Fetching The Perfect Dog Trainer By Katenna Jones What To Expect From Training

Bird Dog & Retriever News

April/ May 2014 issue page 8

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What To Expect From Training

By Katenna Jones

When considering working with a dog trainer or behaviour professional, you may have several basic questions, such as where training will take place, how much it will cost, or how long it will take. This section provides you with some basic information to help find the right trainer and situation to suit your needs.


Where the training of your dog should take place usually depends on your needs. Here are a few common locations:

In-home: Training typically occurs in your home or yard. You will work with a private instructor, and training is tailored to your specific needs.

Training on location: May occur if you meet a trainer or behaviourist at a specific location, such as at a park, on a bike path, or any location where your dog’s specific needs can be met.

Training facilities: Group classes are typically held in the trainer’s facility. Private training or behaviour consultations may also occur one on one at a training facility. These typically are large enough so that can accommodate several dogs and their families at the same time with limited and controlled distractions. Facilities may be a privately owned business or may be part of a local animal shelter. Many also have pet supplies for sale and may offer additional services, such as grooming or boarding.

Board and training: This is when a dog is “boarded” at a training facility and trained in the owner’s absence. This type of training typically occurs over multiple days.

Day training: Training of this sort is similar to board and training, in that training occurs in the owner’s absence. The difference is that it occurs during the day, typically while the owner is at work. Day training may take place at a training facility, at the dog’s home, or at another location.

Veterinary clinics: Sometimes behaviour professionals are on staff at veterinary offices to assist pet owners with serious behaviour concerns. In such cases, your consultation and follow-ups may take place in a veterinary clinic. Some veterinary clinics also hold group training classes.


Prices for training depend on the service, demand, and geographic area. There is no set price for dog training or behaviour consultation, as each professional sets his or her own fee range. Discounts are occasionally offered for adopted pets, elderly pets, a package of services, or owners on fixed incomes.

In general, private training is more costly. However, such training is tailored to your specific needs, so you will often get more value when addressing specific concerns. Think of it like exercise personal trainer is more costly than a general gym membership, but it is faster and more effective.

Group training tends to be less costly than private training, but keep in mind that the trainer must address the needs of everyone in the group, so your training will not be tailored just to you. However, if you are looking for socialization, working on general skills and manners, or if the entire group has the same issue (such as in a shy dog class), group training could be perfect for you. Also, group training allows “enforced” weekly training supervision from your instructor, which can be a great motivator for busy people and helps prevent practicing skills incorrectly between less-structured, private lessons.

I recommend you contact several professionals in your area to determine the range of prices you can expect to pay, as well as to interview the trainer for compatibility with your style and needs.

Length of commitment

Length of training sessions depends on the issues you are looking to address. If you attend a group class, most typically last six to eight weeks and meet once or twice a week. If your group class is for a specific behavioural issue, like dog aggression or shyness, the class may continue indefinitely or transition into subsequent “levels” as each dog “graduates” at his own pace. In order for training to be effective, you must be willing to commit the time required.

Private training can vary from one or two sessions to sessions across a year or more, depending on the training objectives you set for you and your dog or the severity of the issues you are addressing. Talk to your trainer about time frames, goals, and expectations when beginning lessons.

Where to find professionals

OK, now you have a better idea of what you are looking for. So, where do you start looking? If you were sending your child to day-care, or needed a surgeon, you wouldn’t schedule an appointment with a random person from the yellow pages, right? You would want to do some homework, get more information, and find the best professional you could. The same holds true for finding a professional trainer. Following are suggestions that will help you narrow down your choices to a manageable list of professionals to interview.

Network with other dog owners

Asking other dog owners can be a great method for finding a good trainer or behaviour professional. If you see a well behaved dog, or if you know of someone who worked on training or behaviour problems in the past, find out who they trained with. Referrals from people with first-hand experience are often useful ways to find someone-or rule someone out. Be sure to find out what specific skills were addressed. For example, if you meet someone whose dog is great at agility, but you are looking for help with your aggressive dog, the trainer recommended may not be right for you. Always ask for references that might pertain to the specific skills or behaviors you wish to address with your own dog, and follow up with those references. By asking multiple dog owners in your area which trainers they used, you should start to hear a few familiar names. However, keep in mind this is not the only, nor necessarily the best way, to find a great trainer. Ask around, but be sure to do your own independent research and be careful not to just go with the first recommendation you receive.

Network with professionals

Asking dog professionals can be a good step in finding skilled trainers or behaviour consultants. Contact multiple sources, such as veterinary clinics, animal shelters or humane societies, dog walkers or pet sitters, doggie day-care facilities, or groomers. Ask for referrals; they may be able to help point you in the right direction. Be sure to ask the people you contact specific questions, such as whether they have had direct experience with that person, what they think of them, and if they know of specific successful cases.

