Selecting a Dog Trainer – The First Step in Training a Dog

Too many dogs are put down or sent to shelters because they have behavioral problems that an owner cannot handle. Many times, these behavioral problems are issues that can be solved easily with a small amount of training. It is the responsibility of every dog owner to employ the help of a professional to teach basic obedience, and to correct inappropriate behavior instead of ignoring it until the animal has to be given away. Selecting a dog trainer that works well with you and your dog is essential for successful training, whether for basic obedience, agility competition, or behavior correction.

Currently, there exists no government agency that licenses or regulates dog trainers. There are many trainers’ associations that offer memberships, but do not assume that such a membership guarantees instructor suitability. Recommendations from friends or neighbors, veterinarians, or even the local humane society can be a great resource for finding a good trainer. If you see a dog at the local park who seems extraordinarily well behaved, ask the owner for the name of the dog’s trainer; they will most likely be flattered that you asked, and more than willing to give you the trainer’s information! Before you commit to classes or individual sessions, speak with the trainer, observe her instruction methods, and interact with her own dogs. If they seem unruly or ill-mannered, move on; if they are the most angelic dogs you have ever encountered, stick with this trainer.

Questions to Ask a Dog Trainer

The key to finding a suitable trainer for you and your dog is asking the right questions before you begin. Find out how this trainer has been educated, and whether or not she participates in continuing education. Ask how many years of experience she has had, and ask for references from previous or current clients. Find out if this trainer is familiar with the canine ‘good citizen’ program, and if she is qualified as a program evaluator. Find out what training methods are used, as many trainers have different approaches to teaching; some trainers will treat each dog differently depending on personality and response. Make sure the trainer is answering your questions in terms that you can understand and relate to, as clear communication is essential between you and your trainer.

As you observe training sessions, make sure that this trainer always uses humane techniques to support appropriate behavior. The use of positive reinforcement such as food, praise, or attention is very important. A skilled trainer would never use methods that were harmful to the dog or handler, such as hanging, kicking, beating, or shocking, or any other method that cause undue stress, pain, or physical harm. Get a feeling for the tone and attitude of the trainer. She should have a positive mind-set, a sense of humor, and a genuine fondness for dogs and people. Although we would like to think that dog training is just for dogs, it is actually for dog owners too, so a trainer must like both! She should be approachable, and encourage her students to have fun during class.

Once you begin training, make sure that your dog responds to the methods that your trainer employs. Each dog reacts to training differently; if your animal has troubles learning with one trainer then do not be afraid to try someone else. Your objective is for your dog to learn. If this means that you need to take him to another trainer or specialist, do so.

A good dog trainer will want you and your dog to succeed, but will take the time necessary to help you achieve your goals. While most trainers cannot guarantee results, most are willing to ensure client satisfaction, and will allow classes to be retaken if necessary.

Ideally, the training your dog receives will keep him obedient, safe, and happy, and will keep you in charge for the rest of your dog’s life. Training classes will allow socialization with other dogs and owners, and may even result in life-long play buddies. Selecting a dog trainer that suits you and your dog is no easy task. With the right interview questions and intent observation, you are much more likely to find a good trainer who will be a great teacher for both you and your canine.



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