Behvioral training for your dog is an esential investment you can make as a dog owner, however, choosing the wrong trainer can be a waste of your hard-earned money or worse, it can cause some severe damage to your dog. Since dog training is an unregulated industry, virtually anybody is able to call themselves a dog trainer. This means that choosing the right one for you and your dog is all the more challenging.
Regardless of the reason that got you into searching for a dog trainer, picking a person you can trust in with your furry friend requires a lot of research and it’s more than simply picking the one closest to your house. Fortunately you can Using the tips described in this post will help guide you during the research phase and help point what you should look out for before making a final decision.
1. Figure out what you want your dog to learn
Not all dog trainers teach the same things and this is why it’s important that you understand what is it that you want your dog to learn. Eight popular types of specialized dog training include:
- Obedience training: Every dog should go through this type of training, at least on a basic level so they can learn commands such as “sit” or “stay.” Obedience training prepares your dog for many social situations and allows you to keep your dog under control when you need to.
- Behavioral training: Helps dogs unlearn bad behaviors that owners don’t want to see, such as excessive barking, biting, and stress from separation anxiety.
- Tracking: Teaches dogs how to use their noses to find something based on scent. This can serve many purposes from using it in sport, such as tracking down animals for the hunt, to law enforcement applications such as detecting bombs, drugs, and missing people.
- Therapy training: This type of training helps dogs meet the criterial to become therapy dogs by training them to earn the American Kennel Club Therapy Dog Certification. The key requirements to pass include the ability to be calm, gentle, and friendly with strangers. Note that emotional support animals are not the same as service animals.
- Agility training: Trains dogs to be able to run through agility courses as fast as possible by teaching them how to do over, around, and through different obstacles.
- Service training: Trains dogs to legally perform service work so they can become valuable tools for people in need and make their lives a lot more comfortable and manageable.
- Protection training: Teaches dogs how to be great guard dogs and protectors.
- Retrieving: Teaches dogs how to chase, swim out and retrieve ducks, rabbits, and other kinds of game by gently picking it up without attempting to eat it.
It’s important to identify your objectives from dog training right off the bat as some dog trainers may only specialize in specific areas such as agility training or behavioral training. Most trainers will also ask about your goals and objectives early on so they can tailor the cirriculum to fit your needs.
2. Think about your own philosophy and ethics towards dog training
After understanding what type of dog training you’re looking for, it’s time to address the training method. The most common training methods are:
- Positive reinforcement: Avoids punishing dogs for bad behaviors. Instead, it uses redirection and only rewards dogs for good behaviors with treats, praise, and toys.
- Dominance training: Focuses on the trainer or owner becoming the alpha or leader, meaning that the dog is a subordinate.
- E-collar training: Uses electric collars to correct any unwanted behaviors.
- Clicker training: Uses a clicker to signal good behavior and that it’s time for a reward. Great to teach new behaviors but not very effective towards stopping unwanted ones.
Look for a trainer that uses positive reinforcement as it’s the method that has been proven to be the most effective dog training method. Avoid trainers that advocate for methods that use physical force that can eventually harm dogs and use any kind of punishment tools such as choke collars, pinch collars, or shock collars. And, most of all, pick a dog trainer that supports your own values and works in a way you’re comfortable with, and that agrees with your views on dog training.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for a trainer’s certification
As mentioned earlier, anybody can call themselves a dog trainer even if they don’t have any formal training or certification. And although there might be great uncertified dog trainers out there, having a certification is a guarantee that that person passed some minimum requirements and has put in some hours training dogs and studying the subject.
Having a certification also makes dog trainers accountable to follow some basic standards and guidelines so it’s important that you look it up and ask them about what their training and education is. Besides, trainers putting in the time, money, and effort into getting certified shows dedication to the profession and interest in learning more about dog training.
4. Look for referrals and testimonials from past clients
Great dog trainers will have no problems with and even encourage you to talk to their previous clients. That’s because there are so many bad dog trainers out there that being able to hear testimonials from former clients is the best way to convince people that they’re great professionals. Talking to previous clients will give you an idea of what method a trainer uses, how reliable they are, and their willingness to follow through. If they have an online presence such as social media accounts, check them out to see if you can find any online reviews and testimonials.
Another option is to ask your vet for a referral. Vets usually have trainers they recommend and they’re usually a great option but make sure you always do your research before making a final decision and don’t simply take your vet’s word for it.
5. Make sure you’re included in the training process
The best dog trainers know that, ultimately, you are the one that is going to train your dog. This means that their job is more about teaching the owners how to train a dog than to simply train the dog themselves. Depending on the reason why you’re seeking help from a dog trainer, it’s possible that there may be some initial work that the trainer needs to do with the dog on its own but, you’ll need to be involved in the process as well in order for the training to be consistent and, therefore, effective.
To do this, dog trainers need to be able to teach owners and everybody else in the household about dog behavior, dog communication, and how dogs learn. This ensures that everyone who interacts with the dog is using the right communication and providing a consistent learning experience.
Making sense of it all
When searching for a dog trainer, the more information you can gather about how they work, the better. Don’t just read through what they say on their website or social media. Talk to previous clients and, if possible, observe one of their classes and carefully observe how the dogs and owners act. Make sure that the dog trainer is respectful and everybody is enjoying themselves. If you want your dog’s training to be effective, it’s crucial that you feel comfortable doing whatever the trainer asks you to do and that you feel like you can ask as many questions as you want to understand the reason behind what he’s asking you to do.