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5 Things to Consider when Hiring a Dog Trainer

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Find the right trainer for your dog by asking questions and checking their answers!

Are you considering hiring a dog trainer?  Choosing a trainer for your very best furry companion can be a challenge!  How do you know you’re choosing the right person for the job?  Here are 5 simple questions to ask your candidates BEFORE ever letting them touch your dog to make sure they are the right choice.  

1. Do you have a certification?

A certification provides you with the peace of mind that you need to trust a person who will be modifying significant behaviors in your pet. A certification from an accredited organization demonstrates a thorough understanding of canine behavior and the most humane training methods to achieve change.  If you wanted someone who has a TikTok or YouTube education to train your pet, you could do it yourself for free!  The average pet owner does not have the knowledge or ability to judge whether the average dog trainer is actually competent because they also do not fully understand behavior.  A certification will let you know exactly what that person is capable of.  Don’t be shy to ask other certified professionals in the area who they recommend and who to avoid.

Here are a few accredited schools, as an example!

If you want to search for accredited dog trainer certification programs, just click this link to see a number of results pointing you towards accredited certification programs:

https://www.google.com/search?q=accredited+dog+training+schools

2. Who was your mentor?

Having an education is critical to true behavioral understanding, and having experience backed by that education is even better!  Learning about behavior is one thing, but appropriately putting that education into practice is another.  You want your dog trainer to have both education and experience.  Experiences led by a seasoned professional will provide your trainer with the practical exercises they need to effectively utilize the knowledge they gained from a formal education. 

3. Do you participate in continuing education?

Be sure your trainer is abreast of the most recent studies and methods of training.  Over time, dog training has changed significantly (for the better), as we have had time to perform scientific research and studies on the short and long-term effects of different training techniques.  If your trainer is still engaging in older techniques proven to cause harm (alpha theory, dominance training, or other abusive techniques), it implies a lock of understanding and unwillingness to follow newer and better evidenced techniques.  Find someone who can get results humanely, and without behavioral backlash or cruel training methods.  Find a trainer who utilizes the Least Intrusive Minimally Aversive methods (LIMA).  Learn more about LIMA here on the IIABC website.  Many accredited dog trainer certification programs also have CE courses for trainers to take.

4. Are you familiar with my breed?

Certain breeds require special considerations when engaging in behavior modification, whether those be behavioral or medical considerations.  Do not let someone unfamiliar with your breed use them as practice to learn something new.  High-drive breeds (shepherds, working, and sporting dogs) may require different training exercises and motivators.  Health risk breeds, (bulldogs, dogs with underlying health issues, special needs, and brachycephalic dogs) require different equipment, and using the incorrect methods can physically hurt or cause damage to your dog.  Do not let someone who is unfamiliar with medical safety put hands on your dog!

5. Can I view your facility prior to boarding?

This question can cover a variety of concerns.  If you are considering boarding your dog with a trainer, ALWAYS see the facility with your own eyes before agreeing to leave your dog.  Things to look for are: fire suppression systems, alarm systems, cleanliness, the emotional state of dogs who are already there, and HVAC.  Security and safety systems are required for kennel facilities, and you should be concerned if there are none.  The kennel should not smell dirty, nor should it smell heavily of cleaners (fumes can be dangerous to dogs, and heavy smells of bleach can mask other scents).  Ask what cleaners they use and be sure that they are made for disinfecting animal disease to prevent disease transmission.  If the other dogs there appear stressed, chances are your dog will too.  Don’t leave them somewhere they will be living in stress.  If the kennel isn’t temperature controlled, that trainer does not have your dog’s health in mind!  At the time of writing this article, a large fire at Ponderosa Pet Resort in Texas, which did not have fire suppression systems or alarms of any kind, resulted in the deaths of around 75 pets, a tragedy that could have been prevented.

RED FLAGS

Not all trainers are created equal.  Avoid trainers who engage in the following behaviors, and do not be shy about sharing your experience when you encounter them:

  • Lying.  Look up that certification and contact their mentor.  Do not take their word for it, make them prove it!
  • Avoiding answering questions regarding their certification, technique, or methods.  If they won’t explain it, it’s because they can’t and don’t have a full understanding of what they are doing.
  • Requesting Training Donations or Presenting themselves as a rescue/non-profit.  This is extremely unethical behavior for a for-profit business, and carries possible legal consequences for the business.
  • Refusal to allow owner on-site.  Deceitful behaviors indicate they have something to hide.
  • Stressing dogs during training.  Your dog should NOT be under stress when learning or feel the need to defend themselves.
  • Practicing Illegally.  Your trainer should never encourage you to break the law or rules of a space in order to train your dog.
  • They don’t ask questions about your dog’s health history (Your trainer should be sure that all dogs entering their facility are up-to-date on vaccinations and deworming to prevent the transmission of disease.  They should require paperwork to prove that all dogs in their facility are current.)
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About the Author

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Amanda

I have spent the majority of my professional career working with dogs. I have a total of 10+ years working with dogs. I leverage positive reinforcement to create positive associations between you, your dog, and training!

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