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How to Choose the Right Trainer for Your Dog

Woman training Shiba Inu


Having a dog is one of the best things in life, but sometimes it can get a little nutty. Like when Fido digs up your neighbor’s garden or christens your new couch — not so fun. But, moments like these show just how essential basic training commands are when it comes to being a pup parent. Plus, training your dog can be a fantastic way to bond with your furry friend and teach him some fun tricks. Still, if you’d prefer to hand the reins over to a professional dog trainer, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Where Should You Look for Potential Trainers for Your Dog

You can go about finding a trainer a few different ways, but an easy and suitable starting point is asking people you trust for recommendations. Ask friends and family members with dogs if they know of any local trainers; your vet is another excellent source. If you want to dig a little deeper, you can do an online search on sites like the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), the trainer directory on the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, or to start generating a list of possibilities.

What Should You Look for in a Dog Trainer?

Once you have your list of potentials, it’s time to start narrowing down your options so you can make the best decision. Consider essential factors first, like each trainer’s experience and skill level, how they interact with the dogs they train, and what training techniques they use. You’ll also need to consider logistics, like where the training will occur, schedule availability, and cost.

Questions to Ask a Potential Dog Trainer

Of course, the best way to get the answers you need is to ask questions. It’s a good idea to write out a list of important questions that you can ask each candidate. Make sure to ask each trainer the same exact questions so you can conduct an equal assessment of your options.

Take careful notes of the answers so you can start determining which trainers will make your shortlist and which ones you’ll scratch. Keep in mind, while you undoubtedly want to hire the absolute best trainer, don’t interview people you know you can’t use.

For example, if a trainer charges $100 a session, and there’s no way you can afford it, don’t put them on the list. If you do, you’re ultimately wasting their time and yours. Otherwise, here are some questions you should definitely ask potential dog trainers.

  • What is your training philosophy? Ask the trainer about the techniques they use. Ideally, you want to find a trainer that believes in positive reinforcement training.
  • What types of training do you offer? Not all trainers teach the same things. For example, if you have a pup that just needs to know some basic commands, make sure the trainer does obedience training. However, if your dog has serious issues that stem from being abused, they might need behavioral training. Not all trainers do all kinds of training, so make sure the one you’re interviewing has the skills for what you and your dog need.
  • Do you offer group classes as well as one-on-one sessions? Depending on your dog’s personality, they might do better with a one-on-one format. However, once your pup masters the basics, a group setting can be a great way to practice how your dog does amidst distractions.
  • How long have you been a dog trainer? Although even a new trainer can be very good at what they do, it’s always wise to find out the level of a trainer’s experience.
  • Are you trained in basic first aid for dogs? It’s always comforting to know that the person working with your dog is familiar with handling any potential emergency situation.
  • Where would you train my dog? Some trainers work at a specific location, while others will come to you. Some trainers will start in one place and eventually train your dog in various settings. No matter where the trainer works, remember you should be present too. A dog trainer’s real focus should be on working with the owner to train their dog.
  • What do you charge? Ask the trainers about their fee structure and what additional services would cost, such as private training.
  • Do you have your trainer certification? Although this isn’t a dealbreaker (many excellent trainers start out with no certification), having certification at least assures you that the trainer is aware of basic guidelines.

Check Out Reviews and See for Yourself

Hopefully, you can narrow your list down to your top three using the answers to these questions. Then, you can make your final decision based on a mixture of reviews and your gut feeling. Check out online reviews, talk to other clients, and see if you can get a sneak peek of the trainer in action working with another dog.

If you’re able, scope out how other dogs that the trainer has worked with behave. Finally, trust your gut. No matter how wonderful a trainer seems, if you don’t get a good feeling about them, walk away and move on to the next name on your list.

What About Board-and-Train Options?

In many cases, as previously mentioned, you’ll work alongside a trainer with your dog to learn the proper commands, hand signals, and verbal cues. However, some people find the idea of sending their dog away for training very appealing. Unarguably, the idea of shipping your pup to a doggy boot camp and getting a well-behaved, impeccably trained dog when they return does sound pretty attractive. But is it the best option for your pooch?

Board-and-train programs might be good if your pup only needs a few tweaks and perhaps just goes away for the weekend. These programs could be a good fit for some dogs, especially if your dog does well in group training sessions. But, if your pup has specific issues, like aggression or separation anxiety, they might fare better with one-on-one work.

Ultimately, it’s different for every dog, but it’s best not to rely on any program for some miracle training pill. First, in some cases, your dog might be away from you for months, and you’ll miss out on the bond that forms when you train your dog.

At least working alongside a trainer, you still get to develop that relationship. Sure, sending your pup to boot camp could be easier on you at the moment, but it doesn’t offer a lifetime fix. Plus, they can get pretty expensive, up to $1,000 or more for two-week periods.

Training your dog

Some Extra Tips for Training Your Dog at Home

When you work with your dog at home, here are a few tips to help you and your pup get the most from your training sessions:

  • Stay positive with your dog at all times.
  • Set expectations with your pup early. For example, if you adopt a new pup, training should begin right away.
  • Make consistency a habit.
  • Create a routine and schedule with your dog and stick to it.
  • Get organized before you start your training sessions. Gather things like treats, your dog’s leash, and any other supplies that you may need.
  • Even when not formally training your dog, ensure they stay adequately stimulated. Provide ample opportunities for exercise and engaging toys like the Rolly Cannoli so your dog can stay more focused when it comes time to train.

No matter who you end up hiring to work with your dog, remember, practice makes perfect. Therefore, plan to do some homework with your pup and ensure you master the techniques too. It’s essential for you to deliver the proper commands and cues so they’re consistent with what your dog has learned in training. For more helpful tips, check out the rest of our blog. You’ll find all sorts of valuable insights to develop your pet parenting skills

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