Celebrity dog trainer Brandon McMillan’s views on rescue dogs, training them and useful tools:
Why rescue? Adopting a shelter dog has a double-impact: It saves the pet’s life while changing the owner’s.
“Most people who buy only breeder dogs still have the idea that rescue dogs are damaged goods and are not aware of the fact that dogs from breeders can come with the same problems. I tell people that you can find the same dog at the shelter for pretty much little to no cost, and if you really knew the facts — that 1 million dogs are euthanized each year because they can’t find homes — most people would want shelter dogs.”
Selection is key: Choose wisely and temper your expectations.
When considering adopting a dog, McMillan recommends doing your research. He said that people must have reasonable expectations about what they want out of the dog and about each dog’s capabilities, so dog selection is very important.
“People must understand the breed and its personality traits and know what to expect before they rescue a dog.
“What is its energy level? Do they require lots of space? Don’t be surprised if you choose a herding breed and you have a small apartment where your dog is confined all day and then your dog misbehaves,” he said.
Keep it simple: Seven syllables can bring your dog — and your life — under control.
McMillan developed the “Seven Common Commands” training system based on the most prevalent everyday commands essential for control and obedience: sit, stay, down, come, off, heel, no.
“I find that most trainers don’t have a basic curriculum and they kind of wing it. I have a basic curriculum and I chose seven commands because I believe that less is more. If I try to teach 15 to 20 things, the owner will forget 10 of those, but everyone can remember seven. People used to say, ‘That sounds like too little,’ but if you can teach your dog these seven things and these seven things only, by the time you are finished they will have the basics that they need for the rules of life and the fundamentals of manners and control,” McMillan said.
First things first: Teach control and save the tricks for later.
“I don’t like to teach tricks. I like to teach control and obedience. Those are the two main requirements people have for their dogs and the main complaints that I hear fall under the category of obedience. I see so many dogs that are completely out of control and their owners say, ‘But he can roll over.’ I always say that the first thing you want to do is train control. That is the No. 1 fundamental of training any animal.”
The top two tools in McMillan’s training arsenal: a leash and lure stick.
The leash is McMillan’s single most valuable training tool since it “solves almost any and all problems and a good trainer can accomplish almost anything with it.”
A lure stick, which retails for about $10, comes in close second. The tool, which McMillan helped to design and uses frequently on “Lucky Dog,” features an extendable arm that holds a treat to lure a dog in the desired direction.
“It teaches focus and control and works well for dogs who have leash aggression. It is also great for people who have trouble leaning over and bending down. People with back problems and elderly people really like it. It has so many practical applications and it is cheap enough that everyone can afford one.”
Pets are like people: Healthy food and good sleep impact are essential.
“Dogs are just like us: The cleaner we eat, the better we feel and the better we perform.”
He feeds his dogs pet foods made from natural ingredients with added prebiotics to promote gut health.
“They also need to have very comfortable sleeping conditions. We want them to sleep very well, since that affects their energy level and overall brain function. We work very hard during training and want to make sure their brain function is at peak performance.”