Ask the expert: Dr. Devanshi Desai answers your top dog training questions

Ask the expert: 17 top dog training questions answered by a dog trainer

There are some things your puppy is born with; like his cuteness, his loyalty, and his ability to love! But today let’s talk about the things he must learn to truly earn the title of “the good boi”.

We’ve got one of Mumbai’s leading Canine Trainer and Behaviorist, Dr. Devanshi Desai with us. She will answer some of your frequently asked questions about dog training.

Dog Trainer- Devanshi

Dr. Desai has been a dog trainer for over a decade and has trained over 100 dogs. She has a strong clientele from all over India and overseas, some of which include furry babies of renowned Bollywood celebs as well!

Her brainchild Wag to School began 7 years ago. It aims to provide complete dog care with veterinary, training, grooming, and other essentials. 

Dr. Devanshi believes in relationship training. She pushes the point that every dog is a unique individual. Her technique involves helping you and your dog form a fruitful relationship. One where you guys can communicate and understand each other's needs better.

Now that we've made our acquaintance, let's get into the dog training insights she has to offer!

1) When should I start training my dog? 

Dog training should commence as soon as the puppy enters home. In fact, it is always better to be pre-prepared and gain some knowledge before you bring your little guy home. 

Just like you read up on infant care when your human baby is going to arrive; the same goes with your dog. He is going to completely depend upon you at the start. Having prior knowledge about dog care will make it easier for you to preempt certain behaviors.

Don't wait around for problem behaviors to occur and fix them later. Of course, pet parenting is going to present many challenges even after you are well aware, but it helps to be in charge beforehand, right? 

2) I recently adopted a 2 year old. Is it difficult to train an adult dog?

Training is picking up a new skill. We can learn something new at any age as long as we have a will to learn. Similarly, other beings can pick up things at any age as well. Luckily, doggos are curious students. They have an abundant willingness to learn new skills.

Also, dogs love to please their hoomans. So, when they see you become excited on their first handshake, they will do it again. Anything to make you happy!

However, certain behaviors are hardwired in your dog's brain if not worked on at an early stage. Habits that have been accumulated from the start become an integral part of your dog’s behavior. These will prove difficult to break. But it’s not impossible, so it is never too late to start training your pup.

3) How long will it take to train my dog? What about housebreaking?

Training is like education. It is a constant process by which we try to build a communication channel between a dog and his/her parent. So, there isn't a fixed time after which you can consider your pup completely trained. It's a relationship. You have to work on it everyday to make sure that it doesn't fall apart. 

You can take a break from the schooling part of training. But make sure to renew the bond from time to time or you might have to start from the start again.  

Housebreaking a dog typically takes a week, if you do it correctly. 

4) How long will the training last? How often should we re-engage the trainer to learn new things or brush up on old skills?

Think about dog training as a gym membership. To maintain your physical and mental stimulation, you must train every day. Even when it is difficult or feels boring. The only way to maintain your overall balance is to be your own motivational trainer.  

Training your dog is the same. It will last as long as you keep up with it. It is very easy to fall into our old habits. You must brush up on the old tricks every now and then so your pup remembers. This will strengthen your communication.  

Learning new tricks is always cool. It presents your dog with new challenge and keeps him motivated. You can take this decision based on your dog's disposition and need. 

5) What’s the most important behavior you can teach your pet? What are the basic commands that every dog should know?

Dog learning new tricks

Socialization. A well-socialized dog has an easier life than an under-socialized one.

The most important command that a dog should know is his recall. i.e. he should have an excellent comeback when called. He must understand an emergency Stop/Stay.  Also, your puppy should have enough trust over you that he considers you his master.

6) Should I use only positive reinforcement? What other training methods can I use?

Positive reinforcements are definitely important but my methods aren’t all positive. I also use stern voices to stop the dog from engaging in certain behaviors. It doesn’t involve any pain or negative enforcement but a change in tone is sometimes required to keep the dog safe.

Dogs may not speak our language but they can understand our gestures and vibe. He will understand when you are cross with him and when you are happy. So, be sure to use proper actions (even in exaggeration if need be) to get the response you need. 

7) What can I use for rewards? If I train with food will I always have to use food?

Dog asking for food

Most pet parents get stuck thinking you can only use food as your reward but you can change this. Other forms of reward can be toys, games, things to chew, etc. Even your positive words and your relationship with your pup can be rewarding.

