5 steps to selecting the right dog trainer for you (and your dog)

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Dog Training is constantly evolving. There is both an “ART” and a “SCIENCE” of training. The ‘art’ component evolves from the ability to communicate effectively to both the same species (the owners) and the foreign one (the dog). It looks a bit like magic when you see it transform a dog from an obnoxious liability to a calm, controllable and loving companion.  The competent trainer’s ability to get his ‘information’ across to the dog is the ‘magic’ part. Transforming that information into a salient image for the owners requires knowledge and skill.  Both Art and Science. To an un-trained eye, dog training looks easy when they watch the ‘dance’ between handler and animal. What it actually is portraying is the skill and knowledge amassed over many years and many dogs. Not just the puppies, but the adults too. The dangerous ones and the easy ones. Each dog is an equal contributor to a trainers’ skills and education. There have been many new things learned about animal behavior, dogs in particular. Why do dogs do what they do? A competent trainer not only understands why, but is intuitive to the necessary changes that need to occur in order to intervene, avert and ultimately eliminate inappropriate behaviors.      

By Laura Pakis, Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Blogger

If you’re reading this then it is safe to assume you are a responsible dog owner.  You’re taking the time to be informed and make good decisions regarding the health and well being of your dog.  And my other guess is your dog is misbehaving and you aren’t sure how to correct it.  No worries, most dog owners I’ve worked with are reactive rather than proactive.  You need a trainer and you need one NOW!  So here’s some help.


The dog trainer you choose needs to suit your personality and learning style.  Dog training can be stressful.  You need to feel comfortable communicating with your trainer.  Nothing sabotages the progress of a dog if you pick and choose what training techniques to use.  You hired the trainer because they are a professional.  Trust them and ask them to explain their reasons should you be unsure.  An experienced dog training should make sense and not just tell you “it’s how you do it.”

Know the outcome you are looking for.  What end-product can you expect? How will the training hold up under a variety of distracting conditions?  Numerous dog trainers can teach your dog to SIT but dog training is much more than obedience.  Can the dog trainer explain how to use the SIT to change behaviors or why your dog needs to learn the SIT?  Will your dog “break” command with someone at the door or will they plop into a SIT even when they are running from you?  Theses are standards of training which many dog trainers are limited in experience and knowledge to teach.

Keep an open mind.  Is it coincidence that reliability is on a decline as the popularity of the “dog friendly” movement increases.  Results speak for themselves.  The methods of yesteryear aren’t always less effective, unnecessary or even abusive.  There’s a lot of propaganda on the internet regarding dog training.  Ask questions, do research and make an informed, not emotional, decision.  Discipline is not a 4-letter word.

Watch out for dog trainers who have their own agenda.  During your interview ask yourself, “Do I have the sense that the trainer I contacted is prepared to follow my agenda or do they seem more interested in substituting their own agenda?”  Many times an less experienced dog trainer may only know a few techniques to train a dog.  Rather than give up the sale, they will try to refocus you on what they can do rather than what you need them to do for your dog.  Walk away from the trainer who wants you to avoid situations in order for the dog not to react.  There are hundreds of techniques to accomplish your goals.  Hire the trainer who will teach you how to address and change the behaviors that are bothering you.

How long will it take to produce the results and what is required by you to maintain the results?  If the trainer knows what they are doing, it should only take a few sessions to achieve the desired goal.  Your dog won’t be perfect but you should have the tools to continue working with your dog and improve their behavior.  And you should be able to contact the trainer to ask questions about training after your sessions have ended.   A well mannered dog should be fairly easy to maintain.  Follow through on commands is paramount. Here’s a little secret most dog trainers don’t share.  Once your dog learns something, they don’t forget…they just choose not to do it if they can get away with it.  Practicing 15 minutes a day on commands can be very effective.


You have much to think about now. Hopefully the suggestions above will be useful and you’ll come up with some of your own questions to ask the trainer.  It’s now time for you to do your research, find a dog-trainer you are comfortable working with and start training.


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