You love your dog, but you need to have some professional help in dealing with some of their crazier antics, right?  If so, one of the most valuable things you can have to help you is a qualified dog trainer.  Not all are going to be the right fit for you and your dog’s needs.  So, learn below how to find a qualified dog trainer for you and your dog’s best interests.

What to look for in a qualified dog trainer

There are a few questions that to keep in mind when you’re looking at options online or even choices recommended by your vet.  These factors include:

  • Does your dog trainer have formal certification?
  • What approach does your trainer take?
  • Does the trainer offer only basic obedience training, or also specialized topics, such as addressing behaviour issues, anxiety problems, etc.?
  • Are there references available?
  • Do you want class-based or private training?

We’ve covered all of these below to help you make the best choice for both you and your dog’s best interests.

Does formal certification matter?

There are a lot of choices for just who to hire.  You’ll obviously want someone experienced and properly equipped to help you with any behavioral problems your dog is having.  So, is formal certification your only option?

As far as considering your options, trainers with formal certification certainly can help you out.  It provides some level of assurance (as much as possible) that this person knows what they’re doing and has the training to back it up.  It also helps you to see that this professional really plans to stick around for the long term, career-wise.  It can help you feel like you’re hiring someone who is going to put their best professional foot forward to help you.

That being said, it is wise to check out their references, and you may also still want to consider candidates that don’t have that certification program — they still may offer an equally professional and satisfying experience!

Find a positive reinforcement trainer

Not all dog trainers are going to use the same approach to training.  Even though positive reinforcement training is the best method for professional training, some still use compulsive training (where the dog obeys or is physically redirected to train).  

It’s a good idea to ask your dog trainer what approach they take and try to only consider trainers who use positive reinforcement methods.  While compulsive training can be successful short term, it’s not the best choice for helping your dog learn new habits long-term.

Most dog trainers should also be able to explain to you what this kind of training is, how it’s effective, and even give you some examples of what it looks like in real life.  Consider asking them questions like this so that you know they understand what they’re teaching!

Look for someone who goes beyond the basics

Basic obedience training is one of the most common classes and types of teaching by professional dog trainers.  Most, if not all, trainers will offer this.  However, you’ll also want to consider hiring a dog trainer that goes beyond that.  Many specialize in additional training such as unwanted behaviour, anxiety, etc.

Even if you think your dog only needs classic obedience training, you’ll find it helpful to have a professional that can use their experience to spot any possible behavioural issues or even areas where they can focus more..  

These trainers have taken the time to push their own experience and training further, and that means a better experience for you as their customer.  This is especially a great idea if you’re a dog’s second owner and aren’t entirely sure why they act as they do.

Ask for references

Regardless of how sparkly and professional your potential dog trainer’s resume looks, you’ll still want to check their references so that you can properly prepare for what you’re actually going to get in your training session.

One of the best reasons to consider checking those references is that you can get a sense of how past clients enjoyed working with the trainer and, even more importantly, how their own dogs did long-term after the training ended.  

Don’t be afraid to ask questions about reliability, professionalism, compassion for humans and dogs, etc.  You can learn a lot by talking to those past customers, it can help reassure you, and give you a better picture of just who is going to be partnering up with you for your pet’s training.

Class vs. private training

Some professional dog trainers will only offer class-based training, some will only offer private training, and some will offer both.  Some trainers can recommend whether class-based or private training is best for you, your dog, and the issue that you are trying to correct.

Sometimes, a class-based approach can help your dog learn faster and also learn how to focus on you even with a bunch of distractions around, like other dogs and noise.  It can also help your pet develop better social interaction habits with other people and pets, which is a huge benefit.

It’s also important to consider what kind of training you’re most comfortable with having.  Class training is great for those who want to meet other pet owners and dogs that have similar issues to theirs.  Others prefer one-on-one training with only their dog, themselves, and the trainer.  

Don’t forget to ask the trainer what they think is best for your dog.  They are the professional in this situation, after all!

Make the best decision for you and your dog

Don’t forget another professional you can ask for advice on choosing a dog trainer: your veterinary doctor. They may have direct knowledge of various trainers, or know of referrals and experiences of other pet owners who have tried many different trainers.

While you can find a lot of support and guidance in this article to finding a qualified dog trainer, you’ll also want to focus on one more facet: your gut.  Your instinct, on whether someone is right for you and your dog or not,  can be a massive indicator for helping you make the best decision for you and your dog, or make a change if something is not working well.

Dog trainers are professionals and understand that sometimes the relationship just isn’t working.  They’ll understand if you need to find someone else to help you on your dog training journey.

Finding a qualified dog trainer is about understanding  what demonstrates professionalism in approach and results, and how your chosen expert  will be able to help you and your dog have a better and healthier relationship with each other.  That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day!


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