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How to find the right dog trainer for you and your pet?

Dogs have their own character, personalities, quirks and fears. It’s up to the caregivers to help them feel loved and safe in our world. Properly training your dog and teaching them the necessary skills that build confidence is crucial. That’s why choosing the right dog trainer is vital to your dog’s health and wellbeing. If you are considering hiring a professional dog trainer for your canine friend, read on to learn how to find the right trainer for you!

Image illustrating a certified dog trainer

Ask if the trainer is certified

There are many reputable dog training certifications out there. In order to earn and keep a certification, dog trainers must complete extensive education. During their studies they will acquire in-depth knowledge on dog behavior, training methodologies and more, as well as learn the skills necessary for training your dog properly. You will want to ask your trainer whether they possess any dog training certifications. Don’t be afraid to ask them more about their training and experience. A reliable dog trainer will be happy to answer all your questions. They understand the importance of knowing that your dog is in the right hands, so they’ll do their best to put your mind at ease. 

Ask about their training approach and equipment

When talking to your potential dog trainer, ask them about their training approach. A qualified dog trainer will have a clear vision regarding their methodology and techniques. They should be able to thoroughly explain their dog training approach, the types of exercises they implement, the tools and equipment they use (clickers, treats, food, harnesses, etc.), as well as their reward system. Make sure that you and your dog trainer share the same values and opinions on your dog’s training. For example, some trainers implement only positive reinforcement techniques while others provide more comprehensive balanced dog training classes.

Ask your trainer how they stop unwanted behavior

An experienced dog trainer will tell you that stopping unwanted behavior begins with identifying the root of the problem. You must first understand why the behavior is happening, and then implement the right measures to help your dog stop exhibiting such behavior. Typically, unwanted behaviors stem from needs that are not being met. Your dog’s needs include shredding, playing, running around, foraging, chewing, sniffing and more. A good trainer will help you understand whether these needs are being met and they will work with you and your dog to create an effective management plan to stop the undesirable behaviors.

Image illustrating dog training for fearful or anxious dogs

Ask your trainer how they work with anxious or fearful dogs

A competent dog trainer knows how to assess your dog’s stress levels and read their body language. He can easily identify any signs of fear or anxiety and help your dog learn how to become independent and confident. Then, your trainer will create a plan that is specifically tailored to your dog in order to help them achieve a happy and comfortable learning state. You can also observe the pictures they post on social media. Do their past clients’ dogs seem happy, with loose bodies and relaxed mouths? Or do they look stiff, with anxious eyes, tucked tails and tightly closed mouths?

Ask them about their thoughts on continuing education

A good dog trainer realizes that ongoing education is key. There are always new studies, certificate programs, conferences, seminars coming out. Thus, a great trainer will make sure to stay updated and learn everything there is to know about his field. Don’t hesitate to ask them about their thoughts on dog welfare, how dogs learn and the human-dog bond. You will understand a lot about your dog trainer through their answers. A good trainer is eager to learn and will be transparent about their knowledge and expertise. You will want to choose a dog trainer who is well-versed in this field and can incorporate the latest findings into their training programs. 

Observe a class and ask for references

You can learn a lot about a dog trainer by taking a look at one of their classes first-hand. You should ask your trainer to let you observe one of the classes before you decide to enroll your dog in their course. Moreover, you can ask for references from past clients. Getting people’s reviews can be extremely helpful, as they will be able to give you reliable feedback based on their own experience. 

Image illustrating basic obedience dog training

Check out their website and social media

A professional and reliable dog trainer will make sure to create a solid online presence. They won’t hesitate to post their classes and success stories on social media. These posts will not only help showcase their work and skills, but they will also put your mind at ease. An experienced dog trainer will have a lot to show for his work, so make sure to check their online profiles as well as their website. 

Dog training “green” and “red” flags

If you’re still indecisive about choosing the best dog trainer for you and your dog, here are some things you should look for when searching for or interviewing a dog trainer:

Green flags

  • The dog trainer is transparent about his training approach.
  • Completed training or certifications are shown on the dog trainer’s website.
  • They ask you about your dog’s medical history, routines and personality before creating a training plan.
  • They will emphasize with you and your dog, carefully listening to your story, validating your concerns and properly assessing your goals and expectations.
  • They communicate clearly and openly, making you feel understood and supported.
  • They have no problem answering your questions and are happy to inform you about every step of their training program.

Red flags

  • They are not transparent about the methods they use.
  • They avoid answering your questions.
  • They blame you for your dog’s behavior or will shame you for being too soft on your dog.
  • They will try to implement a training plan without identifying the root cause of the problem.
  • They will get defensive if you ask questions about their classes.
  • They don’t have a list of references available for you to talk to.
  • Their social media profiles don’t showcase their work with prior clients.
  • They offer you a quick “fix” solution or definite guarantees. Like humans, dogs are instinctive creatures that can never be 100% predictable. Thus, any dog trainer that claims they can offer an absolute guarantee for your dog, clearly doesn’t understand dog behavior.
Image illustrating a loving professional dog trainer

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, finding the right dog trainer for your furry companion is a crucial step in ensuring their well-being and happiness. By asking about certifications, training approaches, and how the trainer addresses unwanted behaviors or anxiety, you can make an informed decision. A good trainer values ongoing education and will be transparent about their methods, readily providing references and allowing you to observe a class. Checking their online presence and being aware of both green and red flags will further guide you in selecting a trainer who aligns with your values and prioritizes your dog’s welfare. Remember, a trustworthy trainer understands the unique needs and nuances of each dog, steering clear of unrealistic guarantees and focusing on building a positive and respectful relationship between you and your beloved pet.

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