Training is an essential part of every dog’s life. It teaches your pup the polite way to behave in human society, and has the added benefits of providing great mental stimulation for your dog and strengthening the bond you share.
And while dog training is something pet parents can often tackle on their own, sometimes you need a little help from a professional dog trainer. But choosing a dog trainer can be a difficult decision. Not only are there many trainers to choose from, but it’s also crucial that you find someone with the knowledge, skills, and experience to teach your dog some key lessons.
To help make your decision easier, these are the 5 key characteristics you need to look for when choosing a dog trainer.
First and foremost, you need to look for someone with a training philosophy that matches your own. While harsh, punishment-based methods were once the norm, they’ve since been shown to be ineffective. Rewards-based, positive reinforcement methods are now widely seen as a more humane and successful way to train dogs.
That’s why it’s essential to research a trainer’s philosophy and methods before deciding whether they’re the right person to teach your dog some essential life skills. And don’t just take whatever is written on a trainer’s website as gospel — watch them teaching a class to make sure the methods they use are gentle and humane.
There’s no universal qualification required to be a dog trainer, which essentially means that any old John or Jane can call themselves a trainer. With this in mind, it’s vital that you dig deeper to find out exactly what qualifications someone has before enlisting their help with your dog.
Look for a trainer with credentials from a well-known certification body — for example, the Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers — or who has earned qualifications from a recognized training provider. A commitment to ongoing education is also a good indicator of a committed trainer, and is also a requirement of some certification programs.
Of course, it’s not just a trainer’s education and academic achievements you need to consider. The right person to train your dog will also have plenty of real-life training experience, and lots of positive testimonials from previous clients. And once you see them in action training dogs (and people) in the real world, you’ll have a much better idea whether they’re the right person to tackle your dog’s behavior problems.
It goes without saying that any dog trainer should love working with animals. But more importantly, the dog trainer you choose should be able to figure out the best way to engage with your fur-baby.
This not only means using positive reinforcement rather than punishment-based methods, but also knowing how to get (and hold) your dog’s attention. Different dogs respond to different people and training approaches, and if you’re looking for a trainer to work one on one with you and your pup, they must be able to effectively communicate with their four-legged clients.
Before hiring a dog trainer, ask if it’d be possible for you to observe one of their training sessions or classes. This will give you a better idea of how they interact with dogs and how their canine charges respond to their guidance.
It’s often said that dog training isn’t really about training dogs — it’s about training people. After all, as a pet parent, you’re the one who has to take the skills you learn from a trainer and put them into practice with your dog day in, day out.
So the dog trainer you choose must be able to clearly and concisely communicate the different techniques and strategies you need to grasp. They need to be easy to understand and be able to move through the steps of the training process at a pace that suits you and your dog.
Of course, listening is also a vital part of communicating, so the right trainer will also be adept at listening to any questions or concerns you have about your dog’s behavior. You should be able to get a good idea of the trainer’s listening skills when you first meet them to discuss your pup’s training needs.
Learning how to train your dog shouldn’t be an intimidating or embarrassing experience. Whether you’re having a one-on-one session with a trainer or you’re joining a group class, you need to feel completely comfortable. But if a trainer is constantly criticizing you for doing the wrong thing, or for your dog’s lack of progress, then you’re hardly going to feel like listening to them.
So try to get a better handle on what sort of people skills the trainer has. You’ll get a feel for this by meeting them in person, but observing a trainer in action can be a big help. Here are a few questions to consider:
- Does the trainer explain different strategies and techniques clearly?
- Do they speak to their clients politely and respectfully?
- Do they create an environment where, if you make a mistake or your dog is a slow learner, you’ll be supported rather than scolded?
- Are the people in the trainer’s class relaxed and happy?
It’s also important to find someone who makes training fun. Training is hugely important, without doubt, but that doesn’t mean it should be overly serious or boring. And if a class is enjoyable for you and your dog, you’ll be much more likely to listen and learn.
If you need a little bit of help teaching your dog the right way to behave, a good dog trainer is worth their weight in gold. So instead of just choosing the first person that comes up when you Google “dog trainers near me”, take the time to research a range of options. Once you’ve found someone who is patient, helpful, and knowledgeable about all things dog behavior, you’re already well on your way to turning your pup into a confident and well-mannered dog.