As dog lovers we should check out who is teaching our dogs just as a parent would check out who is teaching their children. Dogs and puppies need to be taught manners and boundary lines just as children do. A well-behaved child is a joy to be around, and so is a well-behaved dog. Now that Christmas is over and your new puppy is ready for training, here are a few tips on choosing a great dog trainer.
One note to remember about dog trainers: they are not regulated through any agency; that is why you must be very careful in your choice. A person could be a painter, carpenter or plumber one week, and a dog trainer the next. Do your research and check veterinary references.
The title “certified trainer” is not very meaningful unless the trainer is certified through a dog training organization which either 1) trains dogs for service work, 2) gives a credit equivalent to a college degree, or 3) is a Pet Dog Training organization like APDT or IACP. But there are also many good dog trainers that were self-taught. The best ones and those on the right track have gone on to further their knowledge by going to seminars, lectures and continuing- education classes. Find out what education a trainer has had and check education records.
There are many companies that have on-line certifications; this consists only of a short, written course; and, for a fee, they will send you a certification. But this type of certification is actually meaningless. Dog trainers must be taught by an instructor that has years of practical and behavioral experience, preferably with a reputable school or service organization that teaches dogs to provide service for impaired individuals; this enables the trainer to understand behavioral and environmental problems, as well as learning obedience training.
There are many behavior disorders that stem from medical problems. A competent dog trainer knows to rule out medical causes first, and can then distinguish between environmental problems and behavior problems, such as barking, chewing and digging. A really good trainer will have breed knowledge, in order to explain to the owner why their dog might exhibit certain behaviors that have been bred into them for hundreds of years – for example: why a Border Collie might constantly nip your children, or why a Jack Russell might seem to be digging a hole to China. This is basic breed knowledge.
Here are ten basic questions to ask when selecting a trainer:
1. Ask for their educational background: schools, names and phone numbers, so you can check records.
2. Dog trainers should have at the very least 4 veterinary references with phone numbers and locations.
3. Qualified trainers should be a member of a pet professional organization such as the Association of Pet Dog Trainers or the International Association of Canine Professionals. These are two organizations are long standing and reputable.
4. Ask if you can watch the instructor teach a class. Ask the students how they feel about the trainer. Ask if the exercises are easy to follow and what is expected from the dog each week.
5. Ask what they do to continue their education.
6. Ask if any physical punishment is used. and which type of collars they train with.
7. How many years of dog training do they have as a professional (not as a hobby trainer or sport trainer)?
8. What experience do they have with fearful dogs, rescue dogs, high anxiety, aggressive, dogs with excessive energy or those with obsessive compulsive disorders?
9. Are they strictly obedience trainers or do they have behavioral experience? The trainer should have experience in both behavioral and obedience modification.
10. What type of certification do they have? Where did they get it? Can you check the records of their certification?
Susie Aga, Atlanta Dog Trainer
Susie is a Certified Canine Behavior & Training Specialist and a member in good standing with the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. She has four rescue dogs and donates much of her time and services to Rescue Organizations. Susie hosts The Animal Hour Radio Show which can be heard through her site, and is Turner Brocasting’s Featured Pet Expert.