I am fortunate due to my background and experience.   People say take your dog to the cop, he used to train police dogs.   Dog training is dog training whether its a police dog or a Pug.     Many times potential customer’s only question is what’s the cost?  The cost should really be on your long list and not your short list.  Anyone can upload a nice looking web page, put an ad in the phone listing and call themselves a dog trainer.  There is no government requirement to be licensed.  There are some things to beware of and you should ask questions.

Steer clear of dog training franchises.  This is typically how a franchise works.  Anyone with the money, and they are not cheap, can buy a franchise.  Usually there is a large upfront cost and then monthly payments to maintain the franchise.  There is no requirement for any animal training experience.  They train you 2-3 weeks on their system, sales pitch, and poof, you’re a dog trainer.  Not to mention any names, but a co-worker hired a trainer with a franchise.  I learned of this, years later.  My first comment is why didn’t you ask me for help?  The second was, “did it work”.  He said they didn’t help and the issue was that the dog barked a lot.  With a few lessons I could have solved the barking issue for them if they had asked.

Ask some questions when hiring a dog trainer.  Be a detective; where did they learn their trade, how long have they been training dogs, are they certified and who certified them?  If the franchise certified them that should send up a red flag. Search their name on the internet, check the better business bureau for complaints, and ask around.  Veterinarians, humane societies, and dog rescues may be able to recommend someone for you.

Ask for a demonstration with one of their personal dogs.  Does the dog look happy?  If the trainer uses compulsion, the dog will typically look depressed.  What does their obedience look like?  If the dog is kept on a leash, I would be concerned.  The dog demonstration should include off leash obedience and distance control.  This is the dog trainer’s dog!  If he doesn’t knock your socks off, keep shopping around.   Does the dog listen during distractions?  Ask for a demonstration in a park or your home, not on the trainers home turf.

Does the trainer attend ongoing education?  Ask them what professional canine trainers conferences or training they attend and how frequently.  There is always room for improvement and professionals will only improve their skills by learning and training with other professionals.  Tiger Woods takes swing lessons to better his skills and he’s one of the top golfers in the world.

What organizations, clubs, associations are they a member of?  The International Association of Canine Professionals is a non-profit organization that offers certifications, training, and they have a trainer locator on their web page, a wonderful resource for information.

Finally, meet with the trainer and bring your dog.  Are you comfortable and do they interact  your dog.   You and your dog have to be comfortable with this person.  If something doesn’t feel right or they rub you the wrong way maybe this trainer isn’t right for you.

This should be a one-time investment.  Sometimes you get what you pay for.  It also can depend how much effort you put into your search.  I have had clients who said that I was their second trainer.  After a few lessons they are thrilled with our results.  Make sure you do your homework, so you and your dog can have a long, stress free, and happy companionship.  Dogs just want to be loved and know the rules.  Love your dog and love your dog’s behavior.  Now get off the computer and go take your dog for a walk.  They will lover you for it.


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