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Does It Matter Who Trains My Dog?

If you’re reading this you’ve probably thought about hiring a dog trainer for help.

Most calls to trainers are for behavior problems, meaning that a dog in the household is behaving in a way that is not acceptable to the people. Sometimes the behavior is simply annoying like constantly licking you after you put lotion on, but sometimes the behavior is dangerous such as trying to bite guests that come into your home. When you think of working with a trainer what often comes to mind is teaching your dog cues like SIT, DOWN, or STAY. Those are examples of basic obedience skills and are very important and helpful, but how are they going to stop those pesky or dangerous behaviors? How do you find a trainer who can help with behavior problems in addition to basic skills?


Most people are not aware that dog training is an unregulated profession.

daytraining2This means there is no required education, certification, or licensing to become a professional dog trainer or behavior counselor. Anybody can watch a few TV shows or read a few books and decide to start training dogs “professionally”. That may not seem like a big deal at first, after all you can learn some great things that way, but let’s think about this for a minute. You will hire this person to work on changing the behavior of your canine family member and you expect this to be done in a safe and efficient manner. Keep in mind that the animal being worked with does NOT speak the same language but instead does most of his communicating through subtle body movements and scent. The goal at the end of working with a trainer is for you and your dog to be happier and the problem behaviors to be eliminated while no additional behavior or relationship issues arise as a side effect of training. (Side effects of various training methods is another paper altogether)

So how do you know who to call?

Luckily it’s much easier than you might think. There are a few independent national certification organizations for dog trainers and behavior consultants which is a good place to start. If a trainer chooses to become certified this demonstrates that they take their profession seriously! They voluntarily spend time and money to gain a varied education in many scientific disciplines and they agree to keep this knowledge up to date by continuing their education yearly. They must also gain practical experience, usually under a mentor, and take an extensive written exam. They are held to certain standards of behavior and education and can also be reported to the certifying body if they do not uphold those standards. You and your dog deserve nothing less!

Questions to ask your potential trainer

  • You interview everyone from gardeners to baby sitters so why not a trainer?
  • Where did you get your education?
  • What credentials have you earned? (Many schools give a certificate which is a reward for completing a course.
  • Ask for nationally recognized certifications which are given through a third party after determining what someone has learned). “I’VE BEEN DOING THIS FOR 20 YEARS” is not a credential.
  • What continuing education do you receive and how often?

In your initial interview or throughout training ask for the scientific evidence to support claims about behavior or methods of training.

Ask what specifically will happen if the dog performs correctly. What will happen if he is incorrect?
If you still aren’t satisfied, keep looking! DON’T BE AFRAID TO CHANGE TRAINERS IN THE MIDDLE OF WORKING WITH YOUR DOG. If a trainer does something unethical to your dog at any point in the training, stand up for him! Your relationship with your canine family member trumps your relationship with the trainer every time!

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