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Dog Training/How to start or where to start?



Thank you for taking the time to read this email. I admire and respect all you do for dogs and humans.

For the past few years I've had a strong desire to own and train/work a dog. My background is in education and I have experience working with autistic and special needs children.  I have used training methods that utilizes both positive and negative reinforcements to shape and mold behaviors with children.  As a teacher I used applied behavior analysis to shape behaviors in children from ages 1-3 years old.

Positive reinforcement is giving the child a reward when they do a wanted behavior and negative reinforcement is taking a toy or something away when they do an unwanted behavior that they have already learned.

I also feel it is beneficial for training using both classical and operant condition. Marking the behavior when the dog does the command. For example, dog sits "yes" then give a positive reward immediately   such as a treat, toy, or praise.
My family and I have been disusing on buying a dog.  We would like to buy or adopt a German shepherd (puppy) in approximately 4 to 6 months. I would like to become more acclimated in dog training/canine psychology, so that is why I would like to wait and study so I can become a better dog owner. As a child and young adult I have grown up with a German shepherd, a Rottweiler, and Shepard/ Akita mix.  I have some familiarity with herding and working dogs.

Some of my goals are to own and work the dog so I can accomplish different things.  I am not sure if this is something that is a good thing to do or not.  For example, my primary purpose is having a family dog who our children (ages 9, 16, & 21) can do activities with (hike, swim, walk).  I would like to give back to the community by taking the dog to educate/ bring some type of joy to different people such as; St. Christopher's Hospital, Shriners Hospital, or Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. I would also like to visit nursing home in hope that the dog can bring some form of happiness to someone. Now I am not sure if this is a safe or good thing to do. I am not sure of the liability issues.

I also have a huge respect in the sport training field such as Schutzhund and would like to explore that as well if it's possible. I'm not sure if you can have a dog that does both sport competitive training and a dog that you can take and provide a service to the community such as nursing homes or hospitals.

I apologize I know I am all over the place and hope this e-mail is to hard follow.  My questions are where do I start?  I want to learn how to train the basics then build on that principle; unfortunately, I don't have time to go to school to be a formal dog trainer.  I do however, I do have time for reading, group classes, and time devoted to working/ training this dog.

Is there where specific you can recommend me starting with; books, DVDs, literature with training and learning about dog psychology and dog training?

Again I apologize for being all of the place with this email. Thank you for taking the time to read this email and any advice you may give.

Thanks for all you do.  


Hope all is well,

Hello John,

Thank you for your inquiry.

Yes, you can train a dog in Schutzhund and other competitive sports and use the same dog to visit hospitals and nursing homes. Schutzhund is protection work but the standards require the dog to be trained with positive methods. I have not had any formal Schutzhund training, but I do some of the Schutzhund heelwork with my own dogs and my clients' dogs. I believe a dog's suitability for therapy work depends on the dog's personality and how it has been trained, but I do not have any experience with dogs that have been trained in bite work working as therapy dogs. I would consult an organization such as the United Schutzhund Clubs of America and ask what their experience with that has been:

I can better speak to your general question about the safety of taking a dog to do therapy visits from my experience as both a handler and a trainer. I have been a certified by a major therapy dog organization as a therapy dog evaluator, and founded a unique therapy dog program with strict force-free training requirements. It is my firm belief that dogs are born for this work, rather than trained. In other words, they either have or don't have the right temperament and personality. They must also be healthy, current on shots and have a certificate of health from a veterinarian.

These days healthcare facilities recognize the value of therapy animals and they have relaxed what used to be very strict policies for animals on the premises. However, it is still very important to be aware of how disease is spread and exercise the appropriate precautions. An animal that has had some basic training, has the right temperament for the job, is healthy and has been evaluated and certified by a recognized organization for therapy work does not pose a significant risk. There are many lonely and hurting people that can benefit from the visit of a well-behaved, gentle and sensitive therapy animal.

I can direct you to some articles and videos to help you get started. My bias is that I am a certified clicker training, so I am keenly aware of good and proper clicker training technique as taught by the Karen Pryor Academy.

