Choosing a Dog Trainer

Training classes are a fun, social activity that can help your dog become an obedient, safe, and valued member of your family. Because many dogs are given up due to destructive or unruly behavior, investing in a good training class will greatly benefit both you and your dog. The following are a few questions to guide you to the right trainer and class environment that best fits you and your dog’s needs:

Why is training necessary?

Like children, dogs (even adult dogs) need boundaries. Your dog needs to be taught what behaviors are acceptable and what behaviors are not acceptable. If you choose not to train your dog properly, it can result in destructive, unsafe, or unruly behavior. Good training classes enable handlers to safely and humanely modify and control their dog’s behaviors while strengthening the bond between owner and dog.

What should I look for in a trainer?

Seek a professional, reputable behaviorist that promotes the use of humane training and positive reinforcement such as food, attention, praise, or play. Avoid trainers that practice techniques such as yelling, choking, scruff shaking, tugging of the leash, alpha rolling (forcing the dog onto his back), or other aversives that may frighten or inflict pain on your dog.

Where can I find a trainer?

Start by asking for recommendations from friends, neighbors, veterinarians, humane societies, kennels, or groomers. You can also search your local listings for trainers in your area. Research your potential trainers and find out how long they have been practicing, how they were educated, what type of certification they have, and what methods they use. Request a tour of their facility and inquire if the trainer has clients that can provide references on their behalf. Do not assume that the trainer’s certification or membership to an association qualifies him or her as a suitable trainer, as not all certifications or memberships will meet your standards.

Which class format is best?

In group classes, your dog will learn to socialize with other dogs, accept handling from other people, and respond to your commands despite distractions. You benefit from watching other owners interact and train with their pets and you will build a sense of camaraderie with your fellow handlers and pets. You lose these types of benefits in self-help training, private lessons, and dog-only training. Also, there is no guarantee that your dog will obey your commands in the same way he learns to obey his trainer in dog-only classes. All members of the family should participate as much as possible in training so that commands and training will be consistent between all family members. This will also strengthen your family members’ relationships with your pet.

What should I seek in a group class?

• Are there separate classes for puppies and adults?

• Are there different levels (beginner/intermediate/advanced) of classes offered?

• Are the methods humane and varied?

• Is proof of vaccination required?

• Does the class size allow for individual attention?

• Are the students, human and K9, enjoying themselves?

• Is praise given frequently?

• Are voice commands given in a positive tone?

• Are the dogs and handlers actively encouraged?

• Are handouts available?

• Is information available on how dogs learn, basic grooming, problem solving, and other related topics?

How much does training cost?

The cost of training will vary depending on where you live and what type of training you want. Group classes can cost $40-$150 for 4-8 weeks of classes and private classes can range $240-$600 for 6 weeks. Some animal care facilities offer subsidized training programs for dogs that have been adopted from their facility. Be sure to research all your local options in order to get a feel for the prices in your area.

What is the best age for training?

Although the best time to train and socialize a dog is between 8 and 16 weeks of age, your dog will greatly benefit from training at any age. Puppies should be enrolled in training classes designed specifically for puppies and dogs older than 16 weeks of age should be enrolled in basic training or those tailored for your specific interests.

Once you have selected and signed up for a training program, congratulations! You have put your dog on the path to becoming a well behaved and value member of your family as well as a safe member of your community. In order be successful in with your training:

• Feed your dog a modest meal because most trainers use treats as motivation.

• Come equipped with all the training equipment required by your trainer.

• Practice in between sessions with brief lessons that end on a positive note.

For more useful information, please download our free Dog manual.

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