Dog Trainer: How to choose one
Jennifer Prince, DVM
Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc.
a good trainer for your dog or puppy will make a huge difference in
how you and your pet relate to each other for the life of your pet.
Attend a class or two before you get a puppy and register for class.
This allows you the opportunity to see how the instructor teaches.
Points to consider
when choosing a trainer
Reputation: You may find a trainer by
asking your veterinarian, humane shelter, family members, or friends
whom they recommend. Talk to people who have had their pets in the
trainer's classes. Ask the trainer for references.
Find out how long the person has been
Is the trainer familiar with the
Canine Good Citizen Program and are they qualified as an evaluator?
What education and continuing
education has the trainer had?
Is the trainer affiliated with any
dog training or behavior associations?
Choose a trainer that has trained dogs
that surpasses what you would like to do with your dog. See how the
trainer's dogs behave. If the trainer's dogs are not under control,
are jumping on people, and are barking, the trainer is not going to be
able to show you how to teach your dog to not jump on people or bark.
You will need to have an idea of what you want to accomplish with your
dog. Do you want a well-mannered housedog, a field dog, a dog you can
show in the obedience ring, or a dog with whom you can do
search and rescue work? Finding a trainer that trains dogs that
meet your expectations will make the training process that much
Can the trainer communicate well
with both the people and the dogs?
Does the trainer answer questions in
terms you can understand?
Does the trainer provide written
If you are uncomfortable asking questions or do not like the
instructor's methods, find another trainer. Training methods vary.
Your dog may not respond to one method, but respond very well to
another. If your dog does not seem to respond to the method the
trainer uses, the trainer should be willing to show other methods for
teaching your dog. The trainer should use positive reinforcement for
Anyone training dogs needs to have a sense of humor. The people and
dogs in the class should be enjoying it. It should be obvious to you
that the trainer likes working with people and dogs.
What is the class size?
Do people and dogs receive some
Is there enough room for all the
people and dogs to participate in all of the activities?
Are all family members encouraged to
participate, especially in the puppy classes?
Must all dogs have proof of
vaccination before starting the class?
Common types of
classes: These classes are for puppies
about 2-5 months old. The socialization under controlled situations is
the absolute best thing you can do for your puppy. In addition to
socialization, topics covered include
barking. You are taught how to teach the dog.
Walking on a leash without pulling; sitting, and
coming are basics that are covered in class.
Many people do not think they need to
take their puppy to classes because they have other dogs for
socialization or they have trained other dogs and feel they know how
to train this one. The controlled social situation of classes where
the puppy is exposed to new people, dogs, and places while being asked
to respond to commands is very difficult to replicate in a home
setting. Classes are not just for teaching the puppy to respond to
commands but to respond to commands while other dogs and people are
trying to distract him. The socialization aspect of classes cannot be
replaced especially for the 2 to 4 month-old puppy. This socialization
and training is worth the effort. Remember, the most common reason for
healthy dogs to be put to sleep or relinquished to the humane
societies is poor behavior.
obedience classes: These classes are for
dogs older than about 5 months of age. They reinforce what was started
in puppy classes and continue on to include heel, sit, stay, down, and
come. The American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Program
is a program designed to reward dogs who have good manners at home and
in the community. Dogs that graduate from basic obedience classes
should be able to pass the 10-item test. Dogs do not need to be AKC
registered to test.
obedience classes: These classes work on
response time and finesse. They may be geared to those who wish to
show in obedience competitions.
dog training: Therapy Dog International (TDI)
is a volunteer group organized to provide qualified handlers and their
Therapy Dogs for visitations to institutions, facilities, and any
other place where Therapy Dogs are needed. The goal is to provide
comfort and companionship by sharing the dog with patients in
hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities where the Therapy Dog
is needed. Dogs do not need to be AKC registered to participate.
Conformation classes: These classes are
for those who wish to show in the breed ring where the dog is judged
on its looks and the way it moves.
classes: These classes are for those who
want to have fun with their dog. Dogs are taught how to go over,
under, and through various obstacles. It is like taking your dog to a
playground. This class can be for fun or to prepare for competition in
and field dog classes: Training groups
are available in most areas of the country for those who wish to teach
their dogs to perform
field work. Groups usually focus on one type of field event such
as retrieving or pointing.
and Rescue (SAR): Persons who are
interested in training their dogs to do
search and rescue often join a SAR group which is a made up of a
group of volunteers. The group trains the dogs to search and find
missing people who may be dead or alive. The dogs work at various
training levels including searching in woods, in the water from a
boat, and in buildings damaged from natural disasters such as
earthquakes or terrorism.
These are just some of the ways you can
spend time with your dog. The benefits of attending training classes
with your dog include having a well-mannered dog that is invited to
come with when you visit family and friends. Other types of classes
may be available in your community. Contact several trainers and
veterinary clinics for more information. The AKC web site,
www.akc.org/index.html, has more information regarding competing
with purebred dogs.
Drs. Foster and Smith, Inc.
Reprinted as a courtesy and with permission from
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