Austin loves its dogs. Patios, bars, and restaurants open their doors to your friendly fur babies. But what happens when your pup has got an attitude problem? You don’t want to be shunned from Auditorium Shores. Rona Distenfeld of Good Dog Training and Amy Bartley of Paws About Town are two top-rated dog trainers serving the Austin and San Marcos regions and they’re here to scoop you on all things dog-related.
What’s the most common dog training request from Austin dog owners?
Young dogs in need of house training and help with chewing, jumping, and biting are Rona’s biggest clients. Help with aggression issues is the second largest request Rona receives. This generally manifests as on-leash reactivity to other people, dogs, and cars.
Leashes are a big concern for Amy’s clients also. Many calls she receives are from owners whose dogs drag them down the street by their leash, or get feisty when on-leash, in reaction to other people and dogs.
This feisty, fear-based behavior can be addressed through a combo of positive reinforcement training and behavior adjustment training, shares Rona. In layperson’s terms it replaces crazy tasmanian devil behavior with calm behavior, because your dog has other tools when it’s triggered.
What’s an average week like for a dog being trained?
Amy works with 6-10 dogs, depending on the week. Some board at her house, and others she works with at the client’s home. Right now she’s boarding 3 dogs (with plans to expand her space to host up to 5 dogs). Training can last anywhere from one session to 4-8 sessions, depending on the client’s needs.
A dog who’s developed food aggression behavior around the two small children in his home is one of Amy’s current clients. The family requested her help, as the growling concerned them and they didn’t want it to escalate to where their kids got nipped. That’s bad for everyone, shares Amy. The kids, the parents, and the dog. So, she’s working with the dog to curb this aggressive behavior.
80 percent of Rona’s dog owners find resolution for their doggy issues in one visit. She works with the clients at their homes, teaching the owner techniques for handling the issue. When necessary, she also provides a management plan if necessary.
Why is Austin and the surrounding area so great for dogs?
There are so many dog-friendly restaurants and bars, explains Rona, and great outdoor areas they can play. Spots like the Yard Bar—offering a combo dog play park, beer, and picnic foods—have a home here. The Austin community cares about animals, and has a no-kill shelter and support from organizations like Austin Pets Alive! Rona is a volunteer with APA’s Canine Good Citizen program that trains challenging or “unadoptable” dogs to make them more adoptable. One deaf dog she works with has been in and out of the shelter for 3.5 years, has had two adoptive homes and been returned twice, but still, she says, the APA will not give up on her and keeps working to find her a loving forever home.
The dog love in Austin has a rolling effect on the surrounding area as Amy can attest. She shares that in San Marcos dogs are welcome in most bars, restaurants, and venues and sees this as a result of the inclusive dog culture of Austin.
What kind of dogs do dog trainers have?
Roscoe, a 93 poundmastiff mix and Annikin, a 15 pound Chihuahua mix make up Amy’s pack.
Rona has a full house with 6 dogs that are her permanent pets and 3 foster dogs. Her pups run the gamut from a Chihuahua mix to a pit bull.
Where’s a great place for Austinites to take their dogs?
The Greenbelt is the spot in Austin, shares Rona. But y’all knew that! The dogs get exercise, they can practice recall, meet other dogs, and meet people.
Down in San Marcos, Amy likes to hit the public parks by the river. For training it provides great distractions, so the dogs really learn to focus even when there are kids, other dogs, or skateboards zipping by.
Any tips for new dog owners?
It can take 4-6 months for a dog to realize it’s at its forever home, says Rona. Give a new pet their own safe space to be alone and have alone time. Be patient as they get acclimated. She explains that socialization for dogs of all ages is important, but especially for puppies. Make sure they interact with other dogs during the 6-16 week old period. That’s not to say it’s too late for older dogs, but it makes life easier if they learn early on how to be a good doggy citizen.
Your dog can be your baby, but you have to lay down the rules and be a responsible parent, states Amy. Take responsibility, take charge, don’t let them run you or be the boss of you. You’re in control. At same time, she says, let them out to have fun. You don’t want them so close to their own environment that they hate everything else. It really is important to socialize them, she says, echoing Rona’s sentiments.
Be careful at dog parks, warns Rona, especially if your new pet is unvaccinated or could be exposed to unvaccinated dogs. Austin has some supervised puppy play groups if you’re concerned about safe environments in which to socialize your pup.
How can Austinites find a great trainer?
You want a good, positive reinforcement trainer, states Rona. Anyone who trains using force or aggression will only instill that behavior in your dog—who will then use it on dogs that are smaller than it.
Talk with the trainer first, urges Amy, and make sure they are able to provide what you need. If you want obedience training, don’t go to someone who specializes in dog tricks.
Any last words?
Austin is a great town to live in with dogs, says Rona. Dog training doesn’t have to be expensive, she says, and adds you should definitely not wait until a crisis to get help. Living with your dog should and can be a wonderful experience.
Amy wants you to know whatever you put into your dog, you’ll get back. If you put in time and work, you’ll see results within a short period. You’ll be able to bring your formerly squirrelly, trouble-causing dog to dog-friendly spots and get compliments on their behavior. Just give your dog that extra attention and love and you’ll all be happy.