How to Find a Dog Trainer You Can Trust With Your Pup

How to Find a dog trainer you can trust

Whether you just brought home a new dog, or your current canine companion is exhibiting a concerning behavior, you need to find a dog trainer you can trust.

The search for a well-trained, reliable dog trainer is harder than you might think. With so many dog trainers advertising their services on open sites like Yelp, you might find yourself entrusting your precious pup to the wrong person.

How to Find a Dog Trainer

If you’re wondering how to find a dog trainer and who to trust, we can help.

Here at IC HQs, we understand just how difficult it is to find a qualified dog training professional. One person’s website offers one opinion, while another’s recommends something completely different. Friends and family offer their advice only adding to your confusion. How do you filter through all the friendly advice, suggestions, and online searches?

Not to worry, we’re here to help you find a dog trainer by addressing common questions, and providing the information and resources you need, to find the right trainer for you and your four-legged friend’s needs.

Let’s begin with some common questions and concerns.

Are all dog trainers created equal?

No, they’re not. First, it’s important to note that the dog training industry is unregulated. There are no official government bodies that oversee the practice of training dogs. Additionally, there are no official universal rules, policies, procedures or gold standards. This basically means that anyone can call themselves a trainer, and do whatever he or she wants – whenever and however they see fit. Some dog trainers don’t even have a business license!

Thankfully, there are independent organizations that have addressed these concerns, including the Academy for Dog Trainers, Karen Pryor Academy, the Pet Professional Guild, the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), and International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC).

These groups, and others like them, have developed higher standards of practice on a global level. They screen their applicants, require testing for certification and recertification or membership, and provide educational resources — among other things. Although dog trainers aren’t required to become certified or apply for membership in order to train dogs – certification proves that he or she has become proficient in their craft, following the latest in training research and best practices.

What’s their real training philosophy and approach?

The dog trainer’s approach should be straightforward, transparent, and self-explanatory. If they are claiming their techniques are “the best” and/or “most humane,” then they should have evidence to back up those claims.

Utilizing subjective jargon can be misleading, which can cloud decision making for the pet owner. Is this person describing training methods that enhance the experience for both dog and owner? Does it sound like the experience will be enjoyable for both the dog and the handler? Or, is this person promoting a “unique” approach, while implementing outdated techniques, including those that can cause fear or discomfort to the dog? Keep in mind that while addressing overall goals of the client, training should still be fun throughout the process — for everyone.

What’s with the title?

You are likely familiar with such designations as positive reinforcement trainers, cookie trainers, clicker trainers, e-collar trainers, and balanced trainers – to name a few. As mentioned above, there are no gold standards when it comes to training dogs. However, the person’s title, or what they refer to themselves as, will likely tell you a lot about their methods. For instance, trainers who are certified through the CCPDT will refer to themselves as a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. This title indicates he or she practices positive reinforcement methods as outlined in the CCPDT’s Code of Ethics.

Titles such as “balanced trainer” often means they practice dual approaches. They may combine positive reinforcement with fear-based techniques, including physical corrections (i.e. alpha rolling, kicking, kneeing, collar corrections, choking with a prong or choke collar). E-collar trainers also implement punishment based techniques, with the addition of electronic (shock) collars.

Fear-based techniques are outdated, and the trainers who use them may not have an education on animal learning theory or science-based techniques, are unaware of progress within the industry, and don’t have a grasp on the fallout of coercion and aversives.

Trustworthy dog trainers will use transparent, clear, and consistent content throughout their website and social media pages. Those who use a force-free approach will talk about using whatever motivates the dog to want to participate in the training plan, focusing in on rewarding wanted behaviors, and teaching the dog what the best behavior choice is — without instilling fear.

Those dog trainers who express their use of treats, as well as “dominance” or “corrections”, give a cloudy picture as to what their methodology is. Are they putting a spin on their training approach and using these terms to help market themselves? Do they really have their clients’ best interests at heart? Techniques that risk injury should raise a red flag.

But, which method is best?

Pet owners can choose between force-free, positive reinforcement; mixed training combining both positive reinforcement and punishment; or punishment-based training. The former uses anything that motivates the dog to want to participate throughout their training. This approach teaches your dog the skills to make the right choices while focusing on wanted behaviors.

