How to Choose a Dog Trainer: Thing You Should Know
There are countless videos and instructional materials online regarding how to train a dog. Many pet parents are more than happy to train their dogs themselves. However, there are also those who cannot devote the time for dog training. There are also unique cases where the dog needs a specialist. In such instances, only a professional dog trainer will do. Here are the things all pet parents need to know when looking for and hiring a dog trainer.
Determine What Your Dog Needs and What You Expect to Accomplish
Before you begin making a list of the different questions to ask a dog trainer, you should start with yourself. Ask yourself what you want from the dog training sessions. Will it be to free you from the responsibility of training your pet? Is it to give your dog a more professional approach in its training?
Try to determine also the kind of training that your pet requires. Some dogs will only need basic obedience, such as responding to “come”, “sit”, or “stay”, among other commands. There are also dogs that have behavioral issues like extreme nervousness associated with loud noises. Dog trainers can help you in such cases. However, there are also pet parents who can train their dogs not to be afraid of loud noises.
In dealing with canine behavioral problems, it would be wise to look for a trainer with a background in animal behavior or psychology. You may want to include this in the questions to ask a dog trainer, asking for certifications proving his or her capacity as a dog behaviorist. It is important to recognize that there are no laws that regulate the practice of dog training. Almost anyone can brand himself or herself as a dog trainer. This does not offer any security unless you ask for certifications.
Also ask yourself if you are more confident with a one-on-one training session. It will be more expensive. At least you can be sure that the trainer’s attention will be on your dog only. If cost is an issue, then a canine group class might be a good choice.
Make sure you have a clear idea of what you want for your pet. It would also help if you can list down your expectations. You can discuss these with your prospective dog trainers instead of relying only on the questions to ask a trainer.
Understand the Different Dog Training Methods
One of the things you need to realize about dog trainers is that they have their own unique understanding of how a dog should be trained. Some will employ harsh methods that can include the use of prong or choke collars. These aversive training methods seem to work. The issue is that they do not teach the dog the kind of action or behavior that its owner expects from it. What these methods teach is fear. Dogs that are fearful can become timid or shy dogs. Some can manifest their fear in an outward fashion. They can become aggressive.
A better training method is one that employs the use of rewards. It reinforces desirable behaviors without harming the animal. If the dog accomplishes a desired behavior, it gets a yummy treat. This strengthens the pet’s resolve to perform more of the desired behavior. If it does not perform the expected behavior, the dog will not get a reward. This teaches the dog to perform ONLY the desired action.
While almost every dog trainer is familiar with positive reinforcement methods, it is best to dig deeper. Find out how they will address the training needs of your pet. Pay special attention to how the trainer will teach a dog how to “sit”. Does the trainer use the right tools to mark the dog’s desirable behavior? In many instances, dog trainers always use clickers. Some will use verbal cues or markers instead. What is crucial is for you to find out if the dog trainer’s idea of positive reinforcement methods is the same as what you know.
A better alternative is to ask the dog trainer if you may observe him or her in one of his or her group classes. Make sure to do your homework before you ask to sit and observe. This will give you an idea of the congruence between the trainer’s methods and the principles of positive reinforcement methods.
Have a Fair Idea of What the Dog Trainer Can Offer
One concern that you may want to include in your questions to ask a dog trainer is the type of dog training he or she can provide.
There are trainers who can only provide short-term dog training that will run for a few days to a few weeks. Is this the kind of training that you want for your pet? Know that the shorter the training period, the less expensive it will be. However, it may also not be able to address the concerns of your pet.
Dogs have varying levels of intelligence. Canines of the same breed can also have different levels of intelligence. For example, the Border Collie is the dog kingdom’s brightest. However, not all Border Collies can show the verbal proficiency of either Betsy or Rico. Some may require longer training sessions. The point is to determine whether the ‘short-term’ training program of the trainer is enough to meet your expectations.
Pet parents who are serious about entering their dogs in agility or obedience competitions always pick a long-term training program. Trainers have to prepare the dog on all aspects of the competition. Several weeks of training will not get the dog ready. Some dogs take several months, even years to master the different requirements for such competitions. Everything depends on the dog and how well the trainer can teach it.
