Ask the Dog Trainer – New Year’s Resolutions for Canines

“The Canine Behavior and Training Department at the Louisiana SPCA is excited to bring you this weekly column focused on delivering the most accurate, scientifically proven positive methods of training and behavior modification available. Hollie Gomila, CTC, and I are dedicated to strengthening the bond between dogs and their human companions in our community and beyond.”
– Courtney Bayer, Canine Behavior and Training Associate

As we gear up for a busy year of classes and private clients, I have to take a step back and think about my own dogs for a moment. I don’t want them to get left behind just because other dogs and their owners need my help.

Courtney working with Vonnie on impulse control

It’s time to make one of those New Year’s resolutions we all like to talk about in January, and this year I resolve to do the best I can for my dogs: to go after that one challenging behavior or difficult training situation and really work it out once and for all.


This is a resolution I think every dog owner should make for 2017. It’s time to finally get your puppy house trained, fix your walking-on-leash problem, or teach the dog not to jump up on everyone he meets. For me this means channeling Fiona’s squirrel chasing into nose work and agility classes. It also means walking my dogs separately so I can address Bishop’s leash reactive behavior more effectively.

I have the benefit of working with some of the best trainers in our region, and also the support of Academy for Dog Trainers in my corner.

However, anyone can stick to this resolution if you make realistic goals and get the help you need. If you got a new puppy over the holidays, the most important thing to focus on is proper socialization. Attending puppy class or puppy socials in a safe, supervised and sanitized environment before the dog is 16 weeks old is the best way to accomplish this.

If you adopted an adolescent or older dog and want both obedience training and bonding time, classes like Manners I are the perfect way to start the year. Maybe, like me, you found yourself with a dog that lunges and barks at other dogs on a leash–in that case you should consider either private training or a class like Reactive Rover.

Whichever way you do it, resolving to fix or prevent training and behavior problems this year will make you a much happier owner, and your dog will certainly benefit. Just make sure if it involves hiring a trainer, you make sure that person is willing and able to tell you exactly what happens to your dog when he gets something right and exactly what happens to your dog when he gets something wrong. If any of these things involve inflicting pain or fear, or the trainer can’t answer clearly, keep shopping.

Here’s to a positive and successful 2017. If you have questions about training your dog, email

Courtney Bayer is a Canine Behavior and Training Associate at the Louisiana SPCA. She has been training dogs for 13 years and has two dogs and two cats of her own. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email or visit