Proceed with caution

Keep in mind that just because a trainer or behaviour consultant comes recommended to you by another professional, does not necessarily mean they are the best one for you. Sometimes trainers are recommended, even by your veterinarian, simply because they left a pile of cards at the front desk. So, do some digging and be objective! Speak to the person before making an appointment-picking a trainer is like picking a pediatrician: you need a good working relationship and someone you feel really hears and responds to your needs and questions.

If you are a non-training animal professional creating a referral list, be sure to look carefully and completely into the dog training or behaviour professionals you recommend. The pet owning public looks to you as a reliable resource and it is your responsibility to ensure that the professionals you refer to are qualified. Watch a few classes and ask questions. In some cases, your recommendation may mean the difference between an owner keeping or giving up a pet. It may even mean the difference between life and death for that animal.


Looking at printed advertisements (in newspapers and the yellow Pages) could be one way to start, but they are not necessarily the best way to find a truly great professional. Keep in mind that many well respected, effective, qualified professionals do not advertise a great deal because they don’t need to. Word of mouth is the best advertisement out there, and the best trainers and behaviour consultants are always busy. If you see a specific trainer whose name and logo are in every pet magazine, on every website, and on every telephone pole, proceed with caution and

Do your homework.

Beware of misleading marketing -- if you find a trainer who claims to be “nationally recognized,” “award winning,” or who “trains celebrity pets,” be sure to ask for specific proof to verify such claims. If they claim to be certified, check to see if the certification comes from a nationally recognized organization. ‘Your trainer or behaviour consultant’s credentials should be accurate, verifiable, and honest. Quality trainers don’t need to exaggerate or embellish.

To summarize

Go through the above checklists and recommendations, and follow those tips you that find most helpful. Take a little time and do some detective work before signing on with a school or trainer. People often start looking for a trainer when problems arise with their dog (or when a new puppy comes home and chaos has as ensued!), This means that you may be under stress when trying to make this decision, so breathe, pick a few pointers from above and, above all, find someone you can talk to and who will help you enjoy training your dog. Training should be fun as well as effective!

Interviewing a prospective trainer

Once you identify a list of potential trainers, the next step is to interview them to find the right one (or two) to meet. Whether you interview them in person, over the phone, or via email, don’t be shy about getting the information you need to make an educated decision. Following are questions to keep in mind when interviewing a trainer or behaviour professional. (Note that a good trainer will, at some point, want to interview you as well to learn more about you and your dog).

May I contact past clients who experienced problems similar to mine?

This is a great way to determine whether someone is right for you. You can find a trainer or behaviour consultant with all the certifications in the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that professional is effective or competent. Ask for references from past clients who experienced similar issues that were successfully resolved. Be sure to contact those references and ask what issues they worked on, how long it took to complete training, and what the training outcome was. Also, determine how comfortable that person was with the professional, the training techniques and tools that were used, and how that person originally found that professional. If the professional you are contacting cannot or will not provide quality references, it may be wise to move on.

May I watch you train?

Observation is a really good way to gauge a trainer’s level of skill, especially if you are considering group classes. Ask if you may drop in to observe a class and watch the trainer in action. Look for dogs with relaxed bodies and wagging tails, smiling clients and families, and engaged, clear instruction. If the dogs or owners look agitated, frustrated, or bored, you may want to observe a few other classes. If you are not permitted to watch a class, look elsewhere. Behaviorists may not allow you to sit in on a consultation for confidentiality reasons, but references should still be available.

Can you guarantee my problems can be resolved?

You should never work with a trainer who guarantees anything, especially when it comes to behaviour problems. Results depend on individual ability, dedication, time, resources, learning style, and the nature of your dog’s problem. If your trainer or behaviour professional guarantees that they can “fix” or “cure” your pet’s problems in a certain number of lessons, you should think twice and ask how that will be guaranteed. An experienced professional who understands the nuances of animal behaviour and training knows that there are rarely guarantees when working with animals and behaviour.

Do you typically collaborate with your clients’ other professionals, such as my veterinarian or previous trainer?

Collaboration is an important aspect of dog training and behaviour modification. Any trainer you work with should be open to collaborating with other professionals, such as veterinarians who specialize in behaviour, your own veterinarian, or any previous trainers you may have had. A trainer or behaviourist should never advise you on medical, nutritional, holistic, or other veterinary-related information without consulting with a veterinarian unless they are licensed or certified in such specialities.

How long have you been training Professionally?

Professional experience is very important to ensuring that the person you are considering has experience working with the specific issues and needs you want addressed. If you are looking for help with an anxious dog, you need to make sure the professional you choose has successfully worked with anxiety issues in the past. Be sure to also ask what type from a of professional training they received, and from where. When working with trainers who have been in the field for decades, be sure to talk to them about how their technique and knowledge has evolved over the years. A trainer should not be training today the same way they did 20 years ago!


Thanks to Dogwise Publishing we offer you an excerpt from Fetching The Perfect Dog Trainer By Katenna Jones Copyrights Dogwise Publishing 2012


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