For whatever reason you felt like you need a professional dog trainer, it could be because you got a new puppy and you’re looking for general training or maybe you’re trying to fix a specific problem such as separation anxiety, leash pulling, or excessive barking.
While an online course can help a lot, it does not substitute a one on one with a good trainer.
So you’ve searched for dog trainers in your area and asked close friends for their recommendation, and now you have a dozen of names in your list, so how can you sort through them and choose the right dog trainer?
1- Success Record
Don’t get fooled by certifications and diplomas, most of that crap is just so these certification granting institutions can keep money flowing and for people running it to keep a job for themselves, it’s all hype and marketing.
Instead look for a trainer that your vet, local breed club, local SPCA can recommend, ask your friends who have their dog trained by a trainer if they can recommend them, ask them if the trainer communicates well, what techniques does he use and what the experience was like.
2- Positive Reinforcement
Fortunately, it became the new norm now, positive training methods are everywhere, but not so long ago before the 90s, there was a lot of punishment and yelling.
Dog trainers loved punishment back then, your puppy peed on the carpet? rub their nose in it, want a nice puppy? alpha roll them and pick the one who showed the least struggle.
Make sure your trainer doesn’t use any harsh verbal or physical corrections that cause pain, fear, or anxiety for your dog, instead, opt-in for positive training methods.
Note: Some trainers call themselves “balanced trainer”, which means they use positive reinforcement training but also fear and punishment-based methods, STAY AWAY FROM THESE!
3- Communication is key
If you’re not happy with your trainer or if something is not how you want it to be, talk to them politely and respectfully and ask if you both can solve the problem, they’re more likely to make a change and work with you if you communicate instead of complaining.
Communication is a two-way street, make sure your dog trainer is supportive and patient and can explain and demonstrate their methods and the behavior they’re teaching, a good dog trainer coaches you how to train your dog, and sees the both of you as learners.
If a dog trainer guarantee results or they state that they can fix all behavior problems, that’s a red flag, you just can’t guarantee something that has so many variables.
Instead look for a trainer who has patience and explain to you that training take time and patience.
5- Try a class
Try a class to get a feel of what you’ll be getting, make sure the trainer uses positive techniques, people and dogs are having fun, the trainer can clearly explain the methods used and is encouraging and coaching people.
Questions to ask
- What are some down-sides to your techniques?
- What if my dog couldn’t get it right?
- Are sick dogs/puppies allowed in class? (they shouldn’t)
- What vaccines are required for class? (get the list and check with your veterinarian)
What criteria do you look for when choosing a dog trainer?
These are some of the most important aspects that I look for when choosing a trainer, what are some bad experiences did you have with a particular trainer? what traits do you think are a red flag?