I don’t know about you, but in my years leading up to becoming a professional trainer I had the opportunity to work with many different types of trainers. I can honestly say working with different trainers molded me into the trainer and animal person I am today.
It also taught me how I did and did not want to interact with my personal pets, which in turn is what led me to the want and need to share with others.
I like to think that I have come a long way from that first training class that I attended as a twenty something with my first Rottie Maddy. At the time I had no idea what was good or bad training methods and lets be honest, looking back, those teachings were dicey at best. But we learn and we move on.
I am what many consider a “cross over” trainer. That basically means that I was taught correction based training originally, then I chose to learn a less invasive way of teaching skills. Switching over to positive methods does take practice, especially when a leash pop is ingrained in you and becomes a motion that you don’t even stop to think about.
This is why I LOVE helping those people who have made the conscious choice to learn how to build a force free relationship with their dogs. Now, lets be clear. I live in the real world, which means that life is not all rainbows and unicorns. So that does mean I raise my voice, and there are consequences to negative behavior. BUT, that does not mean that I have to physically correct my dog when he is barking his head off.
Let me explain..... I do believe in consequences to actions, which means I will correct a behavior. It just may not look as many expect. If my dog is being abnoxious, and I have truly taught said dog the behavior I expect in that environment, and they fail, I will collect my dog and remove him from the “fun”. Lets be honest, if my dog fails, then it is my fault and whatever is happening that caused him to fail is because “it” was more reinforcing than me. So, removing him from the fun is the ultimate punishment. Keeping in mind that there are generally no words spoken (I am all over the silent treatment...they hate that). We move away to a distance that the brain kicks back in and we try again. This is the point that learning occurs. Food for thought, huh!
With that said, we all have a different view of what a “good” trainer is. When looking for a trainer it is important that you work with someone that is just as good with people as with dogs. I find this to be HUGELY important and somewhat hard to find.
Guess what? As a trainer, I am really training YOU, and you are training your dog. As I often say, I am really a people trainer, but if that was my marketing gig, no one would come and play. So I will stick with good old fashion dog trainer.
Here are some question you should be asking BEFORE you commit:
1. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN TRAINING?
Altho important, this should not deter you from working with someone. This will help you see their longevity in the profession.
2. DO YOU WORK WITH SPECIFIC BREEDS?
If they work with all breeds, that is awesome. I have found that some trainers really get along with certain “types” of dogs. If you have a crazy border collie, you need to work with someone that understands how to work with a high drive dog. On the flip side if you have a cute little pug, whoes main goal is life is to hang out on the couch with you, then you need a trainer who understands and can motive your little bundle of cuteness to work with you.
3. WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE?
This one is a no brainer, experience = time in the saddle or maybe I should say around the dog park. Asking a trainer what they have done with their personal dogs is a good indicator of what they know and what they can teach you.
4. WHAT TYPE OF TRAINING DO YOU OFFER?
Answers will vary at this point...group classes, private instruction, behavior modification, agility, nose work....the list goes on. At this point, it really comes down to what you need. If your dog is naughty and you need help with specific behavior problems, then you need to work with a trainer that understands behavior modification. If you choose the group class at the big box store in town, chance are high that you will not be getting the best bang for your buck and more harm than good could come from it.
Bottom line is to find a trainer that meshes with your beliefs, methods that you are comfortable using (go positive..you won’t regret it), and someone you trust to lead your education. If at anytime you feel that your trainer is leading you down a path that you feel is wrong, remember you are the one paying the bill. It is ok to ask questions, and it is ultimately ok to find a new trainer.