Here are some places to start to get a good foundation:

My YouTube channel (ilovecanines):

Donna Hill's YouTube channel:

Emily Larlham's YouTube channel:

Animal Info Publications Positive Reinforcement Training:

Canine Connection website:

You can also find lots of good videos and books on the and Tawzer ( Tawzer also has videos on demand.

Hope this helps! Good luck!


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Cindy Ludwig, M.A., R.N., KPA-CTP, CPDT-KA


My specialty is clicker training. I'm a Karen Pryor Academy graduate and Certified Training Partner (certified clicker trainer). Karen Pryor was a marine mammal trainer and one of the early proponents of force-free animal training who helped popularize clicker training in the early 90's. I also do behavior modification with dogs that have fear, anxiety and aggression. I work with service dogs and was a certified therapy dog evaluator with two other organizations before starting my own therapy dog program, the first of its kind requiring all dog candidates to be trained with force-free methods and all evaluators to demonstrate a commitment to force-free methods. I made weekly visits with my own therapy dog to a nursing center in Dubuque, Iowa for four and a half years. I have an undergraduate degree in science and am a registered nurse with a previous specialty and certification in critical care, so I can answer questions pertaining to biology, behavior and pharmacology but because I am not a licensed veterinarian I cannot legally or ethically answer questions requesting a diagnosis. I have done graduate work in animal learning and wolf ethology, and have also completed coursework in dog biology, behavior and pet nutrition at regionally accredited U.S. universities. I continue my study of applied behavior analysis with top experts in the field. For more information and to schedule a consultation or enroll in classes, see my Canine Connection website:


Prior to becoming a full time professional dog trainer in May 2009 and opening my business, Canine Connection LLC I worked part time as a professional dog trainer and behavior consultant and also volunteered at humane societies in several states over a period from 1992-2009. My previous full time occupation was in the medical profession. I have completed various continuing education programs including but not limited to the Purdue University Veterinary School Principles and Techniques of Behavior Modification course; Clicker Expo; undergraduate courses in dog biology, behavior, and pet nutrition; and graduate coursework in wolf ethology. I was a Field Representative for Paws with a Cause for 3 years and train service dogs. My Golden Retriever that accompanies me in my work as a Field Representative is a "career changed" dog from the Paws breeding program that I have clicker trained as a demonstration service dog. This same dog I trained to earn the first Dog Scout title in the State of Iowa. She and I were also members of the Badger Kennel Club Drill Team and performed with the group annually at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, Wisconsin. My dog, Ginger and I provided weekly pet therapy visits to a local nursing center for the past three and a half years. I continue my education by participating in seminars and class offerings provided by such notable experts as Dr. Sophia Yin, Dr. Ray Coppinger, Michele Pouliot and others. My services include in-home private training and behavior modification, group classes and pet sitting. More information is available on my website:

Founder and owner, Canine Connection LLC; Founder, Canine Connection Positively Trained Certified Therapy Dogs; Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT); 2010 APDT Education Committee; Truly Dog-Friendly Trainer Coalition; Doggone Safe; American Kennel Club

Top Tips from Top Trainers: 1001 Practical Tips & Techniques for Successful Dog Care and Training (March 2010); The Golden View; Family Connections;; Animal info Publications; HubPages; Finding Fuzzybutt Four Blog; Petopia Newsletter, Galena, Illinois; Suite 101;;; Dubuque 365 Ink Magazine; Dubuque Telegraph Herald; Columbia Business Times; Columbia Senior Times; Columbia Missourian; Columbia Daily Tribune; Graphic Education Corporation; Belson-Hanwright; Critical Care Nurse; Journal of Emergency Nursing; Home Healthcare Nurse; Nursing; Journal of Emergency Medical Services; Shape; Houston Community College Egalitarian; Findlay College Obelisk

B.S., Science; M.A., Higher & Adult Education with graduate work in animal learning, canine biology and behavior, pet nutrition; Graduate, Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training & Behavior; Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner; Diploma, professional nursing; licensed registered nurse (R.N.); Paramedic completion program; previously licensed paramedic in Texas and Missouri

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