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How to Choose a Dog Trainer

Dog Trainer

Editor's Note: Choosing the right dog trainer can make your early days with your dog much more pleasant (and their's with you!) There are some great tips below:

There are many things to consider when choosing a dog trainer. Taking a class should be not only educational but fun. It is important to find an effective trainer and anyone shopping for such a service look carefully at what they are getting. There are no certification or standards required to become a dog trainer. Anyone may print “dog trainer” or “animal behaviorist” on a business card and consider themselves a professional.

What to Look for in a Dog Trainer’s Qualifications:

Certifications: How a trainer obtained their certification should be taken into consideration. A trainer should be certified through a specialized organization which trains dogs for services work or a dog training school which gives a credit equivalent to a college degree. Be aware that there are many companies which offer certifications on-line or through the mail; this involves a short written course which, for a fee, they will send you a certification. There are no standards to theses tests, allowing each company to determine what qualifies an individual to pass the “course”. Ask what type of certifications an instructor has.

Verify: how many years the trainer has been teaching professionally and not as a sports trainer or hobbyist. While years alone are not enough to determine the quality of a trainer’s experience, it will tell you something if they have had the ability to continue in their profession.

Licensed: Is the trainer licensed as a business and meets all city, county, state and federal regulations?

What to Look For in a Dog Trainer’s Methods:

Observe: Attend a class! If a trainer does not allow you to do so, look for a different trainer Watch the students reactions to the instructor. Are they enthusiastic or reserved? Do they seem comfortable? Both dogs and clients should enjoy themselves and a quality trainer will be courteous and polite to both human and canine students. Notice: Does the trainer provide clear instructions? Is there proper demonstrations of what the trainer expects the students to do? Do they provide students with individual assistance when needed?

Methods: A good trainer will provide you with an honest explanation of the pros and cons of methods they employ. Pay attention to what equipment is being used when you attend an observation class. What types of collars are the dogs wearing? Chokes or prong collars have their place but are not for a beginner obedience dog. Such a dog has no understanding of the new commands they are learning and should not be punished for what they do not “know”. Bullying and all similar methods or equipment that could cause the dog pain, distress or has the potential for physical harm are unacceptable. If you feel that anyone, a trainer, an animal care professional or other, is causing your dog undue pain, harm or distress in any form, you have the complete right to stop them immediately! Do so!!

Preferred Style: Ask about a trainer’s background and which style of training they prefer. A teacher whose primary experience is in Schutzhund or Protection Training may not be the first choice as a house companion dog instructor. It does not disqualify them as a quality trainer, however, an instructor who enjoys working families and children, competition obedience, Therapy Dogs or puppy kindergartens may be the preferred teacher for a companion pet.

Protect: An instructor should take steps to protect a dog's health in a group environment. Are all dogs and puppies required to be vaccinated prior to enrollment? Which vaccines are required?

Behavior problems: Be wary if a trainer assures you that a specific behavior problem will be resolved. A trainer can assist you with behavior modification, nothing is absolute. While a good trainer should guarantee satisfaction, they should not guarantee complete results. They should instead promise to do their best and convince you to help your dog and yourself by being consistent with your pet and promising follow-up training at home.

Your Needs: Does a trainer offer multiple schooling options and advise which is best suited for your individual needs? Or does the trainer have a 'one size fits all' approach?

Follow Up: Does the trainer provide any satisfaction guarantees, follow-up support, and if so, what is the cost?

While a good dog trainer does not have to be expensive, don’t base your choice on price alone. Sit through a few classes and do some research before signing up for lessons. What you learn from a dog training course can mean a better behaved canine companion and make a difference in your daily life for the next 17 years.

About the Author: Layla Dean is a animal lover and contributor to

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