After working more than 10 years in the animal field and 5 years as a service dog trainer, I had the chance to meet several different types of dog trainers and specialists in dog behaviors; from the sniffer dog at the borders, to the guide dog, from the choker training to clicker training and positive reinforcement. Opinions in the dog world can contradict one another. Everyone has their own opinions on each technique. I’m not here to tell you who is wrong and who’s right, I will only guide you to choose the right services you need for you and your dog.
The variety of services and products offered to pets has grown considerably during the last years; from health and wellness to fashion choices. Owners now have limitless options for all their pet’s needs; including different trainers that use varying techniques. There are even psychologists for dogs! Hiring a dog trainer can be a difficult task. You have to look for someone that you will put your trust in. The truth is; you are doing it right. You care about the wellbeing of your dog, which is the most beautiful quality of a pet owner.
My first piece of advice for pet owners is to stop feeling guilty! I meet many dog owners who feel guilty for their inability to understand their dog’s needs. It’s normal to feel lost if you have little or no experience training dogs.
In misfield, experiences is a key, but don’t be afraid to keep an open mind when it comes to young trainers. Many have natural talent! Like my old boss used to say at the Mira foundation; “It’s something natural and hard to explain, some people are able to read and understand dog’s behavior, they see things that others can’t see. It is also important for owners to educate themselves about the different methods of training that are out there. For instance, did you know that there is right and wrong way to use a choke collar; or clicker training is a positive reinforcement training and it involves a lot of patience and is detail oriented. A trainer can help you with the many steps it takes to learn how to use those techniques effectively.
Choosing which kind of training your dog needs can help narrow down the search for the trainer that is best suited for your pet; whether you would like your dog to learn basic tricks/training or to correct unwanted behaviour. It is always a good idea to check your trainer’s experience and/or specialisations. Some trainers specialize in specific breeds or specific domains ( ie; agility, rehabilitations, etc). The training techniques will differ depending on the breed, rescue status and other factors. It is important to feel comfortable with the trainer you choose. You need to be able to communicate with them and to trust in their abilities.
Finally, be prepared to work and do your part. Some may think that work ends with the trainer, when in reality, trainers are there to guide you, teach you and give advice. The bulk of the work has to come from you, the person the dog spend the most time with. Progress does not happen overnight!
Regardless of the method or trainer selected. The fact that you are concerned about your pet’s well being clearly shows that you are a loving and compassionate pet owner. When in doubts, it’s always a good idea to ask and follow your veterinarian’s advice!