What many people don’t know is that anyone can call themselves a dog trainer or behaviorist because there is no government regulated national school or certification.
Many organizations provide certification that sounds official but these “titles” are only as good as the program itself. It’s important to be able to tell the difference between a professional dog trainer and one who just happens to like dogs.
Before deciding on a specific class or trainer, pet-owners should consider the following 7 tips:
Do a reference check – Ask where the person got their education, who they mentored with, and the last time they were at a conference. Be weary of “certifications”. Even though there are some wonderful organizations that test and certify trainers, many on-line schools will also certify a trainer after they have completed a simple on-line course. The only independently verified certification organization is the Certification Counsel for Professional Dog Trainers. Any trainer that takes the time to become a CPDT, takes their profession seriously.
The voice of experience – How many hours of hands-on dog training experience does the person have? This is important. It’s easy to read a few books and say you are a dog trainer, but without extensive hands on experience, you don’t know if the person is really able to observe, assess and modify dog behavior. Please make sure your trainer has at least 3 years professional experience and over 1500 hours of hands on training.
Reputation is everything – Ask to speak to former clients. Ask these clients if they enjoyed the class and if their dog showed improvement. These testimonials are often the best indicator of a trainer’s ability. Also, consult your veterinarian, other pet professionals in the area, and Yelp to see what people are saying about the trainer and her/his ability.
Size Matters – Ask the trainer how many dogs they allow in a class at one time. If it’s more than 8, you may not get the personalized instruction you deserve. Higher numbers in a class often show that the trainer is more interested in making money then helping you and your dog improve. Private classes will allow you to get personalized and customized training for your situation and needs.
Do they make promises they can keep? – Does the trainer promise to make every dog an obedience or agility champion? The truth is, not all dogs and owners are capable of this level of training so if the trainer promises you the world they are just trying to sell you on their class or service.
Can we talk? – Make sure the trainer is easy to understand and responsive to your questions. Ask her/him about their teaching method. See if they ask you about your goals. You want someone that not only trains the dog but also stops to explain to you what they are doing, why, and how you can apply it to your specific situation.
Getting your money’s worth – Unless you are training for an advance obedience title, do not use trainers that charge a large flat fee for an unlimited amount of classes or consultations. If done right, training should be complete in 4-8 sessions and the learning should be permanent. If you need more then that then the trainer and his/her training style may not be a good fit for your dog.