Honey went to puppy preschool followed by puppy kindergarten.
Then we homeschooled her for several years.
But something showed us we needed extra help. Time to go back to school for Honey.
Limits To Self-Training
By the time Honey was two, we had made a good start with her.
She would sit and stay on cue. She had excellent recall. She was on her way to becoming a Canine Good Citizen.
But then we met a training wall. We needed professional help.
And the help we got is a large part of how we’re able to live with Honey on board a sailboat today.
Timid Dog Meets Bike Cart
Long-time readers are familiar with my attempt to get Honey comfortable with riding in my bike cart.
We haven’t owned a car in almost four years. So if we wanted Honey to travel with us, she’d have to get used to the bike cart.
Or we’d all be going on some long, long walks.
No matter what, I could not get Honey into the bike cart.
But the positive, relationship-based trainer we found had a great idea.
We had to go slower. Much slower. And then we had to convince Honey that she wouldn’t get trapped in the cart.
His suggestion was that we teach Honey to jump through the car—in the back opening and out the front.
Hopping through the cart was hardly scary at all. And it was much more like a game than sitting still inside the cart.
But best of all, the jumping activities and the other agility equipment our trainer suggested we use with Honey built her confidence.
From No Way To Let’s Go
On the first session with our trainer, Honey would not walk on a ramp lying flat on the sidewalk. She’d do everything to avoid it.
Now that we live on a boat, Honey walks confidently from the dock to the boat on her Solvit Telescoping Pet Ramp (affiliate) and back again. She does it at high tide (when the boat is well above the dock) and at low tide when the boat is well below). She does it on windy days. (Don’t worry; we’ll eventually get pics and videos to show you. We’ve been a little busy lately.)
And then she clambers over the coamings into the cockpit.
She’s even learning to set her feet in secure places when we lift her up and down the companionway.
I don’t think we’d be living on board today if we hadn’t sent Honey back to school and gotten some schooling ourselves from a helpful professional.
Limits To Home Training
I love training Honey.
I think everyone should work to train their dog every day. It builds our bond. It increases our dog’s confidence. And it makes them easier to take with us everywhere we go.
But if I were a home schooling parent, I’d never attempt to teach my kids calculus or physics, two subjects I’ve never studied myself.
So why wouldn’t I rely on a professional to help me train Honey?
When Do You Need To Hire A Trainer?
My experience with a trainer was so positive that I think everyone would benefit from hiring a professional to help.
But if you’re not convinced, here are a few suggestions when you might benefit from taking your dog back to school with a professional:
- your dog is fearful or has other behavior or temperament issues that make it harder for him or her to learn
- your dog is well-trained but you want to take things to the next level, perhaps therapy dog work
- you want to increase your training skills and feel a more experienced trainer will help you
- you’ve run out of ideas and need fresh inspiration
So if you have the “bored with summer blahs,” maybe it’s time to go back to school with your dog.
Honey’s glad we did.
Your Turn: Have you relied on a professional trainer? Why or why not?
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