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What to Expect at Assessments

The 30-minute free assessments have been part of K-9 Prodigy ever since the beginning! I love them because they let me get to know your and your dog a bit before training even starts, and then I can jump right in on Day 1 of training with a full training plan in mind.

One big thing I look at, just walking in the door, is how the dog responds to a stranger coming in the house. Over-excited? Nervous and barking? Sometimes the owners expect me to just jump in and start working with the dog, either correcting jumping up or trying to make friends with a frightened dog. But the assessment is more a time for observation. If the dog is ecstatic and jumping up on me you'll see me turn away from it so that the jumping-up doesn't get rewarded. If the dog is frightened you'll see me just ignore it, not even making eye contact -- what I'm looking at is how long it takes for the dog to recover from the fear and what it does in the meantime. (If you know your dog is aggressive to new people, then we'll have figured out a plan for the initial entry ahead of time.)

I ask first to see you handle your dog in the house, and this is really basic stuff -- it's usually asking for your dog's attention by name, calling your dog to you, sit and down if it knows how to do that. That's usually it, unless you want to show me additional things your dog knows. For the obedience segment, I'm looking at both your dog AND you. Is the dog able to perform even though there's a new person in the room? Are the two of you having a good time? If there's a problem or the dog doesn't respond, how do you get through it? Again, this is all easy obedience stuff -- I want to see whatever's "best" with you and your dog, and then we can work up from there!

If you're having a specific problem, I usually *don't* need to see it! For example, if your dog door-dashes I don't want you to open the door and demonstrate how he gets out and runs away. If he's growly around toys, please-please-please don't give him a toy and then reach in and take it to show me how he growls! I promise I know what aggression and problems look like and don't need to see them in full display. The goal of training is to get your dog to never-ever-ever do those unwanted behaviors, and by setting one up for demonstration, that's the exact opposite of never-ever-ever!

Now, I *MIGHT* do some exercises around the unwanted behavior. For example if you have a door-dasher, I might have you put your dog on a leash and then call him to you and reward as I open the front door. I can get a ton of information from something like this -- if the dog is absolutely fine on-leash then I know that the issue is on-leash vs off-leash and we can start there. If the dog can't focus on anything but the door then we'll start with just the door itself. These exercises help focus my training plans but won't let your dog "practice" his unwanted behavior.

We do a quick leash-walk during most assessments, especially if your dog has trouble on-leash. I always start off observing you handling and sometimes then ask if I may handle. Trainers should always ask permission to handle your dog! (Unless there is an extreme emergency situation.) Never let a trainer you don't know simply grab the leash and start handling your dog!

I want to hear ALL your questions during the assessment, from the logistical ("Can I pay with a credit card?") to the training-specific ("What if he's not very treat-motivated?") You'll get an emailed assessment and plan usually within 24 hours, and then we can jump right into training!

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