The latter uses fear-based techniques for the purpose of decreasing undesirable behaviors. This approach focuses on unwanted behaviors and doesn’t teach the dog how to make the proper choices.

For too long force-based techniques have been used, because they were part of our culture. Thankfully, progress has been made over the years, proving that while these training techniques can work, they are outdated and unnecessary for training dogs — or any animal.

Performing a Google search on the fallout of using punishment to train dogs yields several results. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior composed a lovely Position Statement on the Use of Punishment explaining the pitfalls and risks when using these techniques. This resource will provide unbiased information along with additional links to reputable studies.

Now that I know what to look for, where should I start?

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of different dog training approaches, you’re ready to begin your search. Searching for a dog trainer is similar to searching for any service-based businesses. Asking for referrals is a great way to find a trustworthy trainer. Veterinarians and other pet owners are a great source for finding qualified professionals.

Yelp is another popular source for finding pet trainers. Just be sure to do your due diligence, read reviews and learn about their approach and methods before committing to their services.

We recommend the following resources (in no particular order) for help in finding a qualified dog trainer:

How do I know I’m making the right choice?

Cyrano the PapillonKeep in mind that humans are animals too. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts. Conduct an interview, and ask questions. Use your research skills to review their website, reviews and social media to vet them thoroughly before entrusting them with your canine companion.

Whether you’re a first-time or seasoned dog owner, with each new experience brings new needs and goals. Finding a professional dog trainer who will listen to your needs, develop a plan that works for you and your dog, provides proper education, and supports you along the way can lead to a more pawsitive experience all around.

With the right dog trainer, you’ll have more time to be with your inquisitive canine. Use our tips to find a dog trainer you can trust.

Ever since the Inquisitive Canine was founded in 2005, Joan Hunter Mayer’s life has gone to the dogs — and she couldn’t be happier! A certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, Joan not only loves seeing her canine students succeed, but also enjoys empowering dog parents with a valuable education to enhance their relationships with their dogs for life.


Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!

Resolve to Help Keep Dogs in Homes and out of Shelters

Dear Inquisitive Dog Parents,

The new year is officially here. For many, this means creating lists of resolutions with intentions of modifying one’s behavior. In honor of this tradition, my sidekick, Poncho, and I have decided to join in, talking about resolutions to help dogs stay in their homes and out of animal shelters. We encourage you to team up with us and add the dogs of your community — whether your own or someone else’s — to your list of personal achievements.

Solutions Start with Preparation

According to a study conducted by the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy on Reasons for Relinquishment of Companion Animals in U.S. Animal Shelters, the top reasons dogs are sent to shelters have to do with living situations, cost, time, owners having personal problems and behavioral concerns of the dogs themselves.

As a certified professional dog trainer, I can attest to this, as I commonly hear similar complaints. As for Poncho, he used to live in a shelter, so he knows firsthand the reasons he and his buddies landed there. Together, he and I have compiled the following tips to help dog lovers everywhere do what they can to reduce the shelter dog population: Continue Reading “Resolve to Help Keep Dogs in Homes and out of Shelters”

Old Dog, New Year, New Resolutions

Attention Dog Parents!

5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – Wow! Welcome to 2012! As an inquisitive canine who knows a lot about human behavior, I’ve learned that many of you bi-pedals start the new year with a list of self-improvement goals for the next twelve months. I thought it would be the perfect time to jump on this little bandwagon, explore a few of the more common commitments found on these resolution lists, and apply them to life with a dog.

Here are my special tenet’s to honor the new year:

  • Get Fit: Looking for ways to stay in shape or lose a little holiday weight? What about your dog’s weight? Is he or she more on the curvy side? How about their endurance? If either or both are an issue, or if you just want to maintain your current condition, the new year is an ideal time to start fresh, don some new athletic shoes and begin an exercise program. You will find no better or more enthusiastic training partner than your dog. Walking, jogging, running, hiking, playing hide ‘n’ seek, attending a dog training class or joining a canine sport group, such as agility or Flyball, are all known to boost physical and mental health – for humans and canines alike!
  • Learn Something New: Think your dog is only able to absorb information when they’re a puppy? Newsflash, folks! You can teach an old dog new tricks! Yep – whether we’re old, young, big, small, male, or female, we are all eager to learn–and, we enjoy it! We’ll never argue about going to school, either! Dogs enjoy sharpening their skills, as well as learning new ones. Nowadays there are more options than ever for dog training classes and workshops. Once you’re done reading through your daily Edhat, head over to your Google search field and check to see what’s in your neighborhood or online in the virtual classroom. Continue Reading “Old Dog, New Year, New Resolutions”

Tips for Bringing New Dog Home to Meet Resident Dog

How to Play Mutt-Matchmaker

Dear Poncho,

Several years ago, I brought a new puppy into the family “to keep my older dog company.” That backfired because they fought constantly. The older one passed away a few years ago, but now I’d love to add another dog to my family.

