For most dog owners, choosing the right dog trainer is one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make.
Whether you’re teaching an old dog new tricks (or vice versa), it’s important to know how to choose a dog trainer and what questions to ask them. Christie Reeves, a positive reinforcement animal trainer dog trainer of 17 years and owner of Hairy Hounds Playground offers her top tips.
Your dog might be out of the puppyhood but that doesn’t mean the training stops.
“Dogs go through several different developmental stages throughout their lives and although dogs may not need formal training through every stage, it is important to remember that as our lives change, our dogs may need some help transitioning to those changes,” says Reeves. ‘Moving house, bringing a baby or a new furry friend home, a new relationship or relationship separations and any major change that causes stress and can be difficult for our dogs to adapt to.”
When on the hunt for a trainer, an obvious start would be to speak to your dog’s breeder or the shelter if you rescued your pup, pet supply store, local dog park goers, or friends with dogs. Of course, searching online will provide plenty of options but just like finding that great new hairdresser or expert doctor, personal recommendation seems to work best.
Reeves says there are several questions that you should be asking a potential trainer, but the most important three are:
- What happens when the dog does something I want him to do?
- What happens when he does something I don’t want him to do?
- How will you punish the dog or advise me to punish the dog if he gets something wrong or exhibits a behavior I do not like?
“If you are comfortable with the answers to these questions, then you have a great footing for a positive relationship,” says Reeves. “You need to be able to walk away or hang up the phone and feel confident that you have chosen the right trainer or at least chosen the right training methods.”
As for red flags, Reeves says owners need to do what feels right by their dog. “Try and remember that you’re training a little being with emotions and feelings,” she says. “As a positive reinforcement trainer, I believe praise and rewarding good behavior is the most humane and quickest way to increase the bond between you and your dog, and gain respect and confidence from your dog. Novice trainers or owners should always be using positive methods as aversive training requires perfect timing to be effective, which is something a novice may not have or be aware of.”
Some other questions to ask dog trainers according to the Pet Professional Guild
- What dog training equipment do you use when training a dog or do you recommend I use
- How do you ensure that my dog is not inadvertently being punished?
- How do you know that the type of reinforcement you have selected to train my dog is appropriate?
- How will you know or how will I know if my dog is stressed during the training?
- Which professional dog training associations are you a member of?
- Will you guarantee your training results?
- How do you think a dog’s behavior should be addressed if the dog is growling or snapping at people or other dogs?