CHOOSING THE RIGHT DOG TRAINER
Dog training has rapidly evolved over the past few decades and there is so much conflicting information out there, it can be confusing and overwhelming experience for a dog owner to figure out how to hire the right dog trainer for their family.
When dog training first emerged it was focused more on corrections and was a forced based approach, then the pendulum swing to a purely positive model, when people questioned the ethics of those methods. In our opinion, both models are extreme and we are asking dog owners to seek balance in their relationships with dogs, humans and their beliefs systems.
After over 20 years studying and working in this industry we have come to understand how to best help dogs and their humans, here are some tips when it comes to choosing the right DOG TRAINER to help you and your dog on a path to peace and happiness and to ensure you work with someone who has your best interests in mind.
THERE IS NO REGULATION IN OUR INDUSTRY
FIRST you should know that there is no license needed to be a dog trainer. That means anyone can call themselves a "dog trainer, dog psychologist, dog behaviorist, master trainer, etc." However to call yourself an "Animal Behaviorist" you must hold a Masters or Doctorate Degree in Animal Behavior which are recognized by National organizations. However there are many trainers that have worked 1,000's of hours with 1,000's of dogs that do not have this certification so it is your job to do your homework when it comes to hiring a trainer that will ultimately affect your dogs life.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS QUICK FIX
BEWARE of trainers that offer to "FIX" your dogs in one session. This is an unrealistic expectation and puts a ton of pressure on you and your dogs to get it right the first time. This scenario would be similar to going to a counselor or personal trainer and asking them to FIX you in ONE session. Unfortunately that is not how life works. True and lasting change takes time, energy, and effort on your part. Normally you should be able to see PROGRESS on your first session, and I always tell my clients they will see immediate results, but it is their job to continue to keep up with the work. Dog training is a way of life.
FIGURE OUT WHAT KIND OF HELP YOU NEED
Next, ask yourself what you want your dog to LEARN. If your dog needs to learn the BASICS then maybe you want to start with a basic reward based training class to get started. If your dogs knows all the basic commands but has a hard time following through on commands then more balanced training might the next step. If your dog is showing human or dog aggression they need may more intense training and/or rehabilitation, that may include boarding/training programs. Decide what type of training you are looking to do with your dog and do research on the trainers you are interested in working with.
PURELY POSITIVE/BALANCED/FORCED BASED TRAINING
Some trainers are PURELY POSITIVE trainers, meaning they reward good behavior but ignore bad behaviors. Some trainers are FORCE based trainers, meaning they start with CORRECTIONS without teaching your dog the new socially appropriate behavior. BALANCED trainers should be GUIDING your dogs to make the right decisions and REWARDING good behavior, yet showing you appropriate and humane ways to correct bad behavior, and MOST IMPORTANT to how you how to communicate with your dog that makes sense to both of you. Training should be giving your dog LIFE SKILLS to navigate the world with you.
PROPER USE OF TRAINING TOOLS
Some people are opposed to certain tools, but any tool can be use inhumanely and incorrectly, it is your job to determine what tool your dog needs to help them achieve the level of training so that you guys can live a more enjoyable life together. You also have a world of options when it comes to dog trainers and tools. Make sure that the trainer you choose teaches you how to use training tools that feels good to you and your dog, because you must work as a TEAM to help your dog.
CHECK YOUR TRAINERS CREDENTIALS
Check out a trainer’s RESUME, find out their work HISTORY and what PROFESSIONAL organizations they belong to. There are many gifted dog professionals out there who aren’t certified, and the truth is that there are no hard and-fast rules that necessarily mean a certified trainer is an expert. However having a certification and belonging to professional organizations, ensures that the person you hire has had to pass some minimum requirements, put in some hands-on hours with dogs, and do some studying. Certification also makes a trainer accountable to some basic standards and guidelines, which you can research.
GET REFERRALS/ASK AROUND
Get REFERRALS. This may sound obvious, but even if you find a trainer online, ask if you can talk to a couple of his or her previous clients. They can give you an idea of the trainer’s methods, personality, reliability, and willingness to follow through. When you are looking for help for you and your four legged family, ask friends and family for a trainer they trust to help GUIDE you through the sometimes stressful process of training your dog.
WORK AS A TEAM TO HELP YOUR DOG
Make sure the trainer INCLUDES you as part of the training process. There’s nothing wrong with a trainer who wants to LEAD you through the training process, because most likely if you are seeking training you and your dogs may in need of clear leadership. But BEWARE of trainers who do not include you in the training process! You should be working together as a team, and even in board and train programs trainers should bring you in throughout the process so you can SEE for yourself how your dog is PROGRESSING through training and include you in the training. A trainer who will not show you those things, should be suspect in my book.
Choosing the right person to help you and your dog on a path to peace and happiness is an important job and one that should be taken serious.