What is the best way to introduce a new dog into a family with another dog while avoiding what happened the last time?

KG

Dear KG,

Geez, I hate when setting up a mutt-match backfires. As you’ve learned, arranging relationships between two or more dogs living in the same home takes more than just pointing to the cutest nearby pooch or making the decision based on who you think your dog would like.

Speaking as an inquisitive canine who currently resides in a single-dog household, allow me to point out a few tips I’d want my folks to use if I ever decide I want a sibling. (Yep, that’s right, I said “I.”)

Here are the four tenets of my Mutt Model:

Know Your Animal(s)!

In this case, know the likes and dislikes of both your own dog and any potential dog you wish to bring into your home. Some dogs are total social butterflies, loving each and every dog they meet. Then there are those who prefer to hang out with pooches of a specific breed or appearance, gender, age, and/or personality (a.k.a. temperament). And finally, there are those like myself, who enjoy being the one and only fur child in the house. Although, I am drawn to beagles, so if the opportunity ever presented itself …

Anyway, if your dog is more the type who wants to meet and play with all other dogs, then you’ll find it a bit easier to play matchmaker — as long as the potential sibling feels the same way. If your dog is more the loner type, then unless you want to take the training steps to create the pawfect relationship, you might want your current situation to stay as is, knowing you can continue to keep the door open, auditioning potential pals until you happen upon a best bud for your other best bud. Continue Reading “Tips for Bringing New Dog Home to Meet Resident Dog”

Before You Adopt a Dog, Preparing for Your New Pooch

Dear Inquisitive (& Expectant) Dog Guardians,

If you or someone you know intends on spending the pawliday season giving or receiving the gift of a puppy or adult dog, then yippee and woohoo! As a dog mom, I know how meaningful the human-animal bond is. I’m truly thankful each and day for the relationship my sidekick (Poncho) and I have.

Speaking as a certified professional dog trainer, I can attest that being proactive and planning ahead before bringing a new puppy or adult dog (or any pet, for that matter) into your home, can help ease the transition and reduce stress — for everyone, including the dog. So for those who are in pet-parent-to-be mode, we’re here to assist you in making the transition a little easier by providing a few simple tips to help start you out on the right paw.

Planning to Succeed Leads to Success

Health and Wellness:  Similar to human health practices, prevention is key! So we encourage you to schedule a wellness exam for your dog, to be sure he or she has been evaluated, and is receiving all they need to maintain good health. This goes double if you have zero health history about your dog. If you feel your dog doesn’t need a full exam, ask if you can bring your dog in just to say hi, meet the staff and get a treat. This will leave a nice impression the next time your dog has an appointment (FYI, this goes for any dog, not just newbies).

The Right Resources: If you’re in the market for a groomer, dog training services, dog walker, petsitter or daycare facility, you’ll want to start investigating for names and places sooner than later.

For day-to-day needs, look to local pet supply stores, garage sales, thrift stores, friends cleaning out their garages (checking expiration dates on products) and, of course, the Internet. When hiring someone who provides such services, an Internet search, along with word of mouth from friends and neighbors, is a great way to begin your hunt. As for those you’d hire, we feel interviewing two or three is a sensible approach. If possible, have your dog meet each provider as well, since your dog is the one who’ll be spending the most time with the person.

Start with the Basics. There are thousands of pet products on the market nowadays. For sure you’ll need a collar with ID, as well as food, water bowl and leash. Depending where you live, a license might be required as well. Check with your county animal services department. Microchips are optional, but quite handy; ask your vet for information regarding the insertion of a chip. If your dog came with a chip, the facility or person you got your dog from should be able to provide you with what you’ll need in order to update the contact information.

