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Tips on Hiring a Professional Dog Trainer

You’ve just adopted a dog or perhaps you’re thinking about adopting but want some professional help with training. Maybe you want to start when you get your puppy so they will learn good behaviors from the start. Or maybe your dog has some behaviors such as pulling on leash or jumping on guests that you’d like to change. Googling dog training videos only gets you so far and you’ve decided to hire a professional. But how do you choose someone you and your dog will feel comfortable working with and can help with those behaviors?

Here are some tips to help choose a professional dog trainer that’s right for you.

Look at the dog trainer’s website and social media.

There is no professional license to become a dog trainer. Teachers, doctors, and plumbers have put in hours and hours of work to begin their career. And they take continuing education courses as well, keeping up with the latest studies, technology, etc. But anyone can claim they’re a dog trainer.

Some trainers have been to a dog training school and will list their certification on their website. Many good trainers haven’t been to a school; maybe they learned from a mentor. But listing a certification shows they have gone above and beyond to learn and hone their craft.

Are their pictures or videos of them with their dogs? Have they competed in any sports with their dog? Again it’s not a necessity, but exhibiting ribbons and titles shows the prospective client the trainer has taught their dog to some level of proficiency.

Read reviews and testimonials.

You should be able to find these on social media and some dog trainers have a specific page on their website for written and/or video testimonials. Listen to what the client has to say about their experience.

The trainer’s demeanor during the consultation.

Sometimes it’s difficult to get a read on a person when you’re on the phone and that’s why some trainers perform an in-home consultation.

Do they answer your questions directly? Do they make you feel uncomfortable or does it feel like they understand what you’re going through and can sympathize? Do they participate in continuing education such as webinars, seminars, or in-person workshops?

Have they trained your breed of dog before and have they trained the specific problem behavior(s) you’re having? Not having trained your breed before might not be a deal breaker because we see many more Goldendoodles and Labradoodles here in the Roanoke Valley than we do Greyhounds or Saint Bernards.

A trainer who hasn’t been in business that long might not have had the opportunity to work with a less popular breed.

Beware of red flags-a guarantee, one lesson and done.

A former training client of mine took her puppy to a big box store to work on socialization and found a trainer working with a dog. My client’s dog was excited to see the other dog (which just happened to be its sibling) and was pulling on leash to see his family.

The client related to me that the trainer berated her and her dog’s behavior, bragging she should give it to him for an hour and he would have the dog walking beside him with his leash in his pocket-or her money back. My client was confused and appalled at his behavior.

Dog’s aren’t robots-they are living beings-and we can’t guarantee they’ll display the same behavior every time. If someone “guarantees” they can train your dog, run. Another red flag is if they say they can “fix” your dog’s bad behaviors in only one session. Just like when we went to school as a child, we had to practice our ABCs or multiplication tables over and over. The teacher didn’t expect us to know them just because he or she taught them once.

Take a day or two to get all the information and decide. In the dog training world, it can be difficult to compare two trainers because you’re not comparing apples apples. Trainers have different approaches to training as well as varying levels of education and experience.

In the end, find someone you’re comfortable with who will show you the basics of how to train your dog. After all, the trainer will leave after a few weeks and you will want to have the confidence to continue training and enjoying life with your dog.

***If you have a puppy or older dog and would like some help training your dog in your home or virtually, click on this link and sign up for a free consultation. We would love to hear all about your dog!


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