Choose A Dog Trainer Who's Effective, Professional And Fun

Before you begin your dog's obedience training, you need to choose a dog trainer.

Even if you plan to train your dog yourself using methods from a book or video, you need to know that the author or presenter is a competent, professional and effective trainer.

Below are some tips that will help you choose a dog trainer who's just right for your, and your dog's, learning style.

  • Training your dog is much easier if it's fun for both of you. It needn't be dull or boring, and it shouldn't be fear-inducing.

  • Pick a dog trainer whose classes are full of people enjoying themselves.

    Look for people having a positive and successful learning experience. A professional and competent instructor will encourage you to observe a class before you make your decision.

  • If the instructor balks at your request to observe a class, leave.
    You're looking for one who's easy to deal with and wants her customers to enjoy the experience. If she won't let you observe, how will you know before you buy? Take your dog, and your business, where you're more welcome.

  • If you're using a book, look for an entertaining writing style. You want the trainer to speak to you from the book, not just throw information at you. Does she use humorous anecdotes or jokes to lighten the presentation? Spend an hour or so in the bookstore or your library until you find a book that suits your learning style.

  • Do you want to use a video? As with live classes, look for an instructor who has an entertaining and relaxing manner. You don't want one with the delivery of a stuffy university professor. Look for one who speaks to you by looking into the camera "at" you.

  • It's more difficult to choose a training video before buying since you can't just skim through it like you can with a book. Does the local dog club rent out its training videos? This may be the best way to find the video that suits you. If not, you may have to rely on reviews and testimonials (see below).

  • Speak with current clients. This is another reason why it's good to choose a dog trainer who allows you to observe a class. You have the opportunity to ask current customers about their training experience.

  • If you will be having private training classes, ask to speak to others who have used the same trainer for private lessons. Sometimes a trainer's methods and style differ between group and private training.

  • For books and videos, you'll have to rely on testimonials, reviews and recommendations. Unfortunately, testimonials and reviews can be edited to show only the good side. This is something that is happening more and more with movie and television reviews.

  • This isn't to say that it's happening with obedience training videos and books; however, it is something to be alert to. If you don't feel good about the reviews and testimonials you've read, ask other dog owners to recommend a book or video.

  • Choose a dog trainer who:

  • provides a clear explanation of each lesson, including the expected outcome
  • demonstrates the behavior you'll be teaching to your dog
  • provides clear instructions along with written handouts to help you teach the behavior
  • gives you enough time during the class to begin practicing that day's lesson
  • provides individual attention to ensure your proper use of the training technique.
  • This is where obedience training books and videos have an advantage, especially videos. Any good book or video will follow the first three points listed above. If the presentation is clear and engaging (see above), you should have no problem understanding the training technique. The trainer will demonstrate the technique and give you time to try it yourself.

  • Then you can turn off the video, or close the book, and practice. If you become stuck on some point, you can simply review the material.
  • Choose a dog trainer who is courteous to you and to your dog. Look for one who will also encourage dialogue and ask if you have any questions.
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  • Pick an instructor who is always improving her own skills and knowledge. Ask if she's a member of any educational organizations for trainers, such as the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) in the United States, or the Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers (CAPPDT).

  • A training book or video should list the credentials of the author or presenter and any organizations to which she belongs.
  • Pick a trainer who always strives to protect your dog's health in a group training setting. She should require that all dogs, and especially puppies, are vaccinated prior to class, and she should ask for proof. Ask her which vaccinations are required, then discuss them with your veterinarian if you are uncomfortable with the requirements.
  • Choose a dog trainer who uses tools and methods that are humane and not harmful to your dog, or to you. You want one who does not use shocks, kicks, beatings or other physical attacks, or any other training methods or tools that could harm your dog or cause him distress.

  • You have the undeniable right, at all times, to stop a trainer who you think is causing harm or distress to your dog.
  • Dogs' temperament and breeding vary, making it more difficult for some dogs to learn certain behaviors. Owners' levels of experience with dogs, and their commitment to the training process, vary. These variables make it impossible for the instructor to offer a guarantee to achieve certain results with you.

    Choose a dog trainer who promises to do everything to ensure your satisfaction with her services.

  • The same holds true with books and videos. The author or presenter cannot guarantee that the required result will be achieved, but will be able to guarantee the professionalism of the content and presentation.

    Choose a dog trainer with care and planning.

    Don't leave your research to the last minute, and don't rush into it. You'll be living with the consequences for several years.

    Review your learning style and your dog's temperament and abilities. If you're the type who needs hands-on coaching, a class will be best for you.

    If you learn best on your own, and you're a visual learner, use a video. If you want to go at your own pace, or your dog's, a book might be best.

    Below are links to help you find and choose a dog trainer near you. Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) (opens new window) The APDT directory lists trainers from Canada and a few from England and Australia, so you can choose a dog trainer from this directory, or use one listed below.

    Canadian Association of Professional Pet Dog Trainers (CAPPDT) (opens new window)

    Association of Pet Dog Trainers — United Kingdom (APDT) (opens new window)

    Association of Pet Dog Trainers — Australia (APDT) (opens new window)

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