How to find a Dog Trainer
You’ve never had a dog before, but decided to adopt one after Covid-19 started because you were working from home and thought you would have time to spend with your new furry friend. However, it’s now three months later and you are starting to notice that your new family member has developed some annoying habits that you don’t know how to control. Your little ball of fur is chewing your shoes, jumping on the furniture, pulling you down the street during walks and jumping up on everyone. So what do you do? Perhaps it’s time for some advice from a professional dog trainer, but how do you find one?
Unfortunately, not all dog trainers are created equal. You wouldn’t buy a new car without shopping around so don’t agree to hire the first dog trainer you meet. Do your homework and ask friends and neighbours who have dogs if they have any recommendations for you. The internet is a good place to start by doing a Google search for trainers in your area.
Dog trainers learn their trade in various ways. One way is to find an experienced trainer and take a Mentoring Program, which allows them to ‘shadow’ the trainer for a period of time and eventually start teaching classes themselves. They can also take certification courses in animal behaviour, but nothing beats hands-on experience. It’s also helpful if the student has a dog of their own and this is a requirement for some Mentoring Programs. The theory being if you can train your own dog, you can train someone elses. Remember, they’re training the owner as well as the dog.
There are also different training methods available and you need to decide which one is best suited to your dog and your family. One method is Positive Reinforcement. It’s been proven to be quite effective, is very popular and a widely recommended method for teaching a dog cues and behaviours using treats as a reward. However, Positive Reinforcement involves only rewarding the behaviour you like and simply ignoring unwanted behaviours.
The method we use at Integrated K9 is a more balanced approach. The dog is rewarded for positive behaviour with attention (such as verbal praise, physical touch or treats when needed) and is ‘corrected’ with a leash and collar correction for unwanted behaviour. This teaches the dog that there are consequences for unwanted behaviour. This method also uses a variety of training collars that the owner is taught to use safely and responsibly.
Once you have the names and contact information for a few trainers, call them and ask them questions, such as:
How long has the trainer been training dogs and where did they receive their training?
What is their method of training?
Do they offer group as well as private training?
Do they allow potential clients to come and observe a class for free before they agree to work with the trainer?
How much experience do they have with the breed the client is having issues with?
Can they provide reviews from previous or current clients?
Do they have experience with dogs with behaviour issues such as aggression or anxiety?
Training a dog takes time and patience. Consistency is very important and, while cost is a factor, it should not be the only factor in your decision to use one trainer vs. another. Remember that once you finish a group of lessons with a trainer, you will need to continue practising with your dog every day in order to maintain and improve their behaviour.