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How to Choose a Dog Trainer

This is an article we wrote for a magazine, it details some things you should look for in a trainer. Choosing a trainer for your dogs is the most important thing you can do when it comes to the dog’s temperament. The right trainer can make your dog the most reliable, outgoing and sociable dog he can be, the wrong one can retract from all of the above and cause problems that can never be erased.

Choosing a Dog Trainer

Here are 10 things that you need to consider when choosing a dog trainer.

1. Your initial contact with the trainer, whether it is by phone, e-mail or in person shouldn’t be a rushed one. Pay for their time if they request it, it will pay dividends. Don’t accept the person is busy and be content with a 2-minute price and basic run down. If the person is busy, book a time when they are not, busy is good, complacent is not.

Steve is available by phone consult or we have staff available to discuss your training needs with you.

You should feel totally comfortable with your trainer, tell them and or ask them anything related to your training or dog.

They are going to be spending time inside your dog’s mind, you don’t want undesirables leaving their shortcomings in your dogs temperament.

It’s no good choosing a trainer without scrutiny, thinking you will not return if they are incompetent, the damage may already have begun. I have seen dogs ruined in a 5-minute session with the wrong trainer…

2. The trainer you use should explain what he or she is going to do before doing it, that way, nothing will be done that you don’t approve of or don’t understand.

They should have a lesson plan, if you ask them and they answer defensively, they probably don’t have a plan. Don’t accept someone leashing up your dog and walking it off or worse, leaving your dog with someone you don’t know or trust.

Don’t read a testimonial from people you don’t know and assume your dog will be fine as theirs was, many testimonials are fake or written by their friends who have NEVER used their services.

Anyone using the “trade secret” excuse for not allowing you to watch, be present or participate is someone I believe you should be cautious of. There are no trade secrets, dog training is about experience, not secrets. All our clients are free, no encouraged to participate and learn every aspect of what we teach your dog.

The companies that request you leave your dog for a period of time are not always bad or cruel. They do this because they know it takes more time to train the owner than the dog and base their prices on this fact, they basically don’t charge for the time they “should” spend with you, hence they try and keep it short.

We believe the success of a dog trainer is measured by having the owner understand as much as the dog does. There is always some risk when leaving your dog with someone you don’t know.  In fact, the dog will be stressed, in a strange area being made to do things it’s not used to, hardly the ideal learning environment.

3. The trainer should be happy to spend time with you, as much time as necessary for you to fully understand the reasons for the things you are doing. Most will charge you for this luxury, but it is worth it.

You need to work with people that want to help you, not get the next dog in…

4. The trainer should also not be impatient or bring any anger or violence into the training of any dog.

Patience is the key to good, consistent dog training.

5. You should expect courtesy from your trainer and be respectful in return. If you have chosen the trainer well, you should be agreeance with him or her, not arguing with them. The old saying of “getting what you pay for” is not always warranted in dog training. Costs may be based on overheads vs. workload.

The group training clubs can be a great way of socialising dogs, but not ideal for training all dogs and certainly not ideal for trying to solve behaviour problems.

You need someone focused on your dog and your dog alone, not his own dog completing a demonstration or other class members.

Ask what you get for the price requested, make sure you get it. Ask what guarantees are available, most offer free lessons for the life of the dog, in small print, “taking up your time, traveling to their premises“.

How about a money back guarantee or no charge for no result? This may be impossible with complex behaviour problems but it is worth considering what happens if the trainer cant help you?

6. Don’t expect to see a demonstration dog, not all trainers have a dog trained in every capacity, if they had the time to do this, they might have too much spare time. We could spend an hour a day training a dog to competition level over a few years, make it’s obedience impeccable, that doesn’t mean a thing, would you be willing to spend 2 years, an hour a day, 7 days a week paying a trainer? No?

So seeing a dog at that level only provides you with a false sense of hope. If you are shown a dog, ask to see the dogs flaws, no dog is perfect, lets see some honesty in your trainer. Lets also keep in mind seeing a dog perform doesn’t guarantee it was trained by that trainer.

I think the best way to see what sort of service you are going to get is ask previous clients, good trainers will happily provide references. I think this is the number one biggest thing to look at. Your buying a service, not an outcome, check with people that have already taken up that service and be guided by them.

7. Do expect to see results close to what “should have” been promised at the start of the lesson. This means, at the start of each lesson, we believe there should be a plan, and there should be a goal set.

You should achieve that goal by the end of the lesson, thus proving the experience of the trainer with your type of dog.

8. The best trainer is only as good as the practice you are putting in and the consistency you promote. All things being equal, the dog is a dog, not all dogs are the same and the goal is to make your dog the best it can be, not be better than another dog you may have seen.

Look for improvements, even small ones, not comparisons…

9. It should go without saying that no one should ever hit your dog or be directly cruel to it. If you see this, don’t think “it’s your last time with this trainer“, stop it now.

Speak up, you are your dogs leader and protector, do your job.

A good trainer will keep “positive attitude” in your dog throughout training. This means head up, tail up, ears up most of the time. Although training adds stress, the trainer should be able to recognise it and control it. Ask any trainer in the first interview how he will control the stress in your dog, beware of anyone who believes there will be no stress or doesn’t have an answer.

Think of yourself in a driving lesson or exam, you would be stressed, that is controlled by the fact that there are X amount of pages or minutes left, you see light at the end of the tunnel and that is a stress reliever for humans.

10. Finally, choose a trainer, agree on a program and stick with it, swapping from trainer to trainer, method to method is the biggest mistake that people make. It only teaches your dog to protest long and hard and the method will stop.

The only person you have to satisfy is yourself, discussing methods with friends, relatives or neighbours will surely find an advocate of another method, the old saying ” the only thing two trainers will ever agree on is that the third is wrong” is very true. Allowing others to bring doubt in your mind will not help you. Start by choosing a program and trainer well, follow it and impress on lookers with your dog’s ability.

Qualifications mean nothing when put up against relevant experience…

The above are ways to fine tooth comb any trainer, including me, use it to your advantage.

Revise the results and even after deciding on a trainer, keep the above in mind. This is your dog, your not only training the dog how to do things but what attitude to have toward training both now and in the future…

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