The dog training profession is not regulated in the United States. Anyone can call themselves a dog trainer, even if they have no education in dog training. For this reason, it is imperative that owners do a lot of research before choosing one. Even a well-intentioned person can cause irreparable damage to a dog in a single training session. Owners should resist the temptation of ease or convenience when putting the mental and physical well-being of their trusted friend in the hands of a trainer.
The very best outcome of choosing the wrong trainer is you will not get the results you are looking for, and you’ve wasted time and money. The worst outcome is that the trainer causes permanent damage to your dog’s emotional state, creating life-long stress for both you and your dog. Your dog is counting on you to keep him safe.
It is surprising that, given the advancements in our understanding of dogs, many trainers continue to practice outdated, dangerous methods based on punishment and intimidation, rather than science. The best trainers use scientific, reward-based training methods.
10 Things To Consider When Choosing A Dog Trainer:
- You should not choose a trainer who uses harsh methods at any stage or for any reason. Ask about the methods and equipment they use. Stay away from pinch collars, choke chains, shock collars, and techniques like alpha rolls. Behavior issues such as aggression or extreme fearfulness need specially qualified and credentialed trainers.
- Look for a KPA (Karen Pryor Academy) graduate or a trainer with current CPDT KA or CPDT KSA credentials. Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers is an independent certifying organization.
- Ask for a list of professional organization memberships, continuing education courses, and any professional certifications.
- Identify what you would like to accomplish through training. If you want your dog to earn a title in a particular field, you should choose a trainer with similar titles. If you are looking for puppy training or basic manners, titles are not as important.
- Avoid trainers who use the same method for every dog. They will have a high failure rate with dogs that do not fit their mold. A trainer should be able to identify how individual dogs learn and treat each dog as an individual.
- Interview the trainer that will be directly working with your dog either by phone or in person. Observe a class if possible.
- Look for a trainer who has similar values as you do, and will work within your lifestyle.
- Avoid marketing ploys like “guarantees.” All dogs are different. No one can be absolutely certain that an unwanted behavior will never come back.
- Ask the trainer to provide client references. These will likely all be success stories, but you can ask questions based what you and your dog need. If the answers you hear are counter to your values or your dog’s personality, then that gives you a clue about the type of trainer they are, and you can move on.
- Look for a professional trainer who carries limited liability insurance.
Finding the right trainer takes a little time and research on the front end, but can save you years of heartache and bad habits on the back end.
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