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How To Find A Good Dog Trainer

LAST UPDATED 13 March 2023

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian,Dr Brittany Ward BVSc

Every dog needs training. It's an essential part of puppy raising and dog ownership so that your dog is happy, confident and able to enjoy life at your side to the fullest! Many dogs will only need basic obedience to be sociable members of society, but some will also need advanced training for behavioural issues that might develop. So how do you choose the right one?

Having the right trainer will help your dog's obedience progress rapidly, keep your dog happy and make you feel confident with your dog. Sticking with the wrong trainer could lead to delayed progress, further behaviour issues or anxiety anxiety. So here are some questions you can ask to help you find a trainer that is right for you.

1. Where Are They Located?

Looking for a trainer locally is a good place to start, especially if you are looking to train a puppy. Driving your dog long distances might be stressful for them, so start close to home. You may need to look for a trainer a little bit further away if you are looking for some to help with more difficult problem behaviours.

2. How Did You Find Out About Them?

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Often the best way to find a dog trainer is through word of mouth. Ask your friends and neighbours or even community pages who they recommend. Your dog is unlikely to be the first dog your trainer has ever taught, so ask around about other people's experiences with them. A good trainer will also come with a good reputation amongst other dog owners.

3. What Qualifications Do They Have?

Like medicine, our knowledge of dog behaviour and the best practices are always improving, so it might be reassuring to know that your trainer has had formal, up to date training. In Australia, qualified dog trainers usually have either a Certificate III in Dog Behaviour and Training or a Certificate IV in Companion Animal Services. A training certificate is not a requirement to be a trainer, but it can show commitment to their career and education.

4. Do They Check Your Pet's Health?

Some behavioural issues, including anxiety and aggression, can stem from a place of pain. A good trainer will check that your dog has seen a vet and doesn't have any existing health problems that could be causing the behaviour. They will also make allowances for those problems or disabilities.

They should check your dog's vaccination and worming status as well, to keep your dog and their clients' dogs safe.

5. What Level Of Training Do They Offer?

Not all trainers will offer the same services, so it is important to know exactly what level of training you are looking for. Some trainers may limit their services to Puppy School and obedience classes, others may focus on training therapy or service dogs. Some trainers may offer agility and dog sport classes. Make sure the trainer you are looking at is going to offer the level of training you are interested in. In some cases, you may have to use the services of multiple trainers.

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6. What Experience Do They Have?

If you are looking for help with a behavioural problem, like reactivity, then you want to know that your trainer has experience working with dogs requiring more advanced training and that they have been successful before. They should be able to give you specific examples or client references for their success cases. It is also reassuring to know how long they've been training for and what levels of difficulty in dogs they've trained.

7. What Training Methods Do They Use?

The presently accepted, preferred method of training is positive reinforcement. This method involves adding something your dog likes (a reward) to a desirable behaviour to increase the likelihood of that behaviour occurring again.

Your trainer should NEVER use punishment based training methods, and the dominance theory has now been debunked. Avoid trainers that talk about being "alpha" or "dominating" your dog and those who do things to your dog that they don't like (no hitting or lead yanking!). These training techniques are fear based, which can lead to increased aggression and worsening of behavioural problems. Trainers should also avoid recommending shock, prong or choke collars as these are punishment based training tools that can be very harmful if used incorrectly.

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8. Are They Friendly?

It's important that your trainer is friendly and welcoming, both to you and your dog. They should create a pleasant training environment and be open to discussing your dog's behaviour and history. Knowing your dog's history gives them insight into the reasons for their behaviour and the best way to approach the problem.

Your trainer should give you opportunities to take over and practise the techniques while they are there to correct your behaviour. They will also want to get your whole family involved. If everyone is trying a different training technique, this will confuse your dog and delay their improvement, so everyone needs to be on the same page.

9. Are You and Your Dog Comfortable With Them?

Be open to trying different trainers and finding a technique that works best for you. Training should be fun and both you and your dog should look forward to going!

If you are working with a trainer that you don't feel comfortable with, or their training doesn't seem to be working well for your dog, you don't have to stick with them. Staying with a trainer that you or your dog is uncomfortable with could lead to worsening of your dog's behaviour.

10. Do They Adapt To Your Training Goals and Methods?

There is more than one way to train a dog! So your trainer should be able to adapt to your dog's training styles and the goals you want to achieve. Undesirable behaviours don't always need to be completely trained out and many owners may wish to just reduce them to a manageable level. Make sure you know your training goals, and have an idea of what works for your dog, before meeting with a trainer.

Further Reading

Want to read more? Check out our other articles:

Biting, Chewing, Pooping: A Complete Puppy Training Guide

How To Teach Your Puppy To Walk On A Lead

How To Stop Your Dog From Chewing Everything

How To Stop Your Dog Barking

How To Train A Reactive Dog

How To Find A Good Vet

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