When it comes to toys, beds, treats, and games you can play with your dog, we suggest you test out a few you think your dog might like, at least until you get to know his or her preferences. Then you can go nuts and start spoiling them silly. (Guilty!)

Social Director Extraordinaire: Depending upon the age, breed, temperament, and likes and dislikes of your dog, you’ll want to plan activities that enrich your dog’s life — both physically and mentally. The following is a list of things you can do with your dog (most all are budget-friendly):

  • Neighborhood walks for fun and to show your dog his or her new neighborhood. Until your dog learns to stay with you and has a good recall, staying on leash is highly recommended. (Plus, it might be the law). Bring along treats to reward behaviors you like, and when introducing your dog to new people and other dogs.
  • Field trips to places you frequent. Many dogs love car rides and running errands. Make sure your dog is kept safe while going for rides. Seat belts and car seats are easy to find, inexpensive and help protect your dog from injury.
  • Meet-and-greets with friends and neighbors. Allow your dog to set the pace as to how quickly he or she wants to socialize. It might be overwhelming with all the new changes, so be patient.
  • Dog training classes. No matter your dog’s age or skill level, classes with emphasis on manners or sports are enjoyable activities for having fun, learning new skills and enhancing your bond.
  • Yard play. Playing games in your own home and yard — fetch, tug, hide ‘n’ seek, scavenger hunts or just chillin’ with each other and giving belly rubs — is quality time and enjoyable for everyone, and often the best part of the day.

Huddle Up: No matter how many people will be caring for your dog, delegate responsibilities and how they’ll fit into your current schedule.  Feeding, walking and exercise, potty outings, clean-up, vet appointments, grooming and training are just a few general responsibilities that make up your dog’s daily agenda. Make sure everyone knows the routine, his or her list of duties and that maintaining consistency is essential to your dog adapting and learning what you want.

Environmental Management: No matter the age of your new dog, he or she will need to learn about, and settle in to, your environment. Puppies will require additional guidance on house-training, which includes rewarding desired behavior, tighter management and observation. Older dogs still need to be taught where the bathroom is, and get rewarded for using it. For a step-by-step plan on how you can house-train your dog, check out our free eBook.

Puppy- and dog -proofing your home will also set your dog up for making better choices. Take the time to section off off-limits areas,  safely putting away those things you don’t want your dog to get to (lead your dog not into temptation, and not into danger). As you learn more about each other, you can slowly increase your dog’s boundaries, allowing more freedom.

Sleeping arrangements: You’ll need to decide where your dog is and isn’t allowed to sleep. Will your dog slumber in his or her own bed? Crate? Your bed? Floor? Couch? There’s no right or wrong answer. Just make sure you’ve approved it, it’s safe and you’re able to monitor your pooch — at least initially, until you know his or her sleeping patterns.

Pet siblings: If this is a second dog or second pet, you’ll need to take the necessary steps to introduce your new dog to the seasoned residents. Allow each of them to set the pace on how fast they want to establish a relationship. Keep the vibe positive and easygoing, while at the same time safe. Read more tips on introducing a new dog to a resident dog.

Tracking down resources, gathering supplies, delegating responsibilities and establishing a dog-friendly environment are key components in setting you and your new canine companion up for success. We encourage new pooch parents to begin developing a plan of action to help your dog feel welcomed!. By doing this, you’ll make the adjustment easy on everyone, which leaves more time for fun and games (and belly rubs).

Happy Pawlidays
On behalf of Poncho, myself and The Inquisitive Canine, we wish you and your family a joyous and pawsitively reinforcing holiday season. Your readership is the ultimate gift, and we thank you for being part of our family. (Want to see the official Mayer Family holiday photo? Check out our Inquisitive Canine Facebook page where we’ll be unveiling it mid-December).


 

Dear Inquisitive Canine is written by Joan Mayer and her trusty sidekick, Poncho. Joan is a certified professional dog trainer and human-canine relationship coach. Poncho is a 10-pound mutt that knows a lot about human and canine behavior. Their column is known for its simple, common-sense approach to dog training and behavior, as well as its entertaining insight into implementing proven techniques that reward both owner and dog.

Joan is also the founder of the Inquisitive Canine, and developer of the Out of the Box Dog Training Game, which highlights her love-of-dog training approach and the importance of understanding canine behavior. If you or your dog has questions about behavior, training or life with each other, please email them directly.