Canine Corner: Ten questions you should ask any dog trainer

As more and more dog-owners start to appreciate the value of good dog training, more and more people seek to carve out a new career as a dog trainer, thus making it difficult for the owner to know if he or she is making the right choice.

Some dog trainers consistently achieve better results than others, so apart from perhaps relying on an informed recommendation from your veterinarian, what questions should you ask any prospective trainer for your precious pooch?

1. How long have you been training dogs? A good obvious opening question.

2. Are treats an important ingredient of your training? If so, beware! You need your dog to respond to you without having to use treats. This is Florida, where there are all sorts of hazards and threats to dogs, and if you didn't have a treat handy...

3. Are you bonded and insured? The answer to this must be yes, as an accident could occur during training, which could lead to a substantial liability claim (again, "this is Florida!") so the trainer should definitely have this cover in force.

4. How can I view some of your testimonials? In this modern high-tech era, most trainers will have website links to their testimonials — we have links to literally hundreds on ours — or they may be able to show you signed letters. Beware of a trainer who fails to grant you access to a good quality and quantity of testimonials.

5. Are you in any way physical with the dogs you train? On a personal basis, we never hit, alpha-roll, pin down or squeeze any dog, nor would we ever use such devices as pinch collars, prong collars, chokers, citronella, etc, as such techniques at best give the dogs the wrong message, and often actually make the dogs behavior even worse!

6. What happens if I move? This is particularly relevant in Collier County where many dog-owners also own another home somewhere further north. If the trainer has a colleague near your other home, who is willing to offer a free and seamless transition to their training, then you really have "won a watch"!

7. How much do you charge? An important question, but not the most important one.

8. Has any local vet engaged you to train their dog(s)? A "yes" here is always a good sign.

9. Do you offer any form of guarantee? Just as with, say, an interior decorator, you are much better paying to get a job properly completed, than paying an hourly rate where the outcome is uncertain.

10. How will your training affect the relationship I have with my dog? This is important, as some clients (quite unjustifiably) fear their relationship with their dog will not be as strong post-training. On the contrary, we have found, without exception, that the relationship becomes stronger, as the dog becomes more confident in his leader who is now dispensing clear canine communication, and therefore, because they know what is going to happen next, the dog becomes less stressed. We estimate that around 80 percent of the dogs we see are under some form of stress, which is a major driver towards their particular misbehavior(s).

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Colin Glass is the Naples-based master trainer for Bark Busters, the world's largest dog training company, which started in Australia in 1989 and came to the United States in 2000. Since inception, more than 750,000 dogs have been trained worldwide using its dog-friendly, natural methods. Bark Busters is the only international dog training company that offers guaranteed lifetime support. For more information, visit www.BarkBusters.com, where readers can complete a Dog Behavioral Quiz to rate their dogs' behavior.

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Comments » 1

info#261336 writes:

Just my opinion on some of the questions...

*For how long have you been training dogs? Be aware of this...because the use of positive dog training has become popular in recent years...so anybody with 15+ years of experience probably started using punishment based methods. Some of them switched, but not all.
Instead I would ask if the trainer is certified. The certification council for pet dog trainers (CCPDT) is a good, positive based, accreditation group. To be certified you have to take a knowledge test and demonstrated a certain amount of experience time. As well as have clients, dog trainer collegues and vet recommendation letters.

*Treats are important! If the trainer knows what he/she is doing, then you will train with treats but you will NOT need treats with you for your pet to respond. He will also suggest other types of non-food rewards.

*Do NOT expect a guarantee from a good dog trainer. That is a recipe for disaster. A good dog trainer will answer that question telling you that he will try many different "tools" to solve your problem. A good dog trainer will teach _you_ how to use these tools properly, but it is, in the end, the work of the owner that will guarantee good results. Since the owner is the one spending significant amounts of time with his best friend.

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