Finding the right trainer is important for you and your dog to be successful. Some people will seek the advice from their veterinarian in search of a trainer. Others may go to local pet stores to find a trainer, while other people may use the internet. But these don’t tell you about the personality of the trainer or give you much information about their teaching styles. First, you have to ask yourself “what methods of training do you want for your dog?” There are methods that use punishment and harsh corrective techniques, and others that are reward-based training; next week we will discuss the differences and why reward-based training is the preferred method of training. Once you have decided on which method of training you want to go with, now it’s time to find the trainer.
Whether you find the trainer through a veterinarian referral or from an online source such as the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, you should call and talk with the trainer. Ask specific questions such as “How long have you been training?”, “How much experience and knowledge do you have in dealing with my dog’s specific issue?”, and “Do you participate in continuing education?” Continuing education can be the difference between a good trainer and a great one. Next, make sure you can observe a training class. Watching a training class will allow you to view the trainer’s personality and their training style and techniques. You will be able observe how comfortable the dogs and people are in class, see how well the class is organized, and ask the students if they enjoy the class.
Some trainers claim they are positive, but still use harsh corrective methods paired with a reward, so viewing a class will give a clear picture on whether the trainer truly is a positive reinforcement trainer. Outdated thoughts and theories include the idea of being “alpha” or “dominant.” David Mech, the wolf biologist who originally coined these terms in a book published in 1970, later came back and said he was wrong and that science has learned a lot since then about wolf behavior. Click to hear David Mech speak on the “wolf pack” theory.
Remember, being a leader of a household does not mean you need to bully them. A good leader learns ways to communicate so the rest of the family not only wants to listen and follow, but likes it as well. It’s the same concept as your relationship with your boss at work. Some bosses bulldoze you, bark out orders, and make work miserable. Then, there are other bosses who are good leaders, can get the job done without screaming and yelling, and reward employees for a job well done. You then have a harmonious and enjoyable work environment.
With the right trainer and training techniques, you will develop a bond as well as trust with your dog, which is important for any training or behavior modification to take place.