Choosing a Dog Trainer
The single most important tip I can give to selecting a trainer is to make sure you choose someone who has a broad range of approaches to training your dog. If a trainer says “I only use food rewards” or “I insist that every dog I train is on a check (choker) chain” then keep looking. The best trainers will use a range of tools and approaches and endeavour to find the best tools and techniques for you and your dog.
There are three main ways you can achieve a trained, obedient dog. Classes, Private Lessons and Boarding and Training.
Classes: Probably the most common form of dog training, classes are a great starting point. In a class situation your dog will learn to concentrate on you and respond with the distraction of other people and dogs around them.
- Is class size limited to allow for individual attention?
- Are there separate classes for puppies and adult dogs?
- Are there different class levels (for example, beginner, intermediate, and advanced)?
- Are training equipment and methods humane?
- Does the trainer use a variety of methods to meet dogs' individual needs?
- Is proof of vaccination required?
- Are the students, both human and canine, enjoying themselves?
- Are dogs and owners actively encouraged?
- Is praise given frequently?
- Are voice commands given in upbeat tones?
- Are lesson handouts available?
- Is information available on how dogs learn, basic grooming, problem solving, and related topics?
There are a couple of draw-backs to attending classes. It may be difficult to attend regularly due to work or family commitments. You may also have a dog whose behavioural issues make a class environment quite difficult. These may be issues such as extreme fear, aggression or excessive excitement and barking when in the presence of other dogs. In these cases a private lesson may be more appropriate.
Sometimes your work and other commitments make it difficult to attend a regular class. A private lesson conducted at your home or another suitable venue can be a great help to having a well-behaved canine companion.
Some behavioural problems such as extreme fear, aggression or excessive dog distraction are best addressed in private lessons. Once these issues have been overcome or reduced it is a great idea to looking again at classes to complete your training.
Boarding and Training. Many people are too busy to take the time to practice regularly between classes and private lessons so they may consider sending their dog for training at a boarding kennels.
Sending your dog to a kennels for training can be compared to how a guide dog for the blind is trained. First the dog is trained by the guide dog centre, then a handover takes place where the new handler (in this case a person with a vision impairment) is taught how to handle the dog and how to continue to teach the dog how to guide.
Boarding and training is a similar process where a trainer will work with your dog each day for a set period to achieve a pre-determined level of obedience. At the end of the training period a hand-over happens where you are shown what your dog has learned and taught how to handle the dog to ensure the training “sticks”.
The single biggest issue with boarding and training is that owners didn’t have enough time for their dogs in the first place which is why they sent them away to be trained. If the owner of the newly-trained dog still does not have time to continue training the dog will soon go back to the old behaviours.
Regardless of how your dog was trained you need to continue to practice and challenge your dogs’ mind as well as his body.