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A new hound for the holidays

If getting a new pooch is part of your plan, here are some tips to help get your new family friend trained. Prize-winning dog trainer Kathy Santo shares some advice.

If getting or giving a new puppy or even an older dog is part of your holiday plans, you may want to start thinking about how you'll train your dog and maybe even teach him or her a few tricks. Kathy Santo is a prize-winning dog trainer who says that traditional training methods are hopelessly out of date. That's why she came up with "K-9 Living," a new series of DVDs which offers tips for the best way to train your dog. She shares some of her training philosophy on “Today":

People can't speak dog
Dogs, like people, have individual, distinct personalities. When you think about training a dog, it's more important to think about the dog's personality traits, rather than the dog's breed. That's why the traditional obedience schools don't work -- they treat dogs in a cookie-cutter fashion and don't realize the importance of each dog's individual personality.

So when a dog comes out of obedience school and still hasn't really changed, I like to say that it's not the dog that failed, but rather, it's the method that failed.

What I mean when I say "people can't speak dog" is that most people look at a dog and they see four legs and a tail. But when I look at a dog, I see potential. In order to tap in to that potential, I have to "type" the dog -- in other words, figure out a bit about the dog's personality traits and what motivates the dog. I also do what I call a "personality quiz" on the dog. Conducting these tests should be your first step as the owner of a new dog -- especially if that new dog is a puppy.

There are four parts of the personality quiz. The first, and most important, is to discover your dog's motivation.

Most dogs fall into one of four categories of things that motivate them:

--Food; toys; play includes being rubbed on the belly, scratched on the chin, and wrestling) and finally, not motivated  -- yet...

The next step is to determine what I call your dog's "work ethic." That means you're trying to find out how cooperative your dog will be during your training sessions.

Next is to determine your dog's "energy level." That involves figuring out how long you can make each training session. You don't want to make the sessions too long for your dog -- you'll both be tired and frustrated. You want to end the session when your dog is still feeling good and cooperating, so that you can have another fruitful session another day.

The final part of the personality test is to determine what I call "physical and emotional sensitivity." This has to do with figuring out how much of a cheerleader you will have to be during your training sessions. Also it has to do with figuring out to what degree you'll need to enforce behavior with your dog. I guess some people would say that means how hard you can punish your dog, but I don't like to use the word "punish." I think "encourage" or "enforce" are far better words.

There are also special things to know for owners of puppies. Most puppies are food motivated. Even so, their behavior and personality traits can change as often as every four months, so you'll want to do another round of the four-part personality test every four months until the dog reaches his or her first birthday. We find that a dog's personality is usually set by the first year, so by that time, you'll know if your dog is motivated by food, toys, or play.

Kathy Santo is a prize-winning dog trainer who has recently released a three-volume DVD series that offers tips about the best way to train your unique dog. For more information on Kathy Santo's K9 Living and her dog training DVDs, you can go to her Web site at  .