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You say creating a satisfying relationship with your dog begins before you even buy or adopt it. What do you mean?

Ninety percent of a successful relationship with your dog is getting the right breed for you.

An honest evaluation of the time you realistically have to devote to your pet—not just now when it is new—but over the course of its life will help you decide. If you don’t have the time or desire for lots of activity or dog games, you need a breed that is laid back—Shih Tzu, Pug or Mastiff. These types need several walks per day, but then are content to lounge, sort of the couch potatoes of the dog world. Working and hunting dogs—Beagles, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers—conversely will take energy and stamina on your part to give them the physical and mental challenges they need to remain healthy and content.

Can you really teach an old dog new tricks?

Yes! And just like training a puppy, training an older dog begins the day you bring your new canine home. Remember that you are in control of your dog’s behavior, environment and training conditions. The challenge can be in controlling our own reactions and attitudes toward our pets when the improper behaviors such as barking, nipping, jumping up, or chewing don’t conform to what we deem normal social behavior.

Your books have the words “pure and simple” in the title, but if dealing with your dog is really that easy, why is there a whole industry devoted to doggy problems?

Because people seek answers from professionals only after they have a problem. The “simple” part of my book titles refer to being consistent in how you reinforce the behaviors you desire from your dog before a problem arises. Once you understand basic training techniques— using a leash both inside and outside to control behavior (something everyone can learn to do), providing the same spot daily for your pet to relieve himself— you can consistently and repeatedly implement them. Letting a professional help, even with just one training session, gives you the opportunity to experience the correct way to physically implement training techniques and to hear the correct tone of voice that is necessary for commanding, correcting and praising your dog. Dogs are not trying to be difficult. It’s that they are busy doing something more important to them at the moment.

There are so many different theories about how to train dogs. Why is that?

The main goals of training are to understand your pet’s current behavior, and then to learn communication techniques to guide your dog to appropriate behaviors. And there are several theories, as you say, toward accomplishing this. I am for any training that is humane to the dog. Sadly, some trainers believe in force to train dogs. I am against this. Other trainers use food. And yes, food can be a powerful motivator or incentive. But using food or treats alone has health consequences. Still others look to change personality traits of dogs. I believe good training does not change the dog’s inherent nature at all—it compliments it. I use consistent verbal commands and interactive activities to engage the dog. And this really is my soapbox: Beginning training the moment you bring your dog home will prevent many obedience problems—excessive barking, destructive chewing, inappropriate elimination, not coming when called —from ever becoming an issue. I can’t stress it enough.

What kind of pets do you have, and are they perfectly behaved?

My wife Dru and I have a couple of Chihuahuas and an older Welsh corgi. Are they perfect? No. They don’t sit quietly in the corner. Do they behave? Yes. These are good dogs for us. I take great pride when my pets give pleasure to others and aren’t obnoxious in a social setting. Just like with your kids: You take pride when they behave around others! We also have two horses, two Umbrella cockatoos, a Ball Python snake and a cat. One of my birds just bit the tip of my finger off. There is a lot of forgiving and acceptance at our house.

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