Tips from the Trainer: Practice


By Steve Kotowske

This month we will discuss the idea of practice or training. We know that most things in life require some effort. And, there are few things that can be done to maintain a high level of proficiency without constant practice. There are many professions that require continuing education or special training to keep your working knowledge sharp. So, it only makes sense to do the same with your dog. People are often enamored by police and military working dogs, or Service Dogs. This comes by way of commitment to initial training along with continued training. These dogs train daily!

If you aspire to have a dog that acts properly in public, for example, you should train your obedience constantly, according to what your trainer has taught you. Then, start taking your dog in public and proof those behaviors with distractions. Don’t flood your dog too heavily at first, rather keep your trips short and sweet. Go to your local warehouse store to practice for 15 minutes. There are a lot of noises and distractions at those stores. Do everyone a favor and give your dog a bathroom break before going into the store. Then, do your dog a favor and give them another break when you leave. Some dogs can become stressed by the idea of even a short trip. They might not even show signs of the stress, but it is best to offer the opportunity. Loose stools are indicative of stress. Be sure to bring supplies to clean your mess.

Start taking your dog to lunch or dinner. Your relationship should be built on doing things together, not just dragging your dog out for a walk. If your dog is unruly, don’t make excuses – excuse yourself. My rule is to always proof a behavior in the parking lot, then upon entering an establishment. A simple sit to a release is all that is needed. This sets the stage for obedience while at the store or restaurant. It really is a critical piece of the puzzle for most dogs. They need to know that obedience is expected everywhere.
Lastly, go to a professional. Find the one that works for you and your dog. There are many training styles and a lot of opinions. Your dog is an individual with individual drives, wants and desires. It is also individual in its opinion of your leadership ability. Just because your last dog was perfect doesn’t mean this one will toe the line with you. An experienced, professional trainer will understand many methods to relate to dogs. A good trainer won’t stop with just one motivator – individual dogs are motivated by different things.

Springtime is a great time to prepare for summer fun with your dog. Don’t miss all of the fun you could be having together. If you have specific questions I can answer, email them to

Steve Kotowske is the Executive Director for Pawsitive Love Foundation, a non-profit organization that places Service Dogs to veterans and children with a range of disabilities. For more information on Pawsitive Love Foundation, visit