Choosing the right dog trainer can help novice pet parents in teaching basic obedience to their pets. People with many years of experience as pet parents can also benefit from the knowledge and skills of a good dog trainer. He or she can help in the management of certain behavioral problems in dogs while also aiding in the improvement of one’s dog training abilities. The question most people will have is how they will know if they’ve found a dog trainer who’s right for them. Here are 7 things that you should know when choosing a dog trainer.
Dog Trainers Don’t Need a License to “Train” Other People’s Pets
One thing you should understand is that the dog training industry is not a regulated industry. This means there are no legal entities that can act as legislators and enforcers of policies and guidelines. What this also means is that anyone can claim to be a dog trainer. All they need is to print a business card that says who they are and where interested pet parents can reach them.
Dog trainers do not need a license to “train” the pets of other individuals. However, having professional credentials is often considered as a sign of one’s dedication and commitment to being a dog trainer. As such, those who are committed to becoming the best dog trainer will often subject themselves to competency testing by professional organizations for dog trainers. Examples of these organizations include the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. These organizations evaluate the competencies of aspiring dog trainers. If they pass, then they’re given certification.
Before the dog trainer can take these competency tests, he or she must enroll in a certificate program first. These programs provide aspiring dog trainers with all the knowledge and skills they’ll need to become dog trainers upon successful passing of the certification test. Some of the more popular organizations that provide dog trainer certificate programs include the Animal Behavior College and the Karen Pryor Academy.
It’s true that dog trainers don’t need to have a license to practice. But wouldn’t you feel more secure and confident that your dog is in the best hands if its trainer has the appropriate certification? Many pet parents would.
There are Two Schools of Thought When it Comes to Dog Training
Understand that there are two schools of thought when it comes to dog training. One is a strong advocate of aversive training methodologies. These can include the use of shock collars, prong collars, and an outdated method known as alpha rolling. You will most often hear classic dog trainers use the words “alpha”, “commands”, “obedience”, “corrections”, “master”, and “dominant”.
The other school of thought includes the positive trainers. They believe in the use of positive reinforcement and negative punishment to elicit the desired behavior in dogs. In positive reinforcement, positive trainers will use items that dogs can consider to be very pleasant. These can include toys, treats, warm hugs, and extended cuddle time. Negative punishment, on the other hand, involves corrective methods that are non-aversive. Positive trainers will often use “positive reinforcement”, “positive methods”, “clicker training”, “cues”, and “science-based” in their vocabulary.
The point here is quite obvious. Your choice of dog trainer hinges on whether you believe in the use of aversive methods or not. You should also know that many pet parents now advocate for the use of positive training methods in dogs.
Dogs Respond to Different Training Methods in Different Ways
There is no one-size-fits-all training method for dogs. What may be successful for one dog may not work on another dog. This is a fact of life that all pet parents should understand and accept at the soonest possible time. Hence, if you’re looking for the right dog trainer, it is often important to ask him about the different approaches he uses in training dogs. This is important since you want the dog trainer to use only the right approach on your pet.
A dog trainer may use a single dog training method with the same training duration on two different dogs. One dog may learn faster than the other. It may execute the different “steps” of the training method in a more reliable way than the other. Does this mean the other dog is “dumb”? Of course not! What this implies is that the other dog may respond to a different training methodology. If the dog trainer will replace the method with another, there’s a chance that the other dog may respond a lot better.
What is clear is for you to consider the various approaches that a trainer will employ in the training of dogs. It is important that he has the right skills to use the right methods that a certain dog will respond to in a more favorable manner.
The Success of Dog Training is Contingent on the Pet Parent’s Personal Beliefs
Regardless of how good a dog trainer is, the success of dog training still depends on the pet parent’s personal beliefs. Dog trainers do not only train dogs. They also teach the dog’s owners how to perform these training sessions in their homes and in their own time. This is necessary since dog training classes only run for a few hours, several days a week. During those times that the dog is not “training” with the trainer, it’s the pet parent’s responsibility to continue with the training program.
As such, pet parents should also be open to the idea of learning the basics of dog training. The most challenging part here is teaching pet parents how to think and act in a way that will produce the kind of behavior that they desire from their pets. This is never easy since it hinges on the dog trainer’s ability to “teach”.
You may get a very good trainer but if he is not good at teaching pet parents the skills they need to continue with the training, then everything is for naught. On the other hand, you may have a mediocre dog trainer. However, if he does an excellent job of teaching you the skills you need to train your dog, then you’re guaranteed success for the long term.
Your Choice of Private One-on-One Training Sessions vs. Dog Training Classes
Depending on your dog, you may want to choose between dog training classes and private one-on-one training sessions. In general, puppies are better off with puppy classes as they also get to develop their social skills. Training and socialization are two very important things in the young lives of puppies. These will help them grow to become more well-behaved and more socially-competent canines.
Adult dogs can also benefit from dog training classes. There are classes that include basic training which progresses to advance dog training like nose work, agility, and tricks. Some dog trainers also provide classes for reactive hounds. While these classes work in general, everything is still dependent on the dog’s behavior.
If your dog has a behavioral issue, it is often ideal to have a private lesson. Dog trainers that offer such training will devise a training program that is very specific to your dog. The good thing with this approach is that you will have the dog trainer’s attention all to yourself and your dog.
Know that the Term “Abuse” is Relative
While speaking to a potential trainer for your pet, you may hear from him the term “abuse”. Many dog trainers often use this term as a label for a training method or approach that they believe is unacceptable.
For example, some dog trainers may already consider the use of the word “no” in dog training as a form of abuse. Some may look at delayed correction as a form of abuse. They believe that if you do not issue a correction immediately after an ignored or missed command, you are being “abusive” to your dog.
This is different from the “physical” abuse that we often associate with the use of harsh punishments like prong collars. That is a clear case of abuse. The unfortunate thing here is that some dog trainers use the term “abuse” in a very frivolous manner. A good dog trainer should always use terms that you both can agree with.
Observing a Dog Training Class
One of the things that you can do before deciding on the dog trainer to hire for your pet is to observe how they train other dogs in actual training sessions. This will give you an idea on how they interact with pet parents. You will also be able to determine whether the trainer’s methodologies are as what you expect.
Keep in mind that the training class may not be what your dog needs or what you may have in mind. As such, it is best to consider watching a class or a lesson first.
Choosing a dog trainer can be intimidating. But if you keep these things in mind, then you should be able to narrow your choices down to three. Give all of them a try so you’ll end up with the best.
- 7 Things You Should Know When Looking for a Dog Trainer, Pack to Basics
- Choosing a Great Dog Trainer 101, AKC