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Tips to help you start training your dog and keep your goals realistic – NPR

Samantha Balaban and NPR’s Life Kit provide insights for teaching old and new dogs new tricks.


With lockdowns, work-from-home changes, and the emotional rollercoaster of the pandemic years, millions of people have turned to pets. Nearly 1 in 5 households in the United States adopted a pet during the pandemic. That’s according to the ASPCA. Whether you were involved in the rise of the dog pandemic, recently adopted a puppy, or have had the family dog ​​for years, all dogs can benefit from training throughout their lives. From NPR’s Life Kit, Samantha Balaban has some tips on where to start.


SAMANTHA BALABAN, BYLINE: I adopted Winnie from a shelter in 2019. She had no knowledge of basic commands and she came preprogrammed with a lot of anxiety.


BALABAN: He needed two types of training, obedience (sit, stay, lie down), for which we attended a group class taught by a dog trainer, and behavior.

KAYLA FRATT: My area of ​​expertise is primarily working with dogs with aggression, anxiety, phobias, that sort of thing.

BALABAN: Kayla Fratt is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and runs Journey Dog Training. She is like the therapist of the dog training world. If you’re not sure which issues to address first, Kayla Fratt recommends a dog behavior consultant.

FRATT: Anyone who has really taken the time to specialize in one of these more serious behavior problems will have the skills to help them get through something more minor, more typical as well.

BALABAN: To find a dog trainer or behavior consultant near you, start with a list compiled by one of the professional associations. Fratt, for example, belongs to the IAABC, the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. Regardless of the method you choose (personal trainer, group class, a free YouTube video), it will need to be an integral part of your dog’s training. Kayla Fratt says that training doesn’t have to take up a huge part of your day.

FRATT: When I was raising my pup, Niffler, it was probably about five minutes a day of actual training where I was actually like, okay, I’m going to break out the bag of goodies. We’ll sit down and work on something.

BALABAN: And when your dog is doing something good, like sitting quietly at your desk, reward him with a treat. One thing to keep in mind is to be realistic about your training goals for him.

Kim Brophey is the author of “Know Your Dog: The Revolutionary Guide to Understanding Your Dog’s Behavior.” She has developed a framework called LEGS.

KIM BROPHEY: And that means learning, what has been your experience in education; the environment, the genetics that they bring to the table inside and out, and then the self, which is the internal conditions.

BALABAN: Winnie, for example, came from a hoarding situation. She had spent several years learning that people weren’t always nice. She can unlearn that, but it’s hard. Her dog might nip at her heels or chase her children due to G genetics.

BROPHEY: It could be, you know, 10% border collie, 10% Australian shepherd, 10% German shepherd, 10% standard collie, and suddenly we know, well, we have a sheepdog.

BALABAN: You can’t change your dog’s genes, but once you’ve identified the root cause of the behavior, you can learn to manage it. Sometimes, however, training is not enough.

ANDREA TU: Many of these behavioral conditions are like psychiatric illnesses, and we can also prescribe medications to help with that condition.

BALABAN: Dr. Andrea Tu is a behavioral veterinarian. She says that if her dog experiences fear, anxiety, panic, aggression, she should treat it as a medical necessity.

YOU: It’s like having a patient with diabetes. You don’t give your dog insulin for diabetes because that’s what he needs to maintain the proper level of hormones in his body.

BALABAN: Since I adopted her, Winnie has taken obedience classes and received one-on-one training to handle her trust issues. For stressful situations like going to the vet, she has anxiety medication. However, I should note that she declined to comment for this story. Regardless of her approach, however, dog training will enrich her life and, more importantly, the life of her dog.


BALABAN: Samantha Balaban, NPR News.


MARTIN: For more information about Life Kit, including how to adopt a dog, visit

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