Choosing a dog trainer can be a challenge. Unfortunately, dog training is an unregulated industry. Anyone can put up a website, print a few business cards and declare herself a dog trainer. However, you can know whether any dog trainer is someone you would like to work with, either in your own home or at a group class, by looking for a few key characteristics. When shopping for a dog trainer, look for a proficient and trustworthy expert whom you will be thrilled to recommend to your family and friends. Here’s how to find a great dog trainer.
Professionalism. Look for a certified dog trainer. The credentials CPDT-KA mean that the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (an independent organization not affiliated with a for-profit school) means that your trainer has passed a rigorous examination and stays up to date by attending continuing education classes in animal learning, canine health and husbandry, canine body language, ethics, instructing techniques and more. Additionally, she has signed an agreement to abide by professional and ethical standards. Affiliation with other canine professionals through membership in a professional association like APDT (Association of Professional Dog Trainers is another sign that your trainer participates in continuing education and networks with other professionals to bring you the very best services.
Dog Skills. If you are hiring a canine behavior coach, you should be able to get multiple solutions for your dog behavior problems. Your canine behavior coach should be very, very good with dogs. Are the methods employed by your dog trainer fun your dog? Are you seeing positive changes toward your goals? At the end of each session, your dog should be relaxed, happy and eager for more. If your dog training instructor employs force or fear techniques, uses pain and punishment as a primary tool, look elsewhere. Dog trainers who guarantee fast results, promise instant off-leash success and urge you to “be alpha” are often using techniques you would never want to use on a family member. Look for a canine trainer who promises “reward-based” training, using food, games and play as primary reinforcers, rather than recommending painful equipment.
People Skills. Your canine behavior expert should also be an excellent teacher of humans. Her job is to teach you what you need to know for your dog. You should expect to learn about dog body language, stress signals and dog breed differences as much as obedience skills and doggie manners. Are your sessions well spent? Do you understand the issues surrounding the behavior problem, from the dog’s perspective? Do you know what obedience routines you are supposed to practice and how? Are you feeling encouraged about your progress? Does your canine behavior coach tell you what you are doing well, while you are learning to train your dog? At the end of each session, you should be relaxed, happy and feel that your money is well spent.
Finding a canine behavior coach to help with your dog is a little like hiring a tutor for your child. You want to find someone who is professional, well-qualified, knowledgeable, creative, able to connect with and instruct both you and your canine family member. Above all, the time and money you spend with this person should leave you satisfied. If it does, then tell someone! Your personal dog trainer will be grateful for the referrals.