Top 10 Questions Pet Parents ask Dog Trainers

Please note, I received compensation in exchange for this blog post. – Robin Bennett, CPDT-KA

There is a joke among dog trainers that the answer to nearly every question asked about a dog is, “it depends.” There are so many variables, so many nuances, so many ways to train and raise a dog that it is hard to put absolutes on anything. And yet…human beings are hardwired to want concrete answers. So, with that, here are my generic answers to a few of the most commonly asked questions from pet parents.

  1. How long will it take to housetrain my dog? At least 4 months, assuming you have the dog on a schedule and are getting him outside regularly.
  2. How long should I crate my dog? At least one year. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Do short trial sessions when the dog is 9 – 10 months of age. If you can’t take a shower without your dog getting into something or chewing on things, then keep using the crate.
  3. How long will it take to train my dog? At least 4 months assuming you are practicing and you are constant…up to a year if you want reliability around distractions.
  4. What kind of food should I feed my dog? One that the dog likes and that is appropriate for the age and lifestyle of the dog. Additionally, look for a food with a named protein source in the top three ingredients and few chemicals, added artificial colors, or added artificial preservatives. Check out ORIJEN® pet food for some great options – in fact, ORIJEN pet food’s first five ingredients are always animal protein.
  5. How much should I feed my dog? Look at the dog food bag. The amount listed on the bag for your dog’s size and age is the amount of that food your dog needs to get all of his nutrition. If he can’t eat that much (because he gets full or he gets fat), then he’s not getting all the nutrients he needs. In that case, switch foods (see question #4). Usually, a high-quality food will cost more, but you’ll feed less.
  6. When can I take my puppy out to meet new people? Start socializing your puppy as soon as you get him, just avoid dog parks and busy pet stores until he’s received his vaccinations. Well-run pet care centers where dogs are healthy and vaccinated are great places to visit.
  7. How do I show my dog I am the boss? You don’t. This philosophy of raising dogs is outdated. Instead work to build a relationship based on trust and mutual cooperation.
  8. How long do I need to use treats, a clicker or (name your training tool). At least a year, and this assumes you are practicing and working systematically to reduce the need for the tool.
  9. If I train with treats or other food items, will my dog get fat? No. Treats should be less than 10% of your dog’s diet. Training with food doesn’t mean always using treats. You can train with your dog’s daily ration of food to prevent obesity.
  10. If I train with food, then will I always have to use food? Not if you train the dog correctly. Food is used to help teach the initial behavior, but then you’ll wean your dog off the food. (Much like giving your child a lollipop for going potty in the bathroom, but eventually you just expect that habit to continue in the absence of the lollipop.)

Robin Bennett is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) with the The Dog Gurus®. To learn more about her, visit her website.