You must explore. Get to know him really well- his likes and dislikes. You can then use this knowledge to teach him new skills in a more productive manner.

8) What role does my dog’s breed play in training? What are the things I should consider? 

Dog breed plays a significant role in training. As a black-furred dog cannot change his/her color to golden brown on command; some genetic traits are difficult to modify. For example, a Labrador who is genetically attuned to being friendly cannot be an excellent guard dog. Whereas a German Shepherd cannot stop guarding. 

Do some research about dog breeds and find one that suits your lifestyle. For instance, getting a German Shepherd if you stay in a small apartment isn’t smart. GS are big, territorial animals that are filled with energy. They’ll require a wider space to move around and be in their element.

9) How often should I take my dog on walks? How to make the most of our daily exercise/walks? 

While taking your pup on a walk is a good idea; you should also mix it up with training sessions in the park, indoor games, agility, newer experiences, etc. This will help you keep him in shape and energized. 

Even a dog that goes on daily walks can undergo depression and no stimulation. Of course you should train everyday but training sessions shouldn't feel like a chore. Whatever you do, make sure it is fun!

10) Does my dog want to dominate me if he walks in front of me or pulls on his leash on me?  How do I stop him from pulling on the leash?

Dog on leash

No, your dog isn’t trying to dominate you. Understand that dog’s pace is faster than humans. This is because dogs aren’t essentially walkers. Our furry beasts have high energy and their genetic instincts possess a hunting predisposition. Which is why, whenever you are outdoors, your pup is curious and alert, intrigued by the smallest movements. 

If you want to stop him from pulling on his leash, you will have to consult a trainer. It is a process to make him change his old habits. 

11) Is it safe to train my dog outdoors during summer? What are some safety measures I should take while walking him in hot weather?

Dog wearing rain boots- Zoof Plops

The hot weather brings many health challenges for dogs. Keep your outdoor training sessions brief and use dog shoes to prevent paw burns. 

Instead of training outside, stay indoors. Engage your pup in mentally stimulating games.

12) Are outdoor dog shoes helpful? Can they lead to aggression? 

Dog on walk wearing dog boots

Yes, dog shoes are great accessories to train your dog but it takes some time to get used to. 

No, dog shoes do not lead to aggression unless you are forcefully or incorrectly putting them on. Ensure that the size of the boots is correct and that they are comfortable.

13) When should I start socializing my dog? 

Socialization doesn't mean dog to dog play.Socialization is teaching your puppy to respond to you in any situation. It is obedience even in uncertain surroundings.  For example, during social situations involving unknown people, dogs or animals.

You can start socialization as soon as 4 weeks in a puppy's life.It can go on to about a year.

However, if your dog hasn’t socialized in over a year or two, he may lose his skills. You will have to reinforce the behavior then.

14) Will giving my pet a lot of freedom and treating him like my kid make him naughty? Should I be strict or punish him? 

There is nothing wrong in being kind to your dog. Give him the freedom he deserves. It won’t make him naughty! 

You should know how to communicate with your dog. He doesn’t want to behave badly, he just doesn’t realize what is right or wrong according to your standards. It is your responsibility to teach him this. 

15) What are some common training mistakes people make? How can I rectify them? 

Expecting your dog to behave a certain way without teaching him. You must be humble and teach him the correct way. Do the revision. Only then will your doggo obey you.

16) How do I relax my puppy after training?

You can give him a chew toy or a mental stimulation game to keep him busy. This will calm his adrenaline rush and help him relax after a spirited session.

17) Finally, any last tips you’ll like to give dog parents to train their furry kid?

Dog Trainer

Instead of worrying about discipline and obedience training, work on your relationship with your dog. If you can communicate with your pup and make him understand your needs in different situations, you’ll win. 

A relationship with your dog means being the most fun and energetic person in his life. You should be highly resourceful and give him tons of stimulation in terms of games, play, toys, experiences, foods, etc. So, he loves you and chooses you over everything.

Was this interesting? Do you have any more dog training questions? We'll answer them in the comments! 

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  • Sandra

    HI Devanshi,

    i wanted to know the best way to curb my dog’s excitement when the doorbell rings.

  • Himangi Bhatia

    Every word that Dr. Devanshi has conveyed makes so much sense, every thing communicated fits so well. Kudos to her & three cheers to Zoof for this valuable share 😊

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