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How to Choose a Dog Trainer

How to Choose a Dog Trainer

Your dog didn’t arrive with an instruction manual. Whether you adopted your dog as a puppy or as an older dog, there is a learning curve to being a dog owner. One of the best ways for you and your dog to learn how to get along, is with dog training. And yes, these dog training lessons apply to you the owner as well. Dog training allows you and your dog to learn a shared language that makes it easier for you to communicate and understand one another. Hint: a few all-natural dog chews can be the ideal reward for good behavior and to aid in dog joint health. Along with this mutual understanding, dog training gives your dog the skills needed to play easily and safely at the dog park, to walk on a public path, to attend a friend’s barbecue, and to travel with you. It’s important to know that dog training isn’t just for puppies. While the key learning period is between three and 14 weeks, your older and even senior dog can learn new behaviors. The key comes down to choosing the right dog trainer for you and your dog. If you have a favorite dog trainer or have some books or other resources you think would help others in the Leaps & Bounds community, please share this information on the Leaps & Bounds Facebook community page. Ask About Dog Training Certification When interviewing and doing your research about dog trainers, make sure you ask about the person’s dog training certification. It’s pretty easy for anyone to create a website and advertise as a dog trainer. Contact organizations such as The Association of Professional Dog Trainers, Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training & Behavior, The Academy for Dog Trainers, or the International Association of Animal Behavioral Consultants, and ask for information about dog trainers in your area. Remember that there are many different types of dog training certification so just because someone is certified, doesn’t mean they’re the right person for you and your dog. Trust your gut instinct and when in doubt, keep looking. Ask For Referrals Along with talking to family and friends who have dogs, remember to ask your veterinarian for her dog trainer recommendations. When you do meet with a dog trainer, ask for some references and do follow up with these. You can learn a lot from the first-hand experience of others. Ask the references about the class size, the pace of the training, how dogs were disciplined, what their dog learned, and if they would recommend this dog trainer. Find Out About The Dog Training Philosophy The understanding of how best to train dogs has evolved over the years, moving from the dominance-centric approach to the more common positive reinforcement approach. It’s important that you discuss the philosophy behind the dog trainer’s approach. When looking for positive reinforcement dog trainer, ask the following key questions:
  • How do you use positive reinforcement?
  • How do you avoid using intimidation, physical punishment, or fear to train dogs?
  • What are your thoughts on dominance training?
  • How do you think and approach training from the dog’s point of view?
Don’t be shy to ask follow-up questions and to really drill down into how you and your dog will be taught and the logic behind this teaching process. Remember, that you want the best for your dog, and this means that you have the right to choose a dog trainer who makes you and your dog feel comfortable and safe. Ask To Attend A Dog Training Class Before enrolling in a dog training class or session, ask to attend a class. The first time, come alone so you can pay attention to how the trainer interacts with the dogs and their owners. At your next visit, bring your dog and pay close attention to how your dog responds to the dog trainer’s voice, body language, and mannerisms. Remember, your dog is very perceptive and might react to a situation or person very differently from you. You want to make sure that your dog feels at ease in the dog training setting and does not hide or act aggressively in response to the dog trainer. Take a few moments to talk to the other people in the class about their experiences and how their dog is reacting to the training. If the dog trainer is hesitant to let you attend a class or to talk to the other students, this is a warning sign that this likely isn’t the right training environment for you and your dog. Know What You Want From The Dog Training Sessions Think about why you want or need dog training. Are you trying to teach your new puppy basic behaviors such as walk, sit, lie down, fetch and key socialization skills? Do you have a dog who has recently started acting out and want some help with this new behavior? Or maybe you have adopted a senior dog who has never had any training and you want to teach your senior dog how to walk on a leash or to respond to your voice. Trust In Your Dog Trainer Decision You should never ever feel pressured into signing up with a dog trainer. Trust your instincts and choose the dog trainer that you feel most comfortable with. Above all else you want to choose a dog trainer that you would happily recommend to your friends and family. And don’t forget that if you sign up for classes, and you sense unease in your dog or you’re not happy with how the classes are being run – you can find another dog trainer. Just like choosing the right school for your kids, choosing the right dog trainer is critical in your relationship with your dog. We’d love to hear from you about your experiences with dog training. Please share with us on our Leaps & Bounds Facebook community page, telling us about what you look for in a dog trainer and if you have any suggestions on how to choose the right dog trainer.