From teaching your dog basic obedience to advanced training for dog sports, a great dog trainer can make all the difference. That’s particularly true for new dog owners. But even if you have years of experience with your canine companion, a professional trainer can help you troubleshoot problems and hone your abilities.
But how do you know when you’ve found the right dog trainer?
It’s essential to evaluate potential trainers before trusting them with your hard-earned money and your precious pooch. Don’t simply pick the closest training school or the cheapest trainer. Instead, follow our tips below, which will help you determine if a potential trainer is the right fit for you and your dog.
Evaluate Your Own Needs
It’s important to determine what you need from the start; from there you can find a trainer that suits your needs.
First, think about your pet’s behavior. Do you have a new puppy that needs basic obedience, are you dealing with unruly behaviors like jumping on guests or bolting through doors, or are you experiencing more concerning behaviors such as fear reactivity, resource guarding or aggression?
Not all training offers the same things. Typically, a class setting with other dogs and owners provides the added benefit of socialization and distraction training, and is great for puppies and dogs that need to learn manners and specific commands. But, if your dog has a hard time focusing or displays reactivity or aggression around other dogs or people, private training may be more appropriate.
Look for a trainer that offers the exact experience and services you need, and if your dog is particularly challenging you may also want to look for a dog behaviorist to help you understand the reasons behind your dog’s difficult behaviors.
Ask for Recommendations
There are many ways to track down local dog trainers. Recommendations from trusted friends and family is a great place to start, and recommendations from someone who has taken a training class or used a specific trainer are worth their weight in gold because you will get a first-person account of their experience. They can tell you how the sessions are structured, how effective the trainer’s methods are, etc. You can also inquire about highly recommended trainers at your neighborhood dog park, your favorite pet supply store, your local shelter and your veterinarian’s office.
Ask the Right Questions
Think of your initial phone or in-person meeting with a prospective trainer as a job interview. Prepare a list of questions to ask so you can learn about the trainer’s experience, methods, and personality. If the trainer isn’t forthcoming with information or doesn’t communicate well with you, chances are their communication with your dog will suffer too. Here are some questions to ask:
How long have you been training dogs? Do you have any certifications or credentials?
Take the time to do your research and check out their professional affiliations, awards, and a well-rounded history in general. Are they involved in canine sports and activities? Do they work with any local rescue organizations? Does your trainer have any awards?
Affiliations certainly don’t make a trainer automatically effective, however, trainers who are involved in the training community show their training on a regular basis, and have resources and peers available to assist them. These activities and affiliations are all excellent indicators of a good trainer.
What is your training style and technique? Do you have a training philosophy? What type of equipment do you utilize?
When chatting with a potential trainer, make it a point to discuss training philosophies and equipment they will expect you to use with your dog. Every client, dog, and trainer is different, so determining what training style is best is a highly personal choice. Trainers who can approach training in a flexible manner, and who can tailor their approach and tools to what the dog and owner need will likely be most effective at helping your dog become the best version of himself.
What are your goals for my dog? What are your expectations for me?
If a trainer’s sales pitch sounds to be good to be true, it probably is! Some trainers boast extraordinary results with minimal work on the part of the owner. The truth is, a good trainer will let you know that your dog’s success is based on your commitment to daily reinforcement of the training techniques at home. You are part of the training team and it’s essential that you maintain consistency and enforce the rules.
Observe a Class
A trainer who takes pride in their work should have no problem letting you sit in on a class. A great trainer will have an excellent working relationship with their clients and dogs. During your observation, see if dogs are engaging with the trainer, are eager to work, and are motivated, happy, and focused.
If the dogs are none of the above, the trainer has most likely created an unproductive or negative learning environment. Also, watch how the trainer interacts with owners. If a trainer reprimands an owner without properly teaching them the right way, you might want to look elsewhere.
Your Pets are our Priority!
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