The ‘Right’ Trainer

So you’ve decided you want (or need) a dog trainer. With so many options, websites, free consultations, expensive programs, top recommended trainers, etc., how do you choose the one that’s right for you??

People think that finding a trainer is easy, and yes, for the most part it is. Just google “dog trainer near me” and plenty of options pop up, right? But how do you know if that trainer is the right trainer for you? I’m going to help you understand what to look for in a good trainer, and how to tell if their methods are right for you and your dog.

Ask questions:

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t assume that because they have a long bio or that their website is pretty and seems to have a lot of information that the trainer knows what they’re doing. You don’t even know if you’ll be working with the Head trainer of that company or a new hire that just started last week! Ask about their philosophy, methods, how they address behavioral issues (even if they aren’t listed as a behaviorist!), and what types of services they offer. Ask about their most popular services: this may be group classes, private, lessons, or even board and train services. Go with your gut and ask the same types of questions about the trainer and their work as you would a new doctor or dentist, get as much information as you can!

Be open minded:

Dog training methods vary from the pure-positive end of the spectrum all the way to the opposite end which is labeled often as “old-school” or coercion based. There are also the “cookie cutter” trainers that just put training collars on all dogs and claim dogs will be “fixed” in a number of weeks (these trainers often claim to “guarantee” their training). Now we all want what’s best for our pets, right? But we also need to understand the theories behind how any of these trainers teach not only our dogs, but their human handlers as well. Schedule consultations with any and all trainers that interest you or that you’d like to get more information from. Ask to see proof of the trainer’s work, either in their personal dog (often called a demo-dog) or videos of before and after training with clients if they have any available. If you have friends or family that recommended any of those trainers, ask them for their completely honest opinion. When choosing a specific method a trainer may use, be open to all options and methods along with all the different uses of tools and training equipment.

Choose what your instincts tell you:

Go with your gut. If a trainer seems to be too salesman-like, or seems like they aren’t focused on the welfare of you and your dog, don’t be afraid to look elsewhere. Even if you have to search outside your immediate neighborhood, it’s more worth your time and resources to find the best trainer for you and your given situation. Would you be more willing to travel a little further to see your doctor who has always been wonderful to you and your family than to settle for a new doctor that you don’t connect with in the same way? Don’t we search for the best colleges after high school, even if we have to relocate and live on campus because we want to study a specific field vs. settling for a degree we don’t want or may not use at your local community college? When we enroll our children into extracurricular activities, we put them in the best programs we can find with the best coaches and teachers, so why not do the same for our pets? They’re family too, right?

Be confident:

Don’t let trainers intimidate you into their programs because they can promise you something or because their dogs are showy and wonderful. Go into your consultations or meetings with your goals in mind for your dog and stick with them. Don’t be heart-set on any trainer as soon as you walk in or talk to them for the first time, get as many opinions as you want and/or have time for before you make your selection. Choose the trainer that fits you, your abilities, and your commitment level. Same goes for the program you choose; are you going to make every class in a 6-week program or should you opt for private training? Can you practice the weekly homework, or should you choose board and train because you have a reactive and scary dog or you simply work too much to be truly consistent? Whatever you decide, make sure it’s the right fit regardless.