There are also dog trainers that provide one-on-one training or group training classes. As mentioned, you should already have a decision on this. Let us say you decide to bring your pet to a group class. If the dog trainer doesn’t provide such a program, then you can move on to the next dog trainer. There is no point in prolonging your search. If the dog trainer cannot provide what you want for your dog, then look for another.
Be Sure to ‘Assess’ the Dog Trainer’s People Skills
A dog trainer is not only excellent in handling canine clients. He must also be good in addressing your concerns. After all, you are the one paying for his services. A trainer’s communication skills are important. He must be able to discuss the different aspects of the dog training program with you in terms that are easy to understand. Some trainers may use technical terms in an effort to impress but a good dog trainer should help you understand the things that your pet needs.
People who train dogs must also be therapists. They do not need to be psychologists or behaviorists. They should be able to listen to your needs. From this, they should be able to offer some form of help. It can be a piece of advice about how you can develop confidence when training your dog or it could be pointers on how you can take control of your pet’s dominating behavior. If you prepared the questions to ask a dog trainer beforehand, then the trainer can answer some of them for you.
Trainers are teachers. They do not only focus on the dog; they also teach their human clients some of the things they need to learn in the care of dogs. They can teach you how to use the clicker in the correct way. There are pet parents who know how to use the device. The only problem is that they do not know when to use it. Since clicker training is an important component of positive reinforcement methods, the clicking sound always follows a desired dog behavior. If the expected behavior is for the dog’s buttocks to touch the ground, then one should activate the clicker as soon as the pet’s bottom hits the ground.
A more crucial aspect to this is the offering of the reward. It should come within two seconds of the marked behavior. This will help in the formation of an association between the treat and the clicker. Every time the dog hears the “clicking” sound, it knows that a delicious treat is on the way.
The best way to assess a trainer’s people skills is by joining in one of his classes. Pay attention to the interaction. Take a look at the other participants. Are they relaxed? Do they seem to enjoy the experience? Are there suggestions that the dog trainer offered to his participants that you may feel good about? Do the participants appear satisfied with the explanations and answers to their questions?
A dog trainer should be supportive of the dog owner. He should be able to reinforce those things that you are doing right with your pet. And if there are things that should be corrected, he should point these out and offer alternative solutions.
Verify the Trainer’s Credentials, Including Experience
Almost anyone can call himself or herself a dog trainer. Some read dog training resources, watch videos, and they already put a title under their names. This is not a guarantee of an excellent dog training service, however. What you need is someone who has taken up a special course in dog training. A single training certificate won’t suffice, however. Professionals always strive to improve their skills. They take up continuing education courses to make sure that they stay abreast with the latest in canine training.
There are no specific laws that regulate the practice of dog training. There are, however, professional organizations that serve as enforcers of good practices among its members. At the very least, the dog trainer should be a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.
We cannot overemphasize the importance of professional membership. Membership in such an organization requires adherence to very strict guidelines. They also have to observe their own Code of Ethics as well as adhere to practice standards. In short, getting the services of a dog trainer who is a member of a professional organization is your guarantee of a good service.
If you have several candidates who pass these criteria, then you need to look at the trainer’s experience. A dog trainer may be a member of an accredited organization. However, if he is only beginning in his practice, he may not be able to provide you with the expertise that you expect. It would be ideal to get a dog trainer with many years of experience, especially one who is trustworthy and credible.
Consider the Convenience and Cost of Professional Dog Training
If you live in a community that does not have dog trainers, you will have to look for one in the nearest possible place. This is both for your convenience and that of the dog trainer. If the instructor lives on the other side of the state, then you will have to consider the travel time and the stress you bring to your dog. The teacher can visit you in your house. However, this will also entail costs.
Consider dog trainers that offer boarding facilities for dogs. You can leave your dog with them if you live a considerable distance from the training facility.
Cost is always a concern. Long-term training programs will cost more than short training courses. The kind of training will also have an impact on the cost. Basic obedience training costs less than advanced training programs. Dogs with behavioral issues will also command a different price structure for their training.
Getting a professional dog trainer to handle your dog can provide many benefits. Training can help address some of the behavioral problems of your pet. It can also help build confidence in your pet while strengthening its relationship with you. Hence, it is critical that you choose the right dog trainer. The tips we shared should help you navigate such a path.