Obedience training is about more than teaching your Tervuren good manners so he doesn’t drive you crazy. Obedience training for the show ring is an opportunity to strengthen the relationship between you and your dog and have a lot of fun in the process. The following guidelines should help you get started.
Make sure you choose a puppy or adult with sound structure and stable temperament. Work with your breeder to pick a well-socialized puppy who is interested in interacting with humans.
Once you bring your new Tervuren home, focus on building a healthy dog-human relationship. Establish yourself as leader, protector, provider, enforcer and best friend.
WHEN TO START TRAINING
Don’t wait until your Tervuren is an adult to start obedience training. Youngsters can benefit from puppy kindergarten classes, which introduce basic obedience elements like walking on a leash, sit, down and stay.
As your pup grows, don’t push too hard. Let him mature without pressure to perform. A vital part of a pup’s early education is to introduce him to everything he might encounter later in life: auto travel, crates, ex-pens, different types of footing, hotels (or RVs and tents), people of all ages and sizes, other animals, stairs, elevators and every noise you can think of.
Keep socialization activities light-hearted and pressure free. Don't overwhelm your puppy with too much at once. Socializing should be a positive experience that teaches the puppy that the world is a wonderful, not scary, place.
A confident, well-socialized puppy who looks to you for leadership (and a good time!) will be an enjoyable training partner.
CHOOSING AN INSTRUCTOR
You can train by yourself, out of a book, but what fun is that! Taking obedience classes from local clubs or private instructors is a valuable way to educate yourself and enjoy the fellowship of other obedience enthusiasts.
Make sure you enroll in competition-based classes to prepare for the show ring. Many clubs offer “pet obedience” or “home obedience” classes, and while these are definitely valuable to the general dog-owning public, they will not teach the skills you need to earn obedience titles with your dog.
When choosing an instructor, pick someone who has experience working with a variety of breeds. Avoid “cookie cutter” trainers who only have one method for all dogs, regardless of age, breed or temperament. Your Tervuren will benefit from a training program that emphasizes creativity, motivation and fun versus one based on compulsion, drills and repetition.
Visit with your potential instructor and find out if she uses motivational training, compulsive training or a combination. How does she feel about the use of choke collars, pinch collars and electronic collars? Watch her working with her own dogs. Do they look like a team that embraces the spirit and joy of obedience?
Choose an instructor who is experienced in all levels of obedience. A Pre-Novice class is really a Pre-Utility class!
Finding an obedience mentor is also extremely helpful. Is there a trainer in your local club who you admire? Do you like the way their dogs perform? Most obedience enthusiasts will happily share advice and assistance if you are willing to help them in return by “playing judge,” helping them set up training equipment or just being a distraction while they work through a training session.
The old joke is “All you need to teach obedience is a dog, a collar and a leash.” While that’s basically true, you’ll also need a variety of tasty treats, a few favorite toys that are exclusively for training time, a treat bag, portable water dish, leashes of several different lengths, a gear bag to put everything in, plus a cooler, lawn chair and crate.
As you progress from the Novice level of training, you’ll need a dumbbell, gloves and scent articles. It’s also very helpful to have your own set of portable jumps and several sections of folding ring-gate. Depending on your instructor, you may also need to purchase a clicker, dowel rods and an assortment of other miscellaneous training tools, many of which are simple household items. With the exception of the scent articles, portable jumps and ring gates, obedience equipment is not terribly expensive.
Many clubs have libraries of training books and videos for members to use. Attending seminars is also a great way to get fresh ideas and explore new training methods.
Even if your dog isn’t ready to show, volunteer to work at your club’s obedience trials as a ring steward. Watching the competitors in the ring will help you prepare to take your turn with your own dog.