Whether you've got yourself a cute little puppy which you want to house train, or you have an older dog who takes delight in shredding your furniture, chewing your mail and peeing in your slippers, a dog training guide may the the answer. Our dog training guides category deals with popular products on the subject, purchased online in various formats, whether they be books, videos, audio guides, online forums or e-mail consultations. Dog Training is a highly lucrative market and there are many great (and not so great) products to choose from.
Content Quality & Training Method
Most products in this category cover a lot of the same ground and also apply similar principles. However, some of the dog training principles differ in fundamental ways, sometimes controversially so. For example, most dog owners have heard of the Dog Whisperer of TV fame. "Dog Whispering" is human mimicking of canine behavior in a calm assertive way in order to illicit calm submissive behavior from the dog. Alpha dogs, or pack leaders in their natural state, will correct dogs lower down in the pack, so gentle correction is involved as well. Voice commands are not essential but sounds can be used to help the dog to associate them with negative or positive behavior. Affection is withheld and used only as a reward for good behavior, but not at other times.
The old fashioned school of dog training used negative reinforcement as training technique, which means making the dog associate pain or discomfort with wrong behavior. Although this is generally unpopular now, negative reinforcement aids are still available to buy such as choke chains, shock collars and correctional leashes that restrict the dog's ability to breathe for example. Many believe these "aids" to be cruel and unnecessary, and do not solve the problem but generate fear in the animal, making their problem worse.
The more modern school of dog training is known as positive reinforcement training, or "dog friendly" dog training. Experts believe that positive reinforcement is more effective than negative reinforcement because dogs, like people, like to be rewarded rather than punished, and so will learn quicker if they are not punished. Advocates of positive reinforcement training (also known as reward-based training) teach the method of ignoring negative behavior and rewarding positive behavior because they find it to work quicker to focus on the goal rather than on what not to do. This puts less stress on the dog.
These dog trainers believe that most negative dog behavior is down to poor communication on the part of the owner, and that dogs do not act up just for the sake of it, but are just frustrated and want to get your attention. A common reason for aggression in dogs is fear. The idea is to help the dog overcome their fear by setting a good example.
Some dog trainers believe that extreme cases of bad dog behavior cannot be resolved with positive reinforcement alone. There is also the fact that dogs live in our homes and so we have to maintain good behavior for the sake of our everyday lives. Whatever you believe about the right way for dog training, many of the products use mostly positive reinforcement, a little non-contact vocal correction and some dog behavior lessons thrown in.
Read around the subject and do not take one person's word as the grail. Make sure you have a good understanding of what your dog needs and if you are ever unsure, seek expert help. There is no substitute for hands-on training. Even though some of these products may be very convincing in their message, always read around to get a wider view.
The quality of the instruction is very important. The video presentation quality may differ between products. Instructions should be clear, precise and easy to follow. Check out free samples and videos available online before you make an investment. It is astonishing that there is no official regulatory board for monitoring the quality of dog training in the United States. Anyone can call themselves a dog trainer and sell their services as such without having had any professional qualifications whatsoever. Bear this in mind and always keep the health and safety of you and your dog at the forefront of your mind when choosing a product.
Features and Formats
Make sure your computer is compatible with the type of information being sent. If in any doubt, contact the company directly first, ether by e-mail or by telephone. If the company has no contact details, or they are very hidden in the website, this is not a good sign of an honest and high quality product.
Consider the difference between the book format and other packages, including video, forums, e-mail consultation etc. Whilst videos are a useful teaching tool, the authorship of the product may be to a lower standard because anyone can sell an idea on the internet. An author publishing a book needs to convince a lot of people before he or she even gets published. Also there are legal considerations and quality standards to adhere to. The sales figures and popularity of a printed book therefore count for more in terms of quality than a product on the internet, though the latter may reach a greater audience.
This is not to say that quality products cannot be found online, but just bear in mind that there is virtually no quality control to speak of in that medium. That said, just because someone is famous or on TV it does not follow that they are good. Does their method work? Are the dogs they work with happy and healthy? The success of a product's online forum is a good indicator of the quality of the product because the customers will flock together over something that works.
Pricing and Value for Money
Take advantage of free try-before-you-buy options to get an idea of the quality of the product before hand. Consider the differences in pricing, i.e. monthly subscriptions can end up being pricey, so check the cancellation policy before you sign up. Most of these products are similarly priced at around the $20-30 mark, so check the differences in the features offered to determine value for money. Beware of hidden extra costs, which may mean you are not getting the whole package if you do not opt in.
Watch out for special offers. Many of the products in this category offer a special introductory price, some of which are for a limited period only and seem to be good value. Some of these products appear to sell core material in the form of "free bonus" products so making the package more attractive and appearing to be better value for money. Subjects like "how to get your dog to walk on the lead" should not be sold as a bonus feature - it is core material. If information on basic commands and obedience training are sold as a free bonus, then they are not free - you are paying for it. Make sure there is a money back guarantee. Most of these products come with a 60-day money-back guarantee as standard.
The Bottom Line
We hope that this buying guide has given you some useful insights into the different types of Dog Training Guides on the market. Remember that the quality of the content and the training method advocated are important factors to consider before you make a purchase, as they will probably determine the success of failure of the whole process. If you know your dog and know yourself you're probably half way there. Best of luck!