We get questions all the time about how to pick a dog trainer. How you can tell which one is the best and does more expensive mean better. Does more experience mean the dog trainer is more qualified? To help our loyal followers, we have broken it down into 10 easy questions to guide you into a well informed decision.
First, let me start by saying. There is no hard and fast rules as each situation will be different and the best dog trainer for one dog and one situation may not be the best for the next dog. Therefore, take each dog trainer on a case by case basis.
#1 What Training Methods Do You Use?
You need to know how the dog trainer will teach your dog to follow commands and that you will be comfortable with the process. For example, I am not comfortable with punishment. Therefore, I would pick a dog trainer who uses positive reinforcement. That does not mean I would not eliminate a dog that uses a slip leash but I would not use a dog trainer that uses a prong collar.
#2 How long have you been training dogs?
Years of experience does not automatically equate to a better trainer. However, if you have a stubborn dog or a very bad problem, then you might want to go with more experience. More experience does mean the dog trainer has seen a wider variety of behaviors. Hopefully, this means they have learned from this experience and could help train the different behaviors better.
#3 Where did you learn to train dogs?
Dog training is an unregulated industry. Anyone can call themselves a dog trainer. I got my start at a vet who trained dogs. I was trained by a vet and word of mouth spread. This is how I got hired at a guide dog school where my formal training took place. For years, my only training was by the vet. This did not make me a bad dog trainer but I was under the direction of someone who was formally trained.
#4 Do you participate in continuing education programs?
Education should never stop. Someone who went to college will tell you that as well. A dog trainer is no different. He or she should continue to read and go to classes or seminars on dog training to keep his or her skills current and up to date.
#5 What is your experience with my dog’s breed?
Pure bred breeds have traits that share some characteristics. For example, pretty much all basset hounds are stubborn and easily distracted. A good dog trainer will know this and keep it in mind when training. Golden Retrievers are full of energy and require a good play session to get rid of some of the energy before training.
#6 Have you worked with my dog’s problems before?
Whether you are working on simple housebreaking or you are working on uncontrollable barking, ask the dog trainer about his or her experience in the issue. A dog trainer should have no problem the depth of knowledge he or she has with your issue and how often they work with the situation.
#7 Do you have references I can contact?
Like any other job interview references are a must. Whether the references are in the form of written referrals from happy clients or phone numbers of clients from the past, you should have a way to contact past customers. While written testimonials are great, be sure to call a few to speak to someone yourself. Word of mouth is everything in dog training industry.
#8 How long will the training last?
This question is two parts. First, you need to know how long each session will last. Second, you need to know how long it will take before you see results. The trainer should give you a general idea on how long they expect to train your dog. Don’t be too surprised if the trainer says immediately either. Some training does show immediate results.
#9 How can I continue training after we finish your training?
A good dog trainer knows training does no good if you can’t continue it once they leave. Some trainers will suggest a 3 month follow up to make sure everything is going fine in the home. If not, don’t worry about it but be sure the dog trainer is available after the program is over. Follow-up training is very important as dogs will lose training if you stop working with your dog.
#10 How much do you charge?
Once you understand the full spectrum of the training, you can talk about prices. Asking before this point is putting the cart before the horse. In addition to the cost of training, ask about equipment charges. You will need to know if you need to buy crates, special collars, or any other equipment for the training. If the dog trainer sales the equipment, ask if you get a discount for purchasing the equipment from them.