Choosing A Dog Trainer
Too many dogs
are given up after their normal, easily modifiable behaviors are allowed to
become problems. But it doesn't have to be this way. To prevent your dog from
becoming a sad statistic, take your dog and your family to a professional dog
training class. A good training class is a fun, social activity that helps your
dog become a well-behaved, safe, and valued family member. This information will
help you find the dog trainer and class environment that best fits your budget
Why is training my dog a necessity?
As a dog owner, one of the first questions you may ask is, Does my new
companion need training? Yes, and so do you! Whether you are intentionally
teaching him or not, your canine friend is always learning and this is true not
just for puppies but also for older, adult dogs. If you do not teach your pet
your rules, he will invent his own. Training allows caregivers to safely and
humanely control their dog's behavior. Positive training enhances the bond
between dog and owner, and helps ensure that your dog will respond happily to
What should I look for in a trainer?
It's essential that the dog trainer you select uses humane training
techniques that encourage appropriate behavior through such positive
reinforcement as food, attention, play, or praise. Look for a trainer who
ignores undesirable responses or withholds rewards until the dog behaves
appropriately. Training techniques should never involve yelling, choking,
shaking the scruff, tugging on the leash, alpha rolling (forcing the dog onto
his back), or other actions that frighten or inflict pain.
Where can I find a trainer?
A recommendation from a friend, neighbor, veterinarian, humane society,
boarding kennel, or groomer is a good place to start. You can also check the
Yellow Pages under "Pet Training." Don't assume that a trainer's membership in a
dog trainer association qualifies him as a suitable instructor: Not all
associations' membership criteria will meet your expectations. Also, because no
government agency regulates or licenses trainers, it's that much more important
to investigate their qualifications before enrolling in a class. Find out how
many years of experience they have, how they were educated, and what training
methods they use. Ask prospective trainers for several references from clients
who completed the classes.
Which class format is best?
In group classes, dogs learn to interact with other dogs, accept handling by
other people, and respond to their owners despite distractions. Owners learn by
observing other people interacting with their dogs and benefit from the
camaraderie. Self-help training, private lessons, and dog-only lessons that
exclude the owner do not provide these important advantages. Another
disadvantage of dog-only lessons is that the dog may respond well for the
trainer but may not transfer what she has learned to you and your family.
When possible, all family members should participate in the dog's training.
By learning to communicate humanely and effectively with their canine friend,
they will develop bonds that will form the basis of the entire relationship.
What should I seek in a group class?
Ask the trainer whether you can observe a class in session before signing up.
Watch for the following:
- Is class size limited to allow for individual attention?
- Are there separate classes for puppies and adult dogs?
- Are there different class levels (for example, beginner, intermediate,
- Are training equipment and methods humane?
- Does the trainer use a variety of methods to meet dogs' individual
- Is proof of vaccination required?
- Are the students, both human and canine, enjoying themselves?
- Are dogs and owners actively encouraged?
- Is praise given frequently?
- Are voice commands given in upbeat tones?
- Are lesson handouts available?
- Is information available on how dogs learn, basic grooming, problem
solving, and related topics?
How much does training cost?
Training costs vary, depending on where you live and the type of instruction
you want. Private lessons may range from $30 to $65 per hour; group lessons may
start at $75 for several weeks of sessions. Some animal shelters offer
subsidized training programs; costs for several weeks of sessions may range from
$35 to $90, depending on whether you adopted your dog from that shelter and the
number of class sessions it provides.
What's the best age for training?
Although "puppyhood" is the best time to train and socialize dogs, older dogs
can learn new tricks, too. In fact, dogs of all ages can benefit from training.
Dogs between 8 and 16 weeks of age should be enrolled in puppy classes. Regular
classes are appropriate for dogs six months or older.
After you have selected a training program:
- Have your dog examined by your veterinarian to ensure your pet is
healthy, free from parasites, and up-to-date on vaccinations.
- Don't feed your dog a large meal before class because many trainers rely
on food treats to encourage or reward desired behavior.
- Bring the training equipment recommended by the trainer.
- Practice between classes with brief lessons that end on a positive note.
By enrolling and actively participating in a dog training class, you will
help your dog become not just a well-behaved member of your family, but also a
safer member of your community.
Copyright 2003 The Humane Society of the United States