Finding a good trainer   Leave a comment

Every dog should take at least one obedience class! It is a great way to expose young puppies to other dogs and people in a positive manner, to practice working in distraction, to bond with your new (or not!) dog, and to get some tips from a professional on how to adjust your training for your specific dog.

However, finding a good trainer can be tricky. There is no national certification for trainers, so anyone can call herself a trainer, even with no experience. Additionally, many trainers still rely on outdated dominance techniques, which were disproven decades ago and can be damaging to dogs physically and mentally. So with all of the options out there, how do you find a good trainer?

  • Observe a class. A credible trainer will usually not mind you watching one session. Watch the trainer’s teaching style. Watch how the dogs are reacting. Watch how the people are reacting. Can you see progress during the class? Do you understand the trainer’s explanations? Does everyone seem happy but focused?
  • You should never feel uncomfortable! This is the number one rule in finding a trainer. If at any point while you are observing you feel uncomfortable with how a dog is being treated, or what an owner is being asked to do, or even just a gut feeling you can’t identify a reason for, go elsewhere. (If you do enroll in a class and are ever uncomfortable with what a trainer is asking you to do, politely decline. You are ultimately responsible for the safety and happiness of your dog, not them!) Dogs can be successfully trained to any level using positive training techniques, and there is no need for you to do something you are not comfortable doing. Find a trainer who agrees.
  • Look for keywords. Words like “positive” and “clicker” are good keywords, that indicate the trainer will use dog-friendly (and human-friendly) methods of training. Words like “dominance,” “pack” and “alpha” are red flags that the trainer will be using outdated methods which may cause long-term damage to your dog.
  • Ask for a guarantee. Ask if the trainer provides a guarantee that their training will be successful. The correct answer is no! Dogs are individuals with personalities, and like anyone they have good days and bad days. They are not black boxes. There is no way anyone can guarantee the lifetime response of any animal. Trainers who say they can are only showing how little they understand about animals.
  • Request references. A good trainer should have happy clients who are willing to share their experience with you. Some trainers will have pages of testimonials, others will provide you with contact information of references upon request. If you are given phone numbers, use them! You can learn a lot about a trainer by how their previous clients view them, and this gives you a chance to ask an unbiased third party about questions important to you.

Finding a good trainer can seem overwhelming, but it is worth it! When you find a good trainer, you will be amazed at the change in your relationship with your dog, and your life together will become much more enjoyable.


Posted July 21, 2010 by Eileen in Resources, Training Styles

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