Frequently Asked Questions
If you have a question that isn’t answered here, please email us and we’ll consider adding it here.
What kind of training methods do you use?
We use a combination of treats, play, and appropriate verbal and physical corrections. We do our best to help students figure out the best approach to use for their particular dog. We don’t require a particular style of collar, but do make recommendations based on any problems you are having controlling your dog.
What is the best age to start training my puppy?
It is best to start in-home training as soon as your puppy comes home. He can start attending Puppy Kindergarten as soon as he’s had enough shots to be out in public, usually by 12 weeks. This will depend on the shot schedule used by the puppy’s breeder and veterinarian. Puppies are little sponges and are always learning, so it pays off to start teaching him right away.
How old is too old to train my dog?
While it is never too late to improve your dog’s training, it is easier to teach the right thing before the wrong thing is too thoroughly ingrained. Sometimes an older dog benefits from attending training when a new puppy or younger dog joins the household, because training can provide individual attention for the older dog.
Do you know how to train breed X?
One of the things you will notice if you come to watch any of our classes is the wide variety of breeds that train with us, both obedience and agility. This includes both purebreds and mixed breeds, and large to small. Our instructors have owned a variety of breeds (Retrievers, Terriers, Herding, Working, and Non-Sporting) in addition to working with many different breeds through our many years of teaching. We are confident that we will be able to help you with your dog.
Why do you teach food- or reward-based training instead of correction-based training?
First and foremost, it is almost always a whole lot more fun for both trainer and trainee. Badly used corrections (poorly timed, too strong a correction for a particular dog) can really be detrimental for the dog and bad for your relationship with your dog. While we do believe in using corrections as needed once the dog understands a command, we rarely teach an exercise via correction.
I do not want to use food to train my dog. It seems like bribery and I want my dog to work for me.
If so, then you will probably be unhappy with our training methods. While some dogs in certain breeds may eagerly work simply for the attention, we strongly believe that most dogs will be much more cooperative given the promise of a potential treat.
My "puppy" is older than 5 months but only by X months. Should I enroll in Puppy Kindergarten?
No. Puppy Kindergarten is for puppies UP TO 5 months of age when the class starts. After that, you should enroll in our Household Manners class if this dog hasn’t attended any training class before.
My puppy bites at our hands and feet. Does that mean he is aggressive?
Most puppies bite and use their mouths to explore their world, in a similar way to how human toddlers explore with their mouths. This does not mean he’s aggressive. A critical skill to teach your young puppy is how to inhibit how hard he bites. Take a look at this excellent article for guidance in teaching this skill.
May I come watch one of the classes before signing up?
You are welcome to come watch any of our classes, but please leave your dog at home. Please arrive early enough to introduce yourself to the instructor before the class gets underway.
Our dog pulls on the leash when walking all the time. What is the right class for us?
Our dog jumps up on guests and us all the time. What is the right class for us?
Many people tell us we should crate train our puppy/dog but we are not sure we want our dog to have to be in a cage.
Teaching your puppy or older dog to accept confinement in a crate helps with early housebreaking efforts, so many people use one then, but then stop using one once the puppy is housetrained. People involved in competitive dog sports use crates extensively as a place for their dog to relax and sleep during events. Crates are an excellent way to confine your dog when riding in your vehicle. If you travel with your dog, his acceptance of a crate might mean the difference between staying with a friend or family member or not. Some motels insist on dogs being confined to a crate if the owner isn’t present. Crates also keep young mischievous dogs out of trouble. For all of these reasons, we love crates and crate-trained dogs.
I have a mixed breed. Is there any way I can do obedience or agility training/competitions?
Absolutely! Mixed breeds have been able to compete in many different agility venues for years and in UKC (United Kennel Club) obedience for a long time, too. In 2010, the AKC (American Kennel Club) started to allow mixed breeds to earn performance titles, such as agility and obedience. We are very proud of the fact that the first mixed breed to earn the AKC’s MACH (Master Agility Champion) title is owned by someone who trained him at Northfield Dog Training with former agility instructor Denise Tarby.
I am getting mixed messages on when best to spay or neuter my dog. What do you think is best?
There have been a lot of different opinions about this topic in the 30+ years NDT has been open for business. For a while, shelters were spaying and neutering very young puppies to ensure that they never had any puppies of their own. Recent studies seem to indicate that waiting for sexual maturity – roughly 14 months for most breeds – for growth plates to close is a wise decision, especially for future performance dogs.
We need help on some issues at home. Do you have trainers that will come to our home and work with us?
While we don’t have any trainers on staff who make house calls, we can recommend several to you.
Do you offer services where we leave the dog with you and you train it for us?
No we don’t.
My vet says my dog/puppy is a good weight but some people we know that compete with their dogs say he/she is too fat. How can that be right?
People can get offended when they are told that their dog is too fat, so perhaps your vet doesn’t want to offend you. It’s also possible your vet doesn’t understand the demands we put on our dogs when we are doing performance events with them. If you are expecting your dog to do athletic sports such as agility, where there is a large physical demand on your dog’s body, and to a lesser extent, obedience, it is vital for you to keep your dog fit and trim. Every extra pound your dog carries greatly increases the stress put on his body when he lands from a jump.
