Building a Dream Team: Finding the Right Dog Trainer for You and Your Pup

Posted by Jackie Ly on

dog trainer training dogs

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Choosing the perfect dog trainer for your furry family member is like going on an adventure through a bustling market full of possibilities that are not all exactly alike.

After all, your dog is a family member who deserves the best care and training. And as much as you want to train them personally and keep them at your side at all times, you want them to receive the best lessons from professionals too, especially if you have a strict neighbourhood or if you have kids in the family.

Now, your responsibility is to find the right dog trainer. We want you and your dog to make the most out of your efforts and money, so here are helpful tips on how to find the right dog trainer.

Identify the type of help you need

First, you need to know what you want your dog to learn so you know what qualities you have to look for in a trainer. The three basic categories are:

1. Puppy training or basic manners

Consult a qualified dog trainer who uses gentle, welfare-friendly training methods such as positive reinforcement to teach you and your dog the skills needed to live peacefully together.

2. Long-standing ‘problem’ behaviour

It's best to seek the assistance of a more experienced skilled dog trainer or an Animal Behaviourist who collaborates with other health specialists in similar situations, just in case there's more going on than meets the eye. 

Together, you can decide whether you need additional assistance from a Behaviour Vet, if you can solve the problem together, or whether a dog trainer in your region (who may be more affordable and accessible) would be a better option for you.

3. Aggression, anxiety, or extreme fears

In any case, if the safety or welfare of your dog or any member of your household, or community is in danger, it is advisable to seek the advice of a Behavior Vet. When your dog exhibits extreme behaviours, it is usually because they are facing serious challenges; your dog is attempting to communicate with you in the only manner they know how.

Start your search with reputable associations

For a good start, find dog trainers from reputable associations like The Pet Professional Guild Australia, The Fear Free Pets Initiative, The Association of Pet Dog Trainers Australia, and The Delta Institute.

These organisations ensure that their members adhere to a high standard of professionalism, ethics, and compassionate training methods. Choosing a trainer who is affiliated with these recognized organisations gives you confidence that your dog will receive the best attention and training available. 

Look for trainers who use positive reinforcement strategies and put your dog's health above everything else. With the help of a qualified and caring trainer, you can set the groundwork for a strong, trusting connection with your canine friend.

Verify qualifications, education, and training

Look for a dog trainer who has at least a Certificate IV qualification and provides evidence of ongoing education in positive reinforcement training. Qualified dog trainers that prioritise ongoing learning are typically the most educated and skilled. 

  • Seek for recognised qualifications over experience  - You would not trust a doctor who claims to have “20 years of experience working with people” yet lacks qualifications. If the dog trainer's qualifications aren't listed on their website, that's an alarming sign.
  • Be cautious of a long list of short courses/conferences - A dog trainer might point out several conferences and workshops, but this does not imply that they have received a high-quality education. At times, recognition is awarded simply for attending a conference or seminar. Dog trainers undergoing ongoing learning in addition to the core qualification is a terrific thing, but that shouldn't replace a qualification. 
  • Look for feedback and social proof - Don't let a dog trainer's website or marketing materials influence the choice you make. A flashy website does not ensure a dog trainer's qualifications.

Ask questions and observe their training style

Make sure to ask the dog trainer a lot of questions about the kind of training methods they use and why. A reputable local dog trainer should be able to describe their training methods in simple terms.

Dog trainers teach people, so make sure you feel comfortable and relaxed as their student. Look for a trainer who uses a similar "positive reinforcement" approach with their students and dogs. They should be considerate, encouraging, and patient.

Observe the training class, including the teacher, students, and the dogs to see if they had fun. In addition, you might seek referrals from previous students to discover more about the trainer's techniques. 

Be cautious of dog trainers who offer solutions before knowing your dog’s history

Many things influence your dog's behaviour, including genetics, learning, health, personality, and how you live with and manage them. All dog trainers should be curious about both you and your dog so that they can acquire an in-depth understanding of what everyone needs.

Read reviews

Asking friends for suggestions on dog trainers is a fantastic idea. However, reading reviews is a good way to learn about local dog trainers if you don't have many friends who have used them before or can't seem to get any decent recommendations.

While many dog trainers proudly show reviews on their websites, be aware that they may not be legitimate. Instead, search for reviews on websites such as Google or Yelp. Read as many as possible to get a sense of how satisfied previous clients are.

Compare costs

Some dog trainers may provide greater value for your money. When you've narrowed down your choices, establish a list of each trainer's costs and services. You may realise that one offers better value than the other, or that there are certain costs you did not see earlier. 

However, don’t just go for the cheapest option but offer less than others, or to someone you’re uneasy to leave your dog with. Weigh your options and see which one of them aligns both with your budget, and the qualities you’re looking for in a trainer.

Learn more about dog behaviour

Learning more about dog body language and behaviour will teach you how dogs communicate (and how to interpret them). You may learn a lot about a trainer's competence and approach by watching the dogs they work with. Look for signs of happy, calm engagement - this is the type of relationship you want with your dog! 

When you have knowledge on a dog's behaviour, you can easily spot on the first few lessons if your dog is happy and enjoying the training, or if they show signs of fear and uneasiness with the trainer.

Bonus: Trust your instincts

This is also excellent general life advice: always follow your instincts. If it doesn't feel right, perhaps you should go with someone else or conduct further research.

If your dog is generally friendly but acts reserved or nervous around the dog trainer, you may consider talking with other trainers. It might be a good idea to inquire with others about the dog trainer and their training methods.

Choosing the right dog trainer is one of the many responsibilities of a fur parent, and actively seeking tips on how to do so shows that you want only the best care for your dog.  Keep in mind that once you've chosen a dog trainer, make sure you know what you'll need to bring to the training sessions. The most important thing is to have a positive attitude and willingness to learn.

Actively participating in your dog's training program will help them become a well-behaved member of your family and a safer member of the community–a win-win situation for the both of you!

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