OhMyDog!

Dog training FAQ

1. Is it safe (in terms of disease risk) for very young pups to attend?

In short, yes.

In the Netherlands, pups get their shots at 6, 9, and 12 weeks. Some owners ask us about the risk bringing a pup that is not fully vaccinated to school if they join us from the age of 10 weeks, but the chance of catching a serious infection at the training school is mitigated by many factors:

  • Only dogs belonging to OhMyDog students may set foot on our premises
  • We strictly follow up on our vaccination policy: all dogs must be on schedule for their vaccinations. This means that all adult dogs who visit our grounds are fully vaccinated, and that pups have at least 2 of their 3 puppy vaccinations.

The puppy course focuses on problem prevention, habituation, character-building and socialisation. We motivate you to keep up with your socialisation schedule so your pup is a happy-go-lucky, bomb-proof dog by the time he starts his obedience class. The most opportune age to achieve this closes around 13 weeks. The American Veterinary Association’s position statement, Dr. Anderson’s open letter to fellow veterinarians and an epidemiological research paper discuss the impact of the predictable behaviour problems due to insufficient early socialisation.

If you would like to read more about the ins and outs of the vaccination debate, you can click on this expanded article.

You can find the list of diseases against which your dog must be vaccinated to attend our lessons here.

2. Why must my dog be vaccinated? Can’t I provide a titer?

In short, no.

Because we want to offer very young pups a safe environment in which to train. Titers are also ultimately more expensive than vaccinations, and have to be repeated before each new class. For details of our reasoning behind our vaccination policy, read this article.

3. Your lessons are relatively expensive, why is that?

Our course fees are on the expensive side, but we are definitely not the most expensive in the region (it ranged from 0 to 25 euros/lesson at our last price survey).

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For that price, we give you:

  • Individual attention: Small groups with one Head Instructor for group instructions and one Behaviour Coach for one-on-one advice (see question 11 for Behaviour Coaches).
  • Qualified trainers: In contrast to many local schools who are run by volunteers, we insist on paying our trainers. Because dog training is a profession, not a hobby, we want to give you the most qualified professionals.
  • Dedicated training grounds: Clean, safe, fenced off training grounds in the heart of The Hague where the only dogs that are allowed are the school’s.

Q4. Can I bring my kids?

In short, yes but.

Provided they are old enough to calmly attend the lesson and not distract the dogs, we welcome kids and even involve them as our ‘little assistants’ every time we can. We even have a dedicated kid-themed class during the puppy course.

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Kids participate actively if they want to (photo taken on our old field)

Q5. Won’t my dog get fat by using treats in training?

In short, no.

We only recommend you use high-value treats (ham, etc.) in class. That is because it is harder for most dogs to focus in a group class. For your home practice, we explicitly instruct you to take the training treats out of the dog’s normal daily ration. In other words, you will no longer be feeding your dog’s daily allowance in his dish, but you will deliver some of it through training.

Q6. Won’t the dogs get spoiled with positive training methods?

In short, no.

We focus a lot on boundaries and clear rules. Our obedience class specifically teaches dogs to be well-behaved family dogs. Refusing to use intimidation does not mean being lenient dog parents. We also found that a dog who trusts you is more reliable and less likely to be aggressive. And our aim is not to produce an army of robot-dogs but well-adjusted family members.

Q7. Why don’t you talk about dominance more?

Because, based on years of research, we find the pack theory largely irrelevant to explain dog disobedience. We address each dog and owner as an individual, and our behaviour coach is trained to troubleshoot the frequently occuring little challenges in class by looking at the dog’s underlying motivation on a case-by-case basis (too distracted, undertrained, too stressed, etc.) and demonstrating the solution to you. For a behind-the-scenes look at Behaviour Coaching at OhMyDog, read Chad’s article.

Q8. What is ‘continuous puppy enrollment’? How does it work?

To make sure the puppy class lessons have a life-long effect, we want to teach your pup during his sensitive period. So we operate a cyclical curriculum with our puppy class. No matter when you join us, you will get every lesson on the program. Every lesson is a one-off introduction to a life skill or situation with minimal iteration between classes so we do not have vastly disparate levels between pups in the same group. The puppies’ broad age range and variety of students who start and end the lesson during your program also allows for maximum variety in the types of dogs your pup is exposed to.

Q9. Why are English-speaking classes more expensive than Dutch classes?

We welcome expats and their dogs in a dedicated, separate, English-spoken group. Lessons there, including central explanations, are given entirely in English. These groups are smaller than our Dutch groups with the same running costs, so we charge a higher fee per dog to keep this service running in The Hague.

Q10. Why am I not allowed to bring both my pups to class at the same time?

It firstly concerns ‘littermate syndrome’. It is seriously advised not to bring home two pups from the same litter. Littermate syndrome involves pups who are more focused on each other than on your socialization and education attempts. This can result in pups that are insufficiently socialized, which can lead to serious problems as they grow up (like aggression and fear).

Should you already have two pups home, we will advise you to follow separate classes with them. We run several puppy classes in parallel so we should be able to accommodate for this.

Secondly, regardless of littermate syndrome, every dog needs the undivided attention of his owner during class, and hoping to be able to effectively handle two dogs during class is unrealistic.

Q11. What is a ‘behaviour coach’?

Every obedience and puppy class is led by two trainers: one head instructor who presents the lesson centrally, and one behaviour coach. The role of the behaviour coach is to give one-on-one tips and guidance during the lesson. The coaches are true guardian angels for our clients whose dogs have a crazy five minutes. The coaches are trained in behavioural first aid, meaning they have a solution ready for most class problems like distraction, excitement, stress, etc. For a behind-the-scenes look at the role, read Chad’s article on Behaviour Coaching.

Q12. What do we mean with ‘evidence-based’?

‘evidence-based’ practice is a code of conduct. People who strive to run an evidence-based school pledge to base their advice on solid logic and good evidence. It doesn’t mean we are cold and clinical, but it means we make sure you get reliable, well-researched, rational, effective advice rather than advice based on dogma, tradition, ideology or old wives tales.

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For more details of our evidence-based approach, you can read this blog post.

Q13. Why can’t the pups play freely together?

For many reasons: because…

  1. Puppies are terrible teachers of social interactions to each other, as they themselves are inexperienced and clumsy. Relying on pups to ‘raise’ each other is asking for trouble. The only lesson they’re likely to get out of upsupervised play, are bad habits (bullying the other, playing too rough, etc.).
  2. We accept puppies from an early age (10 weeks), so they are not fully vaccinated. So we want to avoid unnecessarily close contact between the pups.
  3. Dogs who can interact with other dogs on and off become frustrated and uncertain. It is better to give them the clear message: this is a lesson. During the lesson, you focus on your handler, not on the other dogs.
  4. Grown-up dogs  tend to need personal space around them, particularly when they are on the lead. Most dogs find it stressful to be approached by another dog whilst they are on the lead. This is when most incidents occur at the dog training school, so we enforce a strict 2-meter between the dogs rule so that dogs can feel relaxed, in the knowledge that their personal space won’t be invaded.

For the puppy lessons, we do have a special lesson dedicated to interdog play, during which we pick compatible play partners and let them play off-lead, whilst commenting on their social interactions and showing the owners when and how to interrupt play that is getting out of hand, and the difference between healthy rough play and bullying.