I’ll admit it: Choosing a dog trainer can be really confusing. There is nothing to stop anyone from calling himself/herself a dog trainer, or worse yet, a behaviourist. For dog trainers, it’s kind of like the way it was in the 1800’s before someone needed formal education to teach children. Welcome to the Wild West, abounding with both well meaning people, Certified trainers, people who say they are certified dog trainers but aren’t, and snake oil dog trainers who say can cure any behaviour through (insert mysterious sounding buzzword here). Choosing the wrong person to train your dog can be hazardous for both you and the dog. Choosing the right dog trainer can lead to a well behaved, confident dog who really listens to you. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the minefield that is modern dogtraining.
- Look for CPDT-KA or CPDT-KSA certification. This certification means the trainer has passed extensive formal testing in dog behaviour and training, passed reference checks from a vet, a fellow dog trainer, and a client, and has at least 300 hours of practical experience. They have to practice under professional guidelines, which are aimed at excellent customer service and humane and ethical treatment of the dogs in their care. There is no other certification that is equal to Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers Certification. Furthermore, if a dog trainer says they are certified, ask for their number, and look them up on the certifying body’s website.
- A professional dog trainer who is worth your time and money will always carry insurance. Ask to see a copy of their insurance certificate.
- Dog trainers with a sound knowledge of behaviour will not ever suggest or demand you drop your fearful/reactive/aggressive dog off for a board and train, or (shudder) boot camp. Dogs with these problems are best trained in the familiar surroundings of their home environment. A dog trainer that wants you to leave your dog with him/her to train, wants to train your dog behind closed doors (who knows what they are doing back there). Board and train of reactive/fearful/aggressive dogs is a BIG RED FLAG!!!
- Observe dogs with the trainer. Do they cringe with back hunched, ears back, tails down? Or are they happy, confident, and wanting more? Does the trainer smile and use animated body language when training? Does he/she frown, in an exaggeratedly tall posture, like a schoolyard bully standing over a kindergarten kid? (Back slowly away until it is safe to run if you see this).
- Watch out for these mysterious and made up buzzwords: “calm submissive”, “red zone”, “whisperer“, “dominant”, “pack leader”, “alpha”, “energy” etc. Also watch out for this frequent phrase with trainers with no formal training in behaviour: “we train dogs when no one else can”. Really? No one else can? Doesn’t that mean the owners have taken the dog to all other trainers who have all tried and failed? I call B.S.. Dog trainers with a working knowledge of behaviour use these buzzwords: “reactive”, “Reinforcement”, “reward marker”, “stimulus”, “rate of reinforcement, “behaviour modification”, “quadrants” . They can effectively define words like “negative punishment”, “positive punishment”, correction, positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. Good trainers are also quiet when training dogs.
I hope this helps anyone who needs help with a badly behaved dog. For more great tips on dog training like our Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/godoggodogs
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