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Tips Choosing Dog Trainer

12 Tips For Choosing a Dog Trainer

Choosing a dog trainer is a significant decision that can profoundly impact your dog’s behavior, development, and overall well-being. This choice should be made carefully and thoughtfully, as the right trainer can create a positive bond between you and your furry friend, fostering mutual understanding, respect, and joy. By contrast, the wrong trainer can lead to wasted dollars and frustration. Understanding what questions to ask can significantly increase your success rate and ensure that you pick the right skill sets for your long-term training and lifestyle goals. To assist you in this crucial task, we’ve taken key tips from some of the best trainers in Florida and have incorporated the practices and policies of Train Pro Dogs into a list of tips for choosing a dog trainer.

Each prospective trainer should be thoroughly evaluated to ensure they have the qualifications, experience, and successful track record. It’s essential to understand and assess their overall training philosophy and application methods and verify their references and testimonials. This research will provide a clear picture of the particular trainer’s credibility and effectiveness, the behaviors they can address, and their client satisfaction rate.

Moreover, additional aspects like the training environment, trainer-to-dog ratios, approach to specific behavioral issues, and health and safety measures play a vital role in the decision-making process. Investigating program costs, inquiring about post-training support and long-term success rates, and understanding your responsibilities as the dog owner are equally important. By carefully considering these factors, you can select a dog trainer that aligns with your expectations, your dog’s needs, and your budget.

1. Know What You and Your Dog Need

It’s important that you have a clear understanding of your dog’s behaviors and realistic training goals for your lifestyle. How active are you with your dog and how much time and energy do you want to place into ensuring that you can help create lasting behaviors? Do you want or need off-leash reliability if your dog is never off-leash or rarely leaves their house or yard? Before you engage the services of any trainer, you should understand what is possible to achieve for both the short-term and long-term with your behavior modification objectives. Before calling a trainer and asking them to have your dog be trained for “protection” or “service work,” you should have a basic understanding of the differences between pet dog or puppy basic obedience, therapy dogs, service animal training, and emotional support dogs. You should begin by explaining your desires clearly and being very honest about your lifestyle and goals with your dog. Don’t exaggerate your ability or the amount of time you have available to do homework. This is your investment into long-lasting behaviors, so if you tell a company or trainer that you have plenty of time each day to practice with your dog, that’ll be the expectation moving forward. At Train Pro Dogs, our professional trainers can easily modify and adjust any curriculum to ensure your success where less experienced trainers and franchise brands will not. Many franchise training companies and most inexperienced trainers will try hard to fit you, your dog and your goals into their preset programs and tools that you may not want or need. 

2. Evaluate Trainer Qualifications and Experience

When choosing a dog trainer, one of the first aspects to consider is their professional qualifications and experience. At Train Pro Dogs, we advise asking your prospective trainer “How many years of professional training experience do you or your company have?” The reason this question is important is that there are no shortcuts to the training process for trainers. Being able to successfully modify dog behavior while at the same time ensuring you know how to take over for long-term behavioral success is crucial and can only happen with years of real hands-on work with both humans and their dogs. Many franchises and large companies hire trainers who have only completed online programs that require little to no hands-on work with dogs. At Train Pro Dogs we only hire trainers with years of hands-on experience. 

Evaluating the trainer’s background can give you an understanding of their knowledge and skills. Remember to also look for accolades or awards that the trainer or company might have received. Train Pro Dogs has been voted our area’s “Best Pet Trainer” for four years in a row and all of our trainers have placed and won awards with their personal dogs. These awards indicate recognition from industry peers and professional organizations and demonstrate Train Pro Dogs’ commitment to the dog training profession.

3. Understand Training Programs and Behaviors Addressed

Different trainers offer various training programs, such as group classes, private lessons, and board and train programs. Understanding these programs and determining which would be the best fit for you and your dog is essential. Consider the behaviors that each type of training program addresses. Programs should cater to a range of common behavioral issues and be adaptable to different ages and breeds of dogs.

For example, a good puppy training program should cover basic obedience, socialization, and problem-solving. In contrast, an adult dog might need more advanced training or behavior modification. Understanding the content and structure of the training programs can help you set realistic expectations and ensure your dog gets the help he needs

4. Verify References and Testimonials

References and testimonials can provide valuable insights into a trainer’s professionalism, effectiveness, and client satisfaction. Ask the trainer for references from his or her previous clients, too, especially those who had dogs with similar behavior issues to your own. These references will give you a first-hand account of their experience with the trainer and the effectiveness of their training methods.

Testimonials, either on the trainer’s website or third-party review sites, can also be informative. Look for common trends in the reviews. Are clients generally satisfied with the results? How do they describe their experience? Remember that while not every review has to be glowing, a pattern of negative reviews should be a red flag.

5. Assess the Training Philosophy and Methods

Each trainer may have a different approach and philosophy towards dog training. Understanding their methods and ensuring they align with your beliefs is essential. Avoid trainers who rely solely on treats or use authoritarian tactics that may harm your dog’s well-being. Instead, look for trainers who use positive reinforcement techniques and a balanced approach that considers your dog’s needs. See our previous blog on the benefits of a “balanced training approach” vs the damage that comes from the “pure positive” approach.

Observing a trainer in action can also be helpful before enrolling in their program. At Train Pro Dogs we always offer free evaluations. This allows you to meet us in person, see a training demonstration on your own dog, take a tour of the training facility and cover financing options and  pricing information on all of our programs.

6. Consider the Training Environment and Facilities

The physical environment where your dog will be trained can profoundly impact a dog’s behavior, as well as their comfort, safety, and overall learning outcomes. Only consider companies that allow you to tour the training facility. Pay attention to the cleanliness, the availability of proper sanitary provisions, and the security measures in place. A well-maintained facility with good dog trainers reflects the trainer’s commitment to animal welfare and professional conduct.

