Do you need professional help training your dog?
It’s up to you to find a trainer that works for you, your dog and your situation. Whether you are planning puppy training before you adopt your new puppy (a great idea!) or searching for a trainer to solve a specific behavioural issue such as separation anxiety, you need the right trainer for the job.
When you are compiling your list of candidates, ask for references from friends, neighbors, colleagues and more. If somebody has a dog that you believe is well-behaved and well-adjusted (not behaving out of complete fear, for example), then ask them if they went for professional training.
Your local store might have a recommendation of a local trainer too. You’ll find names online and in the yellow pages, or on bulletin boards at your veterinarian’s office or dog park. Once you have your list, contact the trainers for more information. If you simply sign up for the cheapest class available, you may not achieve the results you want.
Group vs. Private
Do you have a preference for group classes or individual instruction? The benefits of group instruction include socialization with other dogs, learning to overcome distractions and usually more economical fees. Classes can be extremely effective for basic training of new puppies.
With private instruction, it may cost a little more but you get the full attention of your chosen trainer. For this reason, you and your dog may progress faster than in a group setting. In addition, individual instruction better replicates the at-home interactions you have with your dog.
You also need to ask about the credentials of your candidates. Dog training is an unregulated industry, so it’s up to you to ensure your trainer is qualified and competent to achieve the goals you have for your dog.
There are training programs for dog trainers that vary from apprenticeships with practising trainers to multi-year college programs. Some trainers will be ‘certified’, but certifications can mean different things. It’s more important that the trainer has experience and a successful track-record with a wide variety of dogs. Ask about formal education, how your candidate became a practicing dog trainer, and how much experience they have. Does their experience match your goals? Do they mainly run puppy classes when you need one-on-one behavioral breakthroughs? Ask for references too, and follow-up with them.
Types of Training
There are basically two approaches to dog training, positive and negative. Positive training rewards good behaviors to encourage your dog to repeat the action (to receive the reward). Positive reinforcement also involves deterring bad behavior by withholding any type of reward. For example, if your dog barks for attention, you ‘withhold the reward’ by completely ignoring her when she displays this behavior. Negative training can involve physical corrections, deterring bad behaviors through discomfort or fear. Positive reinforcement can be done using treats as training rewards, or sounds (such as clicker training), or with praise.
There are as many styles of training as there are dog trainers. It’s most important that you feel comfortable with the approach your dog trainer takes, so ask for detailed descriptions. If you don’t feel comfortable with physical corrections and choke collars, ask for your trainer’s opinion on those techniques.
Finally, ask to observe a class the trainer is teaching. A good trainer will have no problem with you observing their class, because they want to ensure the right fit between trainer and client. Watch to see if the people and dogs being trained are enjoying themselves. Is the session under control? Do the training techniques match what has been described to you? Is it an environment in which you can picture yourself? These are important questions.
The cost of dog training can vary widely based on type of training, trainer, and even geographical location. Group classes can be $50 to $200, usually for 5-8 classes. One-on-one sessions can start around $50 per hour and go up from there.