How to Choose the Perfect Dog Breed Just for You
How to Find and Choose a Dog Trainer
Finding a dog trainer can be a daunting task. There are many unqualified dog trainers that should be avoided. However, there are also many qualified trainers available who will help you and your dog with whatever goal you have. To find a dog trainer, start by determining why you need a trainer and what type of trainer you need. Then, research the trainers, ask the trainers questions, visit a class, and evaluate their training methods.
Determining Your Training Needs
Decide why you need a trainer.There are many reasons a dog owner may take their dog to a trainer. You may want basic obedience training for your puppy, or you may need behavior modification for your aggressive dog. You may want to train your dog in a specific skill, like agility, or you may need help with a mental condition that requires medication.
- Knowing what you want from the trainer and what your dog’s needs are can help you search for and pick the right trainer.
Determine the type of trainer you need.Not all trainers are alike, and some may not offer what your dog needs. After figuring out what your dog’s needs are, you can figure out what kind of trainer you need. As you search, look at what the trainers specialize in. They should all list their specializations or what behaviors or areas they train on their website.
- Many people just call themselves dog trainers because they train dogs. Some call themselves behaviorists because they help you modify both minor and major canine behavior.
Look for an applied behaviorist if your dog has behavioral issues.An applied animal behaviorist is a certified professional who specializes in the study of animal behavior. They have graduate-level education in the area and at least three to five years of professional experience. They deal with things like extreme aggression or fear, and work alongside dog trainers.
Find a veterinary behaviorist if your dog has special needs.Veterinary behaviorists are certified professionals and have been residents for at least two years alongside veterinarians. They are experts in animal medication, and may work with other trainers and behaviorists if the dog needs medication to help modify their behavior.
Figure out what type of class your dog needs.There are different kinds of classes available to you and your dog. What you choose depends on your dog’s individual needs.
- Group classes are for basic obedience training and socialization.
- Private sessions are focused on treating behavioral problems, like extreme aggression, separation anxiety, or handling issues.
- Day training is an option if you work and don’t have time to train with your dog. The dog trainer will come to your home and train them while you’re at work, or your dog will go to their home or a kennel and be trained there.
- Skill specific classes are geared towards something you want your dog to learn. This may include agility training, competition training, or herding.
Finding a Trainer
Ask people for a referral.One of the best ways to find a good dog trainer in your area is to ask people to refer you to someone. Start by asking friends, family members, and colleagues. Your vet can be a valuable resource and provide you with names of great trainers. You may also want to ask around at the dog park.
- Even when you get an enthusiastic reference to a trainer, make sure to check out the trainer and talk to them first. Just because the trainer worked for someone else’s dog doesn’t mean it will necessarily work for yours.
Use a certified dog trainer directory.Many dog organizations provide directories of certified dog trainers. You can use these directories to start your search for a good dog trainer. You can search by state or country and zip code to find a trainer in your area.
- For example, you can try searching through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers at ccpdt.org or The Association of Professional Dog Trainers at apdt.com.
Visit the trainer’s website.Before you take your dog to the trainer, you should check out their website, Facebook, pamphlet, or other information. Does the website or pamphlet look professional? Browse through and see what the trainer offers on the website.
- Look for a section where the trainer outlines their beliefs on training and dogs. Do their ideas match yours?
- Read all the available information on the website. Ask yourself if what you see presented there makes you feel comfortable with the idea of letting your dog train with them. Does the information make you want to contact the trainer?
Research the trainer.While you are looking on their website, Facebook, at the pamphlet, or at any other material, see what details they give you about their experience. Where have they worked and trained? How long have they been doing this? Who have they worked with in the past? Do they specialize in breed or certain behaviors? These details are important when choosing a trainer.
- After looking at their website, search for the trainer’s name or the business name online. Look for reviews, message boards, forums, or any other postings that mention the trainer or the business. Do people say positive or negative things about them?
Check the dog trainer’s certifications.There are no licensing requirements for dog trainers. This means you may end up with a trainer who has no certifications, training, or education related to dog training. However, many dog trainers will have independent certifications. These are the trainers you want to look for.
- The Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers have a certification program that requires a certain level of experience and an exam to be certified. For example, they have to have at least 300 hours of recent training experience and must pass a long exam covering a variety of topics.
- The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants is another organization that certifies trainers. To receive this certification, you must have 3 years experience with 1500 hours of working in animal behavior consulting.
Evaluating the Trainer
Contact the trainer.If you have researched the trainer, you should schedule a meeting. This can either be via a phone call or in person. Have a list of questions ready to ask the trainer when you talk to them to evaluate their skills and abilities. For example, you may ask:
- How long have you been training dogs? Where did you receive your training?
- What methods do you use? How do you correct negative behavior? What rewards do you use?
- What training/behavior seminars have you attended recently?
- May I observe a lesson/group classes before signing up?
- What type of training program would you propose to help me with my dog's behavior?
- Do you have insurance?
Ask for client references.If you want more information about the trainer and their training methods, ask for references from previous clients. Most successful trainers will not have a problem providing you with references from satisfied clients.
Look for a trainer who uses humane techniques.Good trainers work to help you improve your relationship with your dog by helping you establish trust. A good trainer will encourage understanding and respect between you and the dog, not fear.
- The training methods should be humane and dog-friendly.
- A good trainer will use positive reinforcement through food, treats, attention, toys, play, or praise. Negative behaviors will be dealt with through ignoring the dog and withholding rewards.
Choose a trainer who interacts with people.The trainer you choose should have good people skills. You are the one who is going to be training the dog, so you need a good relationship with the trainer. The trainer should be involved with each dog and owner during a training session or class, listen to what you have to say, and be interested in your dog.
- Good trainers will want your dog’s full history. They want to know about their background and behaviors so they can help you correct behavior and establish a stronger relationship.
- Your trainer should also want to teach the entire family. They know you are not the only person in your dog’s life and will want to include everyone so your dog can be successful.
Observe a class.Before you sign up with a trainer, ask if you can observe a class. Respectable trainers will have no problem with you going to a class and watching what they do. This can give you a more accurate sense of how the trainer conducts themselves.
- Watch the dogs and the humans. Are they having fun? Are the dogs under control or is it chaos?
- Watch the way the instructor handles overly excited dogs, shy dogs, or slightly aggressive dogs.
- Notice how instructors help dogs and owners who are struggling. Ask how the instructor helps them to ensure success.
- Pay attention to the way the trainer interacts with the students. Do they help each one and give each dog and owner attention?
Avoid punishment-based training models.While training helps you establish you as your dog’s leader, you want to look for training method red flags. Any trainer who uses punishment-based models or models based on dominance and submission are not trainers you want to take your dog to.
- You do not want a trainer who uses shock collars, choke collars, or physical punishment if a dog does something wrong.
Video: How to Choose the Best Dog for YOU!
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