You go to the breeder, rescue, or shelter, and while looking at dogs, you can’t help but be drawn to one in particular — sometimes more than one! You bring the dog home and immediately begin to bond with this other life and everything is going great, until you realize they have a quirk that may not seem so bad at first, but it gets worse as they grow.
Or, maybe you just need some standard puppy training or obedience training, but you have an idea of what you want your pooch to be able to do down the line so you begin to search for a trainer.
But, as you look around, you start seeing all these different types of training methods and opinions about them; some are very negative and others naively positive about what they can achieve.
Naturally, people are attracted to what they want to hear. And, although sometimes something doesn’t make sense or feel right when they meet the trainer, they decide to hire them because they believe they’re working with a professional. However, as they move forward with the decision, one question runs through their head:
Did I hire the right dog trainer?
This is a tricky question to answer because it all comes down each dog owner’s personal perspective on how they want to go about training — what they’ll excuse and what they’re willing to do.
To provide some guidance, I’ll give you my personal opinion and a few key points to consider when trying to find a good dog trainer, and most importantly, if they’re the right dog trainer for you.
1. Hire a Dog Trainer Who’s Transparent
Put simply, they should be honest with you. I’m very upfront when it comes to the methods I use and my approach. I also let people know exactly how far I can get their dog with each method and why.
If they insist on not using aversive techniques, but want 100 percent off-leash reliability, I tell them it’s not possible and that I won’t work with their dog because it’s not going to happen using only food. Believe it or not, some trainers will tell you otherwise, but their agenda serves themselves.
When I first started working with dogs with behavior problems, I had a great foundation to jump from, but I knew I had a long way to go, so I was honest when I didn’t get the results that I wanted to achieve, and I wouldn’t charge for the session.
I felt that learning what didn’t work and the knowledge I’d gain would be payment enough down the line so I didn’t feel right charging someone if nothing got done. I still carry this mentality to this day.
2. Find Out Your Dog Trainer’s Background
Aside from my internship with The Miami Dog Whisperer, I am completely self taught. A lot of my knowledge came from watching Seasons 1 – 5 of Cesar Millan’s The Dog Whisperer show and lots of volunteer work applying what I was observing.
My handling skills and ability to read dog behavior grew very quickly because I was immersing myself in all things dog and dog behavior. So, within a year — not to toot my own horn — but I was way ahead of other trainers my age and older who had more years under their belt, in terms of both skills and knowledge.
So don’t think just because your trainer has been working with dogs for 20 years means that they’ll have the ability to help you. Look into their history and accomplishments. Do any of them include what you’re hiring them to do? Certifications are just a piece of paper; the real proof of certification is their results.
3. They Must Be Results Driven
This ties into the history and accomplishments part of their background, but something I always wonder when I hear someone is a dog trainer is, “what is their success rate?”
Dog training has so many variables, so no trainer can say they have a complete 100 percent success rate; it’s impossible (this is where transparency comes in). But there should be a considerable, measurable change that carries over and can be built upon.
And with social media outlets and YouTube, there’s really no reason they shouldn’t have a source for their clients to go to and show the dogs they’ve worked with before and after training. This isn’t possible to do with all behavior work, but, unless they are just starting out, there really isn’t an excuse to not have something for potential clients to look at.
There you have it: three conditions to consider when you’re questioning whether or not you have the right dog trainer.
Always do your research and look all over; don’t limit yourself to just your area. There’s a whole world of dog trainers, and even if you can’t be helped by one across the country, they can at least give you insight into what can be achieved and act as a point of comparison with the person you’re considering.
Thank you for your support.
Canine Perspective, Inc.