Choosing a dog trainer can seem like a daunting task! What’s with the alphabet soup after my name? How do I know which trainer is the right fit for me?
I’ve been there guys. I’ve been delighted to have met some wonderful trainers along the way. I’ve also been taken for a ride, with well known trainers, that definitely set back my dog’s progress. If I could do it all over again, here’s exactly what I’d do!
I’d start with some alphabet soup. You’ll notice I list CPDT-KA after my name. That means I have been awarded the Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed certificate by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Choosing an independently certified trainer like myself means you are choosing a trainer who was evaluated by an independent body – not a school that may profit from “certifying” students. Finding a certified trainer is easy!
Visit CCPDT.ORG to find a certified trainer near you!
I also belong to the Pet Professionals Guild which does allow members to force. I am also a member of the Association of Profesional Dog Trainers, and an AKC Canine Good Citien Evaluator.
The next part can be a little trickier. Ask a lot of questions and use your gut. Here’s the first 3 questions you should ask a trainer. I’ll post my answers below for comparison.
1) What happens when my dog gets it right?
A positive reinforcement, science based trainer like me will reinforce good behavior. That may mean handing out yummy treats, playing with a favorite tug toy, or praise and petting. I have a number of positive reinforcers in my toolbox!
2) What happens when my dog gets it wrong?
Absolutely nothing! When our dogs make mistakes, it simply means the human made a mistake. Next time around, we may work harder to set our dogs up for success by reducing distractions in the environment or using better reinforcers like yummier treats! Again, my toolbox is full of ways to help your dog get it right the first time around!
A note: Some trainers may respond to this question by suggesting the use of punishment. If so, run for the hills. There is no need for punishment if you set your dog up for success.
3) Is there a less aversive method?
This would be a question to ask if you were speaking with a trainer that uses force and punishment to train. If a trainer uses these techniques, there is always a less aversive way! Be extra cautious if the trainer uses words like “alpha” or “dominant” in their answers. These theories were debunked many years ago.
So you’ve done a little research and think you’ve found a great trainer.Wonderful! The trainer answered all the questions right. Does that mean that you’ve found “the one”? Hopefully so! There’s still a few more things you should discuss. First, does the trainer offer a guarantee? That’s a big no-no. There are too many variables to offer guarantees in dog training! Consider if the trainer was patient and thorough when answering your questions. Make sure that they have availability that works with your schedule. You need to feel comfortable with this person and I would leave that last detail up to your gut!
Leave a comment! Tell us how this article helped you find the right dog trainer for you and your family!