Dog trainer talks puppy problems, training techniques

Kristen Sullivan

Does your dog nip? Jump? Keep you up at night? The solution could be as simple as exercise, says Michael Schaier, an author and certified dog trainer from Freeport, New York.

Schaier, author of “Wag That Tail: A Trainer’s Guide to a Happy Dog,” a book that stresses the importance of exercise and socialization for pets and “What Can You Expect When You Are Expecting a Puppy,” which prepares pet owners on the challenges they may face with their new arrival, says his lifelong love of dogs began as a child, when he voluntarily trained his friends’ and family’s pets. As an adult, he owned a real estate company and relegated his pet prowess to a hobby, all the while encouraging his children to follow their own dreams. Eventually he took his own advice and made a career of something he genuinely enjoyed doing.

That was more than a decade ago, and since then Schaier has founded Michael’s Pack, a dog training center in Mineola, New York. His team provides training categories including the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen program, service dog training, agility work, group classes for puppies, and private lessons.

He has dedicated himself to helping owners better understand their pets, and he offers tips on how to do so. He encourages potential owners to adopt mixed breeds rather than buying. But if you have your heart set on a purebred dog, he says, do your homework and find a breed that fits your lifestyle. A family that enjoys hiking and outdoor activities should look into a high-energy breed. If you’re a less active family, you’ll want to consider a low-energy breed.

One common problem Schaier sees often is, new puppy owners not understanding when to reward their pets. It takes 30 days for the new parent-puppy bond to be complete, he says, adding that it’s crucial to set boundaries.

“Send clear messages to your dog. Consistency, perseverance and repetition is key in dog training — that’s what counts,” he said. “They want to make us happy; dogs are domesticated to be with humans. All they really want to do is be a part of our lives, and we sometimes miss the cues and the trigger points for them to give us what we want.”

It’s important to understand that each dog is different, Schaier points out, adding that they learn at their own paces and have their own needs.

Rewards don’t always have to be edible treats, Schaier says. Owners can take a more active route and turn play into a treat. All dogs have different drives and ways to be motivated. For example, Shaier says if he were training a German shepherd, he might use a tennis ball because they are high-energy dogs. Terriers are naturally curious, so he might offer a squeaky toy to indicate the terrier had responded correctly to a command.

For those looking to socialize their pup, Michael’s Pack offers Puppy Play Time on Sundays, which also addresses one of the biggest problems Schaier has seen while dog training: under-exercise.

“We see dogs with mild issues, like pulling on leashes, to more severe issues, such as dog-on-dog, dog-on-human aggression, and I found that 75 percent of most of these issues can be helped through proper exercise,” Schaier said.