How to Choose a Dog Trainer
Take your time. Not all training is the same quality or results. Some trainers have much more skill and natural talent with animals than others. In choosing a dog trainer or behavior specialist, make sure they have the skills, experience, and knowledge that is required. They should keep up to date on continual learning. Not only scientific learning or “book knowledge”, but hands-on experience, completion of apprenticeships and seminars, and experience with the type of issues you are having.
Look for the quality of the trainer and their experience, not just number of years training, but quality. There are many people who have been driving a car for 30 years but still can’t parallel park!
- Does the trainer explain things clearly?
- Are they giving you practical advice and solutions?
- Do the methods make sense and are you comfortable with them?
- Does the trainer break things down into small steps for the dog, and give them constant positive feedback?
- Is the trainer certified? This alone may not mean anything. Not everyone with a certification is necessarily any good. Many highly accomplished trainers do not have “certifications,” as there is no one widely-accepted certifying body for dog trainers. It is an unlicensed profession. Some certifications are no more than a computerized test, without hands-on.
- Is the trainer affiliated with any dog training associations? The IACP (International Association of Canine Professionals) is a good organization, also has a “trainers search” page.
- Where or who did the trainer learn from?
- Where have they worked before?
- Does the trainer have online reviews or provide references of past clients?
- Has the trainer (or their clients) titled dogs in any recognized venues or dog sports?
- Will the trainer show you a demo with their own dog, but also with a customers dog?
- Is the trainer open-minded and skilled enough to use different techniques for different dogs?
- Does the trainer rely too heavily on treats or bribes? Food can be a great training tool. However, if you give your dog a command and his only consequence for disobedience is the lack of a treat, how well behaved will your dog be?
- Does the trainer rely too heavily on corrections and punishments? This is unfair for your dog and can cause problems.
- Does the trainer fully explain any equipment used?
Things to look out for
- Be wary of trainers who use guilt or try to intimated you or your dog into using their services
- Look out for trainers who attribute many behavior problems to “dominance”
- Avoid trainers who use examples of wolf behavior- dogs are not wolves
- Avoid trainers who offer “guarantees” or other marketing gimmicks. Just like an attorney cannot guarantee the outcome of a court case, a trainer cannot guarantee the outcome after training. It also depends on what the owner does once they are back at home! A good trainer can, however guarantee that they can get results when working with a dog in a session or during a board and train, such as guaranteeing free follow-up lessons.
- Last, go with your gut instinct, it’s usually right- choose a trainer who loves animals.
Other questions to ask a trainer:
- What successes or accomplishments have you had in training?
- What type of dogs do you own?
- Why did you become a dog trainer?
- What books have you read on training? Good trainers read, constantly learning
- Have you attended any seminars or continuing education?