“If you don’t have time to train your dog, get a stuffed animal,” Pamela Dennison
This is a wonderful quote when it comes to dog training because all dogs need some basic training. By equipping your dog with the most basic commands (sit, stay, off) we open up an important method of communication.
Training our dogs comes in many forms and for many purposes. Those individuals who compete or work with their dogs already understand the critical importance of good dog training. This article was written for those who feel that they “only want a companion” or “have no interest in competing with their dogs”.
Dogs do not understand social etiquette. They also have their own way of doing things that may very good sense to them. They also need to have a clear leader or they will either gladly or by necessity, fill the role leader. If we do not or cannot effectively communicate with our dogs problems will arise.
Problems associated with the untrained dog include:
- Destruction of property
- And often times giving up our dog to shelters
Dogs are not mind readers. We take the time to teach (or “train”) our children; “home by 9”, “no parties in the house when we are away”, “clean your room”, “do your homework”. We also need to take time to train our dogs.
While training our dogs is critical, finding the right trainer to help with the process is essential. So where do you start and how do you know the trainer is any good? Let’s start with the first question.
Where to Find a Trainer?
Depending upon where you live, there are several ways to find a trainer.
- Ask your friends. If you like how your friends dog behaves, ask them where they learned to train their dog. I am always a fan of personal referrals.
- Ask your veterinarian. Same reason, a big fan of personal referrals. Your vet also sees who has well trained dogs and who doesn’t when they go in for their check-ups.
- Local Kennel Club. These kennel clubs are a great referral source for everything related to dogs. Veterinarians, trainers, dog shows, food and supplies.
- Chamber of Commerce & Village or City. They have a listing of all businesses registered with them.
- Pet Supply Stores. Some supply stores offer classes and others will have a bulletin board where local businesses can post their business cards and current programs.
- Online & Yellow Page. My least favorite but sometimes unavoidable means of finding a trainer.
Good vs. Bad Trainers … How Do You Know?
Now here is where it is ideal to find a personal referral for a trainer because you will go into it knowing a bit about them and the results of their methods. But if a referral is not available, here are a few tips to finding your trainer.
- Who Taught Them? Are they self taught? Did they attend formal training from other respected trainers? Do they continue their education with courses, lectures or books? Do they welcome questions or seem annoyed by them?
- Can You Audit a Class? As a courtesy, always ask permission to audit a class. Watch how the class is run. Is it organized? Are the dogs treated well? Are the participants both enjoying themselves and connecting with their dogs? Are you seeing the learning take place with the dogs? Are you wishing you were in the class instead of watching?
- Can They Demonstrate What They Teach With Their Own Dogs? Have them show you what they have taught their own dogs. Also, this is a time to see if their dogs are happy working with them or if they are cowering. Any dog that seems fearful of its trainer is a red flag for possible harsh or excessive discipline.
- Are Their Fees Reasonable? Compare their fees with other training facilities. Typically trainers that are priced too low compared to their competitors are more of a red flag for me.
- Are Their Classes Readily Available? Morning, evening and weekend class options. If you can’t find a day and time that works with your schedule then consider some private lessons. However, you learn a lot by watching and listening to the challenges that others face so if possible, attend at least one class. Even if that means you have to give up something to attend – it is usually only for 8 weeks! Not that long when you consider the average dog lives at least 9 years.
- Facility. Classes can be held at the trainers house, rented facility, indoors and outdoors. It really doesn’t matter but take a look around when you get their. If your class is at night, is the parking lot well lit? Are the entrances well lit? Does the location appear well maintained or is has it been neglected? You want to make sure both you and your dog are safe.
Now go and have some fun with your dog!