of skills.

My dog training philosophy is that it is important to get the dog trained, not to just keep selling the owners on taking more lessons.

That’s the way I’d want to be treated, and I think that’s what the average person wants as well.

So, what skills do I want a customer to master before we end the lessons?

I divide my answer into four separate parts. I feel that they need to have accomplished:

Basic Manners


Handler Skills

Understanding how to implement a long term Maintenance Program

A Basic Obedience course isn’t complete if it doesn’t teach Manners. Manners are those behaviors that you want a dog to do without telling them¦ not jumping on guests, nuisance barking, chewing on power cords, nipping, getting on furniture, etc. A dog without Manners is miserable to live with.

As a part of teaching Manners, you need to learn how to correct a dog for being a brat. If you read dog training books, or go to a variety of dog training classes, you see a variety of solutions to teach dogs Manners. Some of them are truly horrible or stupid.

I object to many of the corrections you will find in countless dog training books and classes. For example, I don’t teach or use the Alpha Roll¦ a technique in which you flip and pin a dog on its back, holding it by the throat, as you stare in its eyes and verbally reprimand the dog. Supposedly we are imitating what other dogs do to correct each other, so it is recommended that since we are the adopted leader to the dog, that we should mimic what dogs do, and we will better communicate what we want from the dog in their language.

This approach was popularized back in the late ˜70’s and early ˜80’s by the Monks of New Skete in their famous book, How to be Your Dog’s Best Friend, (p. 46-7). I love the Monk books, mainly because I believe they can impart to you a real love of dogs, but I believe they don’t know beans about dog training! I never recommend their books because I feel the training is so out of date and behaviorally unsound.

If you’ve ever watched dogs, you know that if one dog truly pins the other by the neck, not in play, but in a face-to-face, serious confrontation, you are going to have an all out, serious dog fight. The dog that has been pinned is in fear of its life, and it will panic and fight back defensively. The dog doing the pinning has the other dog in a death grip. It is FOOLISH for a dog owner to pin their pet dog in a neck lock, since they are terrorizing their dog, making the dog fearful of them in certain postures, and in some instances, the rollover can provoke a full blown defensive attack. Just recently, I read an article where a dog owner was mauled by his Rottweiler for doing just this.

There are better ways of solving Manners problems. Plus, an important aspect of teaching Manners is to show the dog what TO do as an alternative, not just correcting them for what you don’t want them to do.

Right from the first lesson, I advise the owner on Manners issues, and we work with them throughout the lessons, using proper techniques, and until I see that the dog and owner are on the right track.

Basic Obedience should also teach an owner how to relate to a dog. Many people just don’t know how to give and receive affection from their dogs.

I think sometimes people must think I’m the Dog Nazi with my dog ,ordering my dog around, having a perfectly obedient dog, etc. Nothing could be further from the truth! Just like yourselves, I have baby names for my dog, let him sleep on my bed, play games with him, let him kiss me on the face, carry him around (all 85 lbs of him), let him interrupt my typing and climb up into my lap, and just hang out together.

Dog training often involves fixing what is wrong with the relationship between the dog and owner. Sometimes, however, just to balance things out, I have to point out all the good things about the dog and the owner’s relationship with their dog.

Of course, Basic Obedience should also teach Sit, Down, Heel and Here, just to the point of beginning off leash obedience control. I tell prospective customers that the lessons are over when I say that they are. In other words, no one fails the class and no one is left behind. You see, in most group classes held by other trainers, even if you don’t do the homework, or if you do but your dog isn’t getting it right, the class marches on without you. To me, and for my customers, that’s totally unacceptable. There have been a few instances when I have given away a whole summer of free private lessons to a customer that was diligently doing their homework, but the dogs were coming along much slower than expected. An exception to me giving away free lessons is for customers that can’t do their homework, such as some of my very wealth customers that have multiple businesses and lots of obligations. For those cases, I do charge extra to get the dog trained, since I have to do it all, but even then, my objective will still be to get the dog and owner completely trained before we finish up. In some cases, I have to schedule weekend lessons to make sure that the whole family is competent in the necessary skills. This is also why I don’t recommend people just doing a handful of lessons with me, since I always know how much more I want my customers to accomplish with their dogs to make sure everything is doing really well.

These lessons should also be supplemented with group classes, to get the most out of your dog training experience.

A good Basic Obedience course should also include lessons on how to continue and maintain the effects of the training at home once the formal lessons are over. With each private lesson customer, I describe a specific Maintenance Program on how they can do just that. Training is never over, since the dog can forget all we have taught if we never use it.

Finally, I offer follow up for my customers, to ensure that they have all their questions answered, even after we have completed the lessons. Most of the time, the follow up is free. In some instances, however, the situation requires additional lessons. That’s why I offer Maintenance Lessons, so that customers can go beyond Basic Obedience, and also why I offer a One Week Tune Up, so that if the owners or dogs skills get rusty, we can polish them up.

Intro Video