If you put your hands on your dog’s rib cage, you should be able to feel his ribs without having to push through a thick layer of fat. If you make a fist with your hand and run the opposite fingers over the back of your fist below the knuckles, that should give you a good idea of how your dog’s ribs should feel.
I am having trouble housebreaking my dog. He/she just does not seem to get it to let me know he/she needs to go outside.
We have found putting a dog on a schedule versus waiting for him to “let you know” usually works much better. Your dog (especially young puppies) need to go out after they eat, take a drink, finish a play session, or wake up from a nap. The key to successful housebreaking is that you always go out WITH your puppy. This way you are sure if the puppy pottied or not and you can offer quiet praise for success. Some people even offer a small treat for eliminating outside. As mentioned before, we highly recommend crate training your puppy so you have a safe, comfy place for the puppy to rest and maybe chew on a toy. It also means you won’t have to worry about “accidents” when you cannot watch the puppy. For more about housebreaking, we recommend reading this article.
My dog gets all excited and barks and lunges when he/she sees other dogs. What class would be best for us?
For the most part, our Household Manners class is usually the best match for dogs over 4.5 months old. The barking, lunging, and overly-excited reaction to seeing and being around other dogs is very common. However, we would need to know if your dog has shown real aggression toward other dogs or people or has ever attacked or bitten another dog. In some cases a group class is not the best match and often some private instruction to work through these issues before participating in a group class is a better solution. Dogs with serious aggression issues do not belong in a group class.
We travel a lot. What/who do you recommend caring for our dog when we are gone?
There are many possible options for your dog’s care when you travel: tradtional boarding kennels, your veterinarian’s office, or a pet sitter who will stay or come into your home so your dog remains in its familiar environment. Knowing your dog’s temperament and comfort zone might make some of these options a better fit. Checking with friends and families for references is often the best way to determine what might be best for your dog and family.
We have a dog park right near us. Is this a good idea or not?
Some people and their dogs really enjoy their visits to their local dog park. However, for the most part, we rarely recommend them for a variety of reasons. Unless the park is regularly cleaned up, there is a good chance of encountering dog feces that can carry a variety of internal parasites, which can be passed on to other dogs. Be sure any dog park you are considering has separate areas for the big rowdy dogs that play rough and a separate area for the smaller, frail, or more timid dogs. Mixing these groups of dogs can lead to encounters that result in scared or injured dogs. Dogs are pack animals. This means that every time a new dog enters or a dog leaves the park, the dynamics between all the dogs can change. This is the most likely time for disputes to happen. Some dogs really enjoy interacting and playing with dogs they know as well as new dogs, but this is not true of all dogs. If your dog is not comfortable in this kind of environment, respect that and don’t put him in that situation. While we do think most dogs enjoy the company of other dogs in their family or have a circle of “dog friends”, your dog can live and totally enjoy life with you and your family without having to play/meet other dogs.
What type of dog food do you recommend? There are so many to chose from and some seem so expensive. Does it really matter?
This is an area of your dog’s life where you really often do get what you pay for. There are few topics related to dogs that can get more heated and emotional than what is the “best food” for your dog. For everyone that insists their dog thrives on “Old Roy” there will be someone else that insists only raw meat and bones and an all-natural “real food” diet is the only option. Many of us at NDT do feed one of the high-end dog foods as we believe these are the best, most appropriate diets for our dogs. Many of us are very active in a variety of dog sports and consider our dogs “canine athletes”, and feel they need the very best nutrition we can provide. Here is a link to a website that rates and compares all kinds of dog foods, including, dry, canned, raw, and more.
Can you recommend some toys or activities to occupy my puppy when I have to get other things done around the house?
One of our favorite suggestions is to “stuff” a dog toy like a Kong or a sterilized bone with food, and freeze it before giving it to your puppy. Freezing the contents of the toy makes your puppy have to work much harder to get the food out and keeps them busy for quite a long time. You can moisten dry dog food until it is soft and use that, maybe adding a little something special at the end, such as leftovers, cheese, peanut butter, etc. to get them started. Here is a website with several Kong stuffing recipes.
There are also some “dog puzzle” toys in which you hide treats in various compartments. The dog needs to learn and figure out how to get them out. Another suggestion is to try one of the treat-dispensing toys that the dog pushes around to have the treats come out at random times, which really keeps them motivated to keep trying.
What is Northfield Dog Training's refund policy?
Our refund policy is as follows:
- If you withdraw from a class at least 7 days before the first class, you will receive a refund less any fees associated with the registration process.
- If you withdraw from a class less than 7 days before the first class, you will receive a refund, less fees, only if Northfield Dog Training can fill your spot from a waiting list. If are not able to fill your spot, you forfeit the class fee.
- No refunds after the first week of class.
- If the class you have signed up for is canceled due to too few students, you will receive a full refund, including any fees associated with the registration process.
- No refunds for missed classes or absences.
To withdraw from a class, please send an email with:
- Your name
- Your dog’s name/breed
- The name and section # of the class you are withdrawing from.