Choosing a dog trainer or finding a dog trainer that is going to be right for you and your canine student can be a real minefield. You need a dog trainer that you like, that can actually deliver results and above all, a dog trainer that fits with your own ethos and approach to teaching - both for you and your dog's benefit. In this guide, alongside dog training experts, Bark Busters, we'll take you, step by step, through the process of choosing a dog trainer that will be the right fit for you and give the questions you need to ask to give yourself total peace of mind that any dog trainers you shortlist will be able to deliver the results you crave.
You have the dog, you have the lead, and you’ve read all the books and seen all the videos. Unfortunately leads, books and videos don’t train dogs, you have to! You need proper advice and practical coaching from a properly trained and experienced person who will take your individual dog and your individual needs into consideration. So where to start?
You could have a private trainer at home, giving you one to attention, and working to your personal specification. This is certainly the best option for a difficult dog, or for an owner with physical difficulties. Advantages include the fact that you would be training individually in your own home and local dog walking area, and learning to socialise your dog amongst your local canine neighbours.
As long as you ensure that the trainer is professional, insured and is working to modern positive standards, the only drawback is the cost. Depending on where you live, expect to pay from £30 per hour, more for behavioural work.
Many people prefer the Club option for social reasons, but although it is cheaper and more sociable, this route can be fraught with danger. Attend in the first instance without your dog, and observe the general atmosphere and teaching methods.
Danger spots to look out for when choosing a dog trainer:
Dogs and owners walking in a circle shouting ‘heel’. Nothing can be learned like this, and it leads to frustration all round. It also means that the Instructor is not familiar with up to date teaching methods.
Instructors shouting at owners, encouraging rough handling.
- The presence of aggressive dogs
- Slippery floors
- Lots of dogs and owners looking confused
- A general lack of calm
Outside our training workshops we have a large bin. Not for the pooper scoop bags, as you might suppose, but a convenient place for Instructors to leave their egos! Inflated egos prevent good teaching, and however good a dog trainer your instructor might be, if he/she has this problem he/she is not a good teacher.
A good Club will have small classes (no more than six people to an Instructor) the atmosphere will be calm and pleasant, no shouting or yanking on the lead, and the dogs and owners will appear to be having fun!
Can a dog club solve behaviour problems such as fighting, wrecking the house, or attacking the Hoover? Frankly no, these problems need to be dealt with in your own home by an experienced behaviour advisor. Dogs never have ‘just the one’ problem, but often it is only one of many which drives owners mad, or proves to be expensive. If your dog has any behaviour problems, sort those out first, as training will not help.
Do dominant dogs benefit from training? Eventually, but how do you spot dominance in your dog? Most dogs will assume dominant behaviour if they feel the lack of leadership within the household. A good rule of thumb is a dog who won’t be groomed won’t be trained.
The reason for this is that superior or so-called dominant dogs will not accept grooming from their inferiors. Should you find yourself in this position, get advice and sort out who makes the rules in your house. Dogs do not appreciate being in charge, this is your job, but they will take on the role if you refuse to.
What can you expect to learn at a dog training club?
Walking on the lead without pulling, returning when called, sitting, lying down and staying when told to are the basic building blocks, and you can expect to learn these exercises first. Should competition work be your goal, you will need to find a specialist Club.
Should you simply want a well behaved pet, try a club which hosts The Kennel Club’s Good Citizen Scheme, as this means that the training should be well planned, follows a well thought out route and you get to earn certificates and rosettes along the way! It also means that the Club is listed with The Kennel Club, and that it has valid insurance. The latter is important, as should you have an accident, or you or your dog suffer injury, an Insurance claim will need to be made. Well trained Instructors will show you how to use play, food, body language and voice to train your dog, and never a check chain in sight!