Take note of the size and layout of the training area. There should be ample space for dogs to move around without feeling cramped. The layout should allow for the efficient flow of activities and minimize distractions that could disrupt the training.

For board and train programs, investigate the living and sleeping arrangements for the dogs. These should be comfortable, secure, and clean. Dogs should have separate space to rest, ensuring they’re not stressed or overwhelmed. At Train Pro Dogs, we conduct our boards and train programs from a real home where our trainers live full-time. 

Also, consider the ambient environment. If the training is conducted indoors, is the room well-ventilated and lit? If the training is outdoors, are there measures to protect dogs from harsh weather conditions?

7. Review Trainer-to-Dog Ratios and Individual Attention

Inquire about the number of dogs trained and the dog-to-trainer ratio. This is an easy way to ensure each dog receives sufficient one-on-one time with a qualified trainer for personalized training.

In a setting with too many dogs per trainer, the ability of the trainer to effectively monitor and correct each dog’s behavior diminishes. This can lead to unwanted behavior, slower progress or even reinforce bad habits, as dogs may continue to engage in incorrect or unwanted behaviors without timely correction.

Ideally, you should look for programs that offer one-on-one sessions or have a low trainer-to-dog ratio in group settings. This is particularly important for dogs with specific behavioral issues, as they may require more personalized training strategies. It’s also worth asking how much time will be dedicated to individual training in a typical session and how the trainer ensures each dog gets the needed attention.

8. Evaluate the Trainer’s Problem-Solving Skills

Can the right dog trainer adapt to unexpected challenges or unique dog behaviors? A good dog trainer should be able to think on their feet and creatively address any issues. This may mean modifying their training plan based on your dog’s progress, adjusting their techniques and positive methods according to your dog’s learning style, or finding new ways to manage or redirect problematic behaviors.

Communication is a crucial aspect of practical dog training, not only between the trainer and your dog but also between you and the trainer. The trainer should be able to clearly articulate their training methodology, expectations, and the rationale behind their techniques. They should also be willing to listen to your concerns and answer any questions you may have.

Remember, you’re not just training your dog; you’re also learning how to better understand and interact with them. Thus, having a certified professional dog trainer who is both a good trainer and a good communicator can greatly enhance the effectiveness of the training.

9. Assess Health and Safety Protocols

The health and safety of your dog deserve a professional trainer, and this should be paramount in your decision-making process. Make sure the trainer has robust health and safety protocols in place.

Does the facility have a process for dealing with medical or weather-related emergencies? Do they have an emergency protocol or a working relationship with a local veterinary clinic for immediate attention if needed?

Ask about their policies regarding vaccinations. Most professional dog training centers will require proof of current vaccinations to protect all the dogs in their care. Regular cleaning and disinfecting of shared spaces are crucial for preventing the spread of diseases among dogs.

Also, look at how they approach physical safety during training sessions. Strict measures should be in place to ensure dogs are handled gently and humanely. Any use of physical punishment or practices that risk physical harm to other dogs should be a red flag.

Lastly, if your dog will be staying for board and train programs, enquire about their feeding practices. They should have measures to ensure each dog receives their specific diet and that food is stored and prepared safely.

10. Discuss the Cost and Value for the Money

Consider the cost of the training program. Remember, the most expensive program is not necessarily the best but the cheapest may not get you any of your needed results. It’s essential to weigh the cost against the value and the results you expect to receive.

Inquire about what is included in the cost of the training. Do fees cover all materials and resources and training tools? Are there financing options available? Are there any additional costs for follow-up services? It’s also worth asking if the trainer offers any discounts for multiple dogs.

Remember, investing in a quality dog training program can save you money in the long run by preventing behavioral issues that could lead to costly vet bills or property damage. Therefore, it’s worth investing in a program that offers the best value for money rather than simply opting for the cheapest option.

11. Check the Post-Training Support

Post-training support is vital to ensure the long-term success of the training. Ask the trainer if they provide follow-up services after the conclusion of the training program. This could be in the form of follow-up calls or emails to check on your dog’s progress, the availability of refresher courses, or the provision of resources for you to use at home to continue reinforcing the same science-based training methods.

12. Engage and Participate in the Training Process

As an owner, your involvement is crucial during and after training. Even if choosing a board and train program, you should be learning with your dog. Following through with any recommendations or exercises the trainer provides is also essential. You should continue practicing at home to reinforce your dog’s learning and maintain consistency.

Your engagement helps build a strong bond between you and your dog, enhances their learning experience, and improves their behavior in the long run. Remember, dog training is not a one-time event but an ongoing process that requires commitment and effort from you and your trainer. Together, you can help your dog become a well-mannered, happy, and confident companion. So instead of just relying on the trainer to do all the work, be proactive and involved.

Choosing A Dog Trainer For You & Your Dog

Selecting a dog trainer involves careful consideration and examining several vital aspects. This includes assessing the trainer’s qualifications, training methodology, and their ability to manage distinctive dog behaviors. The trainer’s communication skills also play a crucial role, ensuring they can clearly explain their techniques while being receptive to any concerns or questions.

Additionally, the health and safety protocols put in place by the trainer are paramount, covering everything from emergency procedures to disease prevention. Value for money should be gauged not just by the upfront cost but also by the potential long-term savings of preventing behavioral issues. Post-training support and the owner’s active involvement are vital components for successfully implementing and reinforcing the training.

Ultimately, the goal is to choose a trainer who can shape the dog into a well-mannered, happy, and confident companion and equip the owner with the necessary skills and knowledge to sustain the training.



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