Dog Training

How to Choose a Trainer + Training Tips

Why Should You Consider Training Your Dog?

We all love and adore our dogs. They’re our best friend –right? Nevertheless, dogs and people are different animals and a dog’s tendency to jump up to greet, bark, dig, chew, etc. can be very irksome to humans. To make the most of your relationship with your dog, you need to teach him/her some important skills that will help them live harmoniously in a human household.

Learning how to train your dog will improve your life and theirs, enhance the bond between you, and ensure their safety—and it can be a lot of fun. Dogs are usually eager to learn, and the key to success is good communication. Your dog needs to understand how you’d like them to behave and why it’s in their best interest to comply with your wishes.

What to look for in a trainer

It’s essential that the dog trainer you select uses humane training techniques that encourage appropriate behavior through such positive reinforcement as food, attention, play, or praise. Look for a trainer who ignores undesirable responses or withholds rewards until the dog behaves appropriately. Training techniques should never involve yelling, choking, shaking the scruff, tugging on the leash, alpha rolling (forcing the dog onto his back), or other actions that frighten or inflict pain.

Professionals in the pet-behavior field fall into four main categories:

  • Trainers
  • Certified Professional Dog Trainers (CPDTs)
  • Applied animal behaviorists, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAABs) and Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (ACAABs)
  • Diplomats of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (Dip ACVBs)

For most basic training needs we recommend working with Certified Professional Dog Trainers (CPDTs). The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), an independent organization created by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), offers an international certification program for dog trainers. To earn the designation of Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT), an individual must demonstrate that she has accrued a requisite number of working hours as a dog trainer, provide letters of recommendation and pass a standardized test that evaluates her or his knowledge of canine ethnology, basic learning theory, canine husbandry and teaching skills. After meeting the necessary requirements and passing the exam, a CPDT must abide by a code of ethics and earn continuing education credits to maintain certification. You can find a list of CCPDT certified trainers at www.ccpdt.org.

But not all trainers are created equal. Don’t hire any professional without first thoroughly interviewing her or him and asking for a couple of references from former clients or veterinarians. When you contact a pet-behavior professional, ask about anything and everything. A good behaviorist or trainer will be happy to speak with you about her or his qualifications, background and treatment or training methods. A few important topics to discuss and questions to ask include the following:

  • Ask about the behavior consultant’s education in the science of animal behavior, as well as his or her hands-on experienceHow did she learn what she knows about animal behavior?
  • Ask about the consultant’s or trainer’s certifications or other credentialsThese indicate that the individual has met strict requirements in terms of academic or professional training, experience and professional ethics.
  • Look for behavior experts and trainers who emphasize rewarding good behaviors and use the least aversive, and most gentle and effective methodsDoes she or he seem knowledgeable about behavior modification techniques like counter conditioning and desensitization, and how to use food and humane training equipment? Discuss which training methods the person will suggest or use to treat your pet’s problem. Do you feel comfortable with her or his training philosophy?
  • Avoid a consultant or trainer who guarantees specific resultsSuch a professional either ignores or doesn’t understand the complexity of animal behavior.
  • Look for a consultant or trainer who treats you with respect, is not abrupt or abrasive, and won’t intimidate you into doing something that you don’t believe is in your dog’s best interest.
  • If you’re interested in a group class, ask the trainer if you can watch a class or two before enrollingAre the people and dogs having a good time and experiencing some success in learning? Take note of the trainer’s ability to work with people as well as animals.

Training Tips

If you’re on a budget or unable to find a qualified trainer near you here are some tips to help you and your dog develop a deeper bond.

House Training

It is natural for a puppy to pee in the house until they are trained but if your adult dog who has never had an accident does then you first need to rule out a medical condition. If your dog soils indoors or at inappropriate times, it’s important to visit her veterinarian to rule out medical causes before doing anything else. Some common medical reasons for inappropriate urination and defecation follow. Click on the link to learn more training techniques to house train your dog.

Teaching Leash Manners to Your Dog

Dogs have to be taught to walk nicely on leash. They’re not born knowing that they shouldn’t pull ahead or lag behind. Teaching leash manners can be challenging because dogs move faster than us and are excited about exploring outdoors. Click on the link for tips on how to teach your dog to walk nicely on a leash.

Learning to Come When Called

Teaching your dog to come to you when you call her (also known as the recall) is the most important lesson you can teach her. A dog who responds quickly and consistently when you call her can enjoy freedoms that other dogs cannot. Click on the link to learn realistic recall expectations.

Learning Not to Jump Up on People

It’s natural for dogs to jump on people to greet them. After all we’re taller than them. But this type of behavior is not always welcome. Click on the link to learn what to do about this problem.

Dogs Chasing Cats

Dogs chase cats for two reasons. Some want to play with cats. Others perceive cats as prey and will harm a cat if they catch her. A predatory dog obviously poses a more serious problem, but even a playful dog can seriously harm a cat. Click on the link to learn tips on how to deal with this issue.

Teaching Your Dog to “Leave It”

“Leave it” is a phrase that you can use when you want your dog to leave something alone. After your dog learns what “Leave it” means, you can tell him to avoid things that might hurt him, such as trash or debris on the ground, or things that could get him into trouble in other ways, like unfriendly dogs or people who don’t want to meet him. Click on the link to learn how to teach, “leave it.”

Additional Training Resource Links: