Dog Trainers: How to Choose One

So you’ve adopted a new dog or puppy and don’t have the time or patience to train your new friend, but you realize that proper training will make a major difference in how you and your new pet relate to each other.

It can be difficult choosing the right trainer, one that you can trust to train your dog the right way and who can also connect with your dog on a level where the training quickly becomes embedded in your dog’s mind. You don’t want training sessions that stretch out over weeks; this is a clear indication that the trainer is not very adept at the task of training animals.

There are several important things to consider when choosing a trainer for your new dog:

(1) The reputation of the trainer. First, ask a prospective trainer for references from owners of other dogs he or she has trained. Some veterinarians will keep a file on trainers they can recommend. You may also have friends who have used the services of a dog trainer. Talk to them about their experience with their trainer and observe whether their dog appears well-trained.

(2) Ask the trainer how long he or she has been training dogs and what breeds of dogs they have worked with. Someone who has only trained small dogs like a Shih Tzu or Miniature Schnauzer may not be able to handle large dogs like Great Danes or more aggressive dogs like German Shepherds.

(3) You’ll want to choose a trainer that has experience training dogs similar to yours as well as other breeds. If the trainer owns a dog or dogs, ask to have them brought to your home or go to the trainer’s home and carefully observe how those dogs behave and obey commands. If the trainer’s dogs are not well-behaved, jump on people and bark, even when commanded to stop, the trainer is obviously not the person you want training your dog.

(4) You should have a clear idea of what you want your dog’s training to accomplish. Is your goal to have a well-mannered dog who respects your home and doesn’t chew on your furniture or shoes? One who swiftly obeys your commands? Do you want a dog you can enter in local dog shows? Perhaps you want an outdoor dog who will be comfortable and secure in such a situation, and who will not be barking and growling at every human who passes by.

(5) The communication skills of the trainer are vitally important. Can the trainer communicate well with both your dog and you? Does the trainer answer your questions clearly and in terms you can understand?

(6) Ask the trainer if they use positive reinforcement for correcting bad behavior in a dog, or does he or she discipline and reprimand a dog who is not learning as quickly as the trainer would like?

(7) Will your dog be taught individually or in a class setting? If the training will take place in a class with other dogs, how much individual attention will be given to any dog who is having trouble learning or accepting the training?

It’s important to understand that the training methods trainers generally use will vary, and your dog may not respond to a particular method but will respond well to another. If during the training routines, the trainer discovers that your dog is not responding to a specific method, is the trainer willing to use other methods for training your dog?

There are different types of dog classes a dog can be enrolled in. There are puppy classes geared to pups between two and five months old that include housebreaking, chewing or gnawing on things, biting, digging holes, how to walk on a leash without pulling, how to ‘come’ and’ sit’ on command, and barking uncontrollably. This type of class will teach a puppy to respond to commands at all times, even if there are distractions from other dogs or people.

A second type of training is basic obedience class. These classes are for dogs older than five months and are geared to dogs who have never been trained properly or have attended puppy training classes but need reinforcement of the basic training commands like ‘heel’, ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘down’, and ‘come’.

One additional class a dog owner may want to enroll their dog in is an agility class where dogs are taught how to go over, under, and through various obstacles. It’s a good way to train your dog to play fetch, catch a Frisbee, or learn how to play other outdoor games for fun and exercise.

Choosing the right dog trainer requires the owner take the time to thoroughly check out any potential trainers. All dogs need to learn basic commands and good behavior. Your choice to have your dog trained by a competent, professional trainer, or in a training class with other dogs will become evident when your well-mannered dog is always invited to accompany you when visiting family and friends.

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