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Tricks of the Training Trade

a collage of images of dogs being trained

Seattle Pup Magazine had the pleasure of interviewing Erika, the lead trainer at West Seattle Wonder Dogs, to gain some insider knowledge for Dog Training Education Month (February). Here are the tips and advice we discussed:

Starting Early

Erika said that training should begin the moment you bring your dog home (young or old). Trainers recognize two major training categories: lifestyle and obedience (commands). It is never too soon to start teaching your new dog the routine and lifestyle expectations in their forever home.

For example, when you bring home a new furry family member, you may want to shower them with love and attention. But having them become comfortable with alone time is very important early on. If you ever intend to leave the house without them, you should start working on this right away.

Though vaccines are required before joining a puppy class (and most facilities require fecal testing as well), putting off training can allow bad habits to form and might result in a rough journey toward obedience. It is important to begin socializing your dog and setting expectations (like routines for feeding, potty breaks, and greeting guests at the door) as soon as possible.

It is safer for puppies to have playdates with fully vaccinated animals in a controlled environment – dog parks should not be visited until at least a week after finishing the initial puppy vaccine series.

Useful Commands

“Leave it” or “drop it” are two commands that are important to master quickly; young pups love to put all sorts of interesting things into their mouths! Another useful command is “wait.” This command can be helpful with impulse control, such as when your dog wants to chase down a critter on the other side of the street, or wants to eat that treat you set so teasingly on their nose. Erika pointed out that “wait” is similar to “sit,” but requires a little more control and is kinder to use with older, arthritic dogs that can’t sit and stand as easily as they once could.

Expert Advice

  • Training a dog is a fair amount of work up front, but it is worth it to have a harmonious life with your furry companion.

  • Dog training class is not a camp where you drop off your pup and then they come home having mastered five new commands. Rather, it is a team effort. A canine trainer will work with you to help you understand how to train your dog. Once you have achieved this together, you can continue your journey with your pup, constantly learning and training.

  • Training is a process of taking baby steps and setting mini goals, starting small and working up to more difficult commands or actions. For example, when you want to practice leaving your dog at home alone, start with a few minutes at a time, gauge how they behave, and then make adjustments as needed.

  • Dog obedience training is not a regulated field. When you are considering working with a trainer, ask about their experience and education, and whether they are certified by a reputable organization. (These include Animal Behavior College and Karen Pryor Academy.) A certified trainer knows animal cues, is constantly researching and learning new ways to tackle behavior concerns for dogs in many types of environments, and recognizes that there is no cookie-cutter treatment for every person and every pet.

We hope this information is helpful! If there are topics you would like Seattle Pup Magazine to research and write about, or if you have a dog-related informational article you would like to publish on our site, please email

Article by Wendi Black

Edited by K. Sims

February 2023



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