Monday, March 5, 2012

How to Pick the Right Dog Trainer

By Linda Cole

Dogs need to be educated so they understand what you expect from them. If they misbehave, it's not because they are bad; it’s because they don’t know what you want. It's not difficult to train a dog, but it does require time and a commitment. If you have no idea how to train your dog, that's where a qualified dog trainer can help. With all of the trainers advertising for your dollars, how do you pick one, what can you expect from a trainer, and what kind of questions should you ask?

When hiring anyone to interact with your dog, whether they're a dog trainer, animal behaviorist or even your vet, you need to feel comfortable with them. If at any time you don't like how a trainer is handling your dog, don't like their training techniques or special collars they use, or feel they're being abusive, you have the right to stop them. How your dog is handled should always be your decision, not theirs.

What can you expect?

A dog trainer's job isn't to actually train your dog. They teach you how to train your dog. It has to be done by the owner and no one else can do that job for you. A good trainer helps you learn how to communicate with your dog, teaches you the basics and assists you in your dog's training. It's then up to you to work with your dog at home every day. A good trainer shouldn't give you a guarantee of success because if you don't follow through with their advice and instructions, your dog will have trouble learning. However, they should make sure you're satisfied with the service they provided. You have to be committed to your dog's training for him to learn.

How to pick a dog trainer

You want someone with an understanding of breed characteristics, the body language of dogs, dog behavior, dog health, good people skills and a genuine love of working with people and dogs. Dog training should always be a fun and positive experience for you and your dog whether it's in a class or on your own at home. Because there is no certification needed for dog trainers, anyone can call themselves one, whether they're qualified or not. Word of mouth is always a good way to learn about trainers in your area. Talk to other dog owners who have taken classes with a trainer you're considering. Go to a couple of classes before you enroll and observe how the trainer interacts with the dogs and people in the class. Do the dogs and owners seem happy to be there? Does the trainer try to keep things fun, and are they willing to give individual attention to those who need it? How well can they handle a difficult dog?

If you observe an instructor yelling, kicking, dragging, choking or using any abusive actions with a dog, or being disrespectful to an owner, run away from that trainer. It can be frustrating trying to train a dog, but that's because we are the impatient ones. Find someone you're comfortable with, who is respectful to you and your dog, knowledgeable, loves dogs, makes the class fun, and is willing to address your questions with honest answers. If you have a bad feeling about someone or your dog doesn't seem comfortable around them, it's wise to follow your heart and keep searching. Dogs can be a good judge of character.

Questions to ask before joining a class

What's their philosophy of training and qualifications? How long have they been involved in training? Do they stay current with continuing education? What's their experience and can they handle specific problems? Have they worked with your breed before and are they familiar with breed characteristics? What type of insurance do they have? Are they certified with the APDT? How much do they charge? Can they give you references?

If your dog needs to learn basic commands and doesn't have any behavior problems, or you want to learn how to use commands and cues, then a group class is what you need. Private sessions are for dogs with behavior issues where the trainer and owner can develop a specific program to correct the dog's behavior. Be wary of a trainer who tries to talk you into signing up for private sessions if you don't feel your dog needs it.

Most dogs will do flips for their owner if they think that will make them happy. Training your dog is actually quite easy, especially if the reward you use is one they love, like CANIDAE TidNips. Finding a qualified trainer gives you the tools and confidence you need so you can train your dog.

Photo by Michael Burkey

Read more articles by Linda Cole


  1. Very good info - as always! Thanks for stopping by the birthday commentathon!

  2. Oh yes, we have run into more trainers who say siberians can't be trained, we are too stubborn. They just don't understand that we need to be motivated in a different way from some other dogs. Mom is on the hunt now for a good one for Lightning.

    Thanks for the great post.

    Woos - Phantom, Thunder, Ciara, and Lightning

  3. Those are such good things to look for. The positive approach is the best. There are so many trainers that try to force the dog to do their exercises instead of teaching them how to do the exercises.
    I too thank you for visiting the commentathon and the Cats of Wildcat Woods.
    Take care.

  4. Right on, as always, Linda. I especially love what you wrote under "What can you expect?"

  5. Very good information about how to choose a trainer. I would like to add that private classes aren't just for problem dogs. Some dogs and owners do much better in home training classes where they can learn faster without the distractions of other students. Once they have the basics down they can then go to a class and continue their dog training education.


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