How to Choose a Dog Trainer

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Whether you just adopted a new puppy, or are interested in modifying the behavior of your adult dog, it’s important to find a quality dog trainer. Not only someone who gets results, but someone who also works to improve the relationship between you and your dog.
Today there are many people who call themselves dog training “experts.” Honestly, a lot of dog trainers are full of hot air. Expert is just a title that they’ve given to themselves.

So, how do you sort through all the hype? The goal is to make learning fun for both, you and your dog. If you both dread the whole training process then nothing will get accomplished, and you will be wasting both your time and money.

There are dog trainers advertised everywhere, in your community newspaper, in the phone book, on the internet, and on bulletin boards in local pet stores and veterinary offices. Ask your friends, family, and co-workers if they recommend any dog training programs.

Before signing up to any program or class go and watch a training session in person. Do the dogs and the owners seem to be learning anything? Would you be comfortable using the techniques that are used? Does the instructor offer more than one way to solve a problem? Not every technique works for every dog.

You should not work with a trainer who relies on physical punishment to train your dog. A dog trainer should not be showing you how to scruff your dog or force him into a submissive position (this is called “alpha rolling”). Basically, if you are uncomfortable with any of the training methods you are presented with go with your gut instincts and walk away.

While choke chains can be effective training tools, they are not my favorite method of training. Personally, I’ve found my dogs learn faster when I reward them for doing something right, rather than punishing them, whenever they do something wrong.

Are the dog trainers you are interested in using keeping up with the latest research and developments in animal behavior? Or are they using the same training techniques they learned 30 years ago? Once again, experience matters, but you have to make sure that the trainer you are working with also hasn’t gone through the past 30 years with blinders on. Check to make sure the trainer or instructor is a member of educational organizations like the Association of Pet Dog Trainers or is pursuing other educational opportunities.

Some dog trainers come to your house, which can be very expensive. However, there is no better place to train a dog than in his own environment. This can be extremely valuable, especially if you are dealing with a behavior that revolves around the home.

You may also find some trainers who offer to train your dog for you. You drop your dog off at their facility and leave him there for a certain period of time. I always thought this concept was a little odd since it’s not really teaching the owner anything. I also can’t see how this would deliver a consistent message to the dog. And who knows what kind of training methods they are using in your absence? In my opinion, your money is much better spent hiring a trainer to come to your house.

If you can find a trainer or instructor that follows the philosophy of Stan Rawlinson both, you and your dog will be rewarded.

He says, “Being the leader does not mean you have to be big and aggressive. Nor does it mean that there has to be a battle of strength or wills, after which you emerge the victor. Anyone can be the leader. It is an attitude, an air of authority. It is the basis for mutual respect, and provides the building blocks of communication between you and your dog. It never means punishment or overt aggression.”


Association of Pet Dog Trainers

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