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by Denyse Lessard September 21, 2015 6 min read20 Comments
When we first brought Westin into our lives, he was... well... a bit of a menace. He has always been a good dog –I believe all dogs are inherently good-- but he was far from obedient. No, obedience is something that all dogs have to learn. And it's more difficult for some than others. To be honest, it wasn't long before we started thinking about hiring a dog trainer. But it was quite a while before we actually went for it.
It's easy to watch a few episodes of a dog training show or read a few chapters of a book and think you can handle the job. Reality is quite different, and that's something we learned the hard way. Westin came to us at a time when we had to be a little mindful of our spending, and we weren't exactly eager to invest in what we thought would be expensive obedience training. So, we bought a few books, DVR'd a few episodes of the Dog Whisperer and thought we had it covered. That is, until we realized that Westin was six months old and still gnawing at the couch like it was a leg of lamb. The allure of the DIY approach to dog training was just too good to ignore – until we figured out we were actually doing more harm than good.
The biggest drawback of do-it-yourself dog training is the potential lost time. If you are among the small percentage who can successfully train your dog without help or intervention, you don't have to worry about lost time. But if you are fumbling through and trying to figure it out as you go (as most of us are), you stand to lose valuable moments in your dog's life that could be spent reinforcing good behaviors instead of sending mixed and inconsistent messages. Yet again, we learned this the hard way.
Westin was a youngin' when we started training, and we gave it six months before we decided that what we were doing wasn't working. By that time, he was almost a year old and had made some strong habits out of his bad behaviors, even though we thought we were working to correct them. Just like with humans, the first year of a dog's life is extremely formative. It's not that you can't teach an old dog new tricks; it's just that it's not as easy. So, my advice to anyone with a new dog is to get it together sooner rather than later. If you have dog training experience, by all means, go for it. Otherwise, bite the bullet and hire a dog trainer. You'll be glad you did.
Do you know someone who claims to be a dog trainer? Maybe they'll train your dog for free or give you a discount. There aren't many situations in which this works out. It is imperative that you find the right trainer for your dog, and that isn't always a family friend or relative.
When you hire someone you know, you're less likely to ask the hard questions because you don't want to offend them. Do they use choke collars? You would assume they wouldn't, and asking could be offensive, right? Well, what if they do and you didn't ask!
When we set out on our journey to find a trainer for Westin, we thought it would be as easy as Googling the closest dog training professionals and comparing prices. Boy, were we wrong! Imagine hiring a personal trainer or a nutritionist for yourself. How many different methods and schools of thought could there be? You could find someone who is really into cross training or someone who believes that vegan is the only way to eat. It's the same when it comes to dog training! There are many different methods and types of trainers, but here are the basic categories of training you'll have to choose from.
And as I've mentioned above, in addition to the type of training your dog may receive, there are also different types of trainers. All trainers fall into one of two categories: “Do” and “Don't.”
Many trainers believe that the key to training lies in rewarding good behaviors instead of punishing a dog for bad ones. These are “Do”-based trainers. “Don't”-based trainers do the opposite.
Now that you know about all the various types of trainers and training methods, it's up to you to decide which is right for your dog. But don't worry. If you're unsure, schedule a meeting with a few different trainers and discuss their methods and your options. You should get a pretty good feel for which method is right for you by your comfort level with the training.
And remember that you will have to perform the tasks at home. Every trainer will give you some homework. So be sure you're comfortable with the method before you invest in training.
First, let's start with what's easy. The “con” of hiring a dog trainer is the cost. That's the elephant in the room, isn't it? But when you start to really examine the pros, you'll realize that you're getting so much more than just obedience. You'll learn how to spend quality time with your dog and avoid the frustrations of misunderstanding one another. He'll know what you want from him and you'll know how to get it out of him. In many cases, trainers will also socialize your dog for you. This is something that requires work on your end too, of course, but it certainly helps to give your dog professionally supervised time with all kinds of other breeds.
We absolutely love Westin's trainer, and I think that has helped a great deal with his training. I have always felt comfortable asking questions and requesting more time on something if he seems to need more work. Our relationship with our dog's trainer is a true partnership, which is exactly the way it should be. If you don't like your dog's trainer, move on to the next.
Before you hire any trainer, regardless of whether you like him or her, you should know exactly what to expect. I've compiled a list of the questions we asked potential trainers when we were interviewing for Westin. You may be able to think of a few more, but this is a good starting point.
We hope this article will help you find the right trainer for your dog's needs. Remember, it will be a journey that you will take alongside your pet, so it's one you should enjoy too! But we know this isn't the only journey you will take with your four-legged friend, so we've prepared a series to help you navigate through life with your best fur buddy. You won't want to miss this, so sign up for the Zumalka newsletter HERE!
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE THERAPIST
Denyse Lessard is a therapist in alternative medicine.
She has an extensive educational background and has earned multiple degrees, including diplomas in Chinese medicine, Reflexology, Naturopathy & Iridology, and Homeopathy. She is also a member of the Association of Naturopaths and Naturotherapists of Quebec, and the Professional Union of Homeopaths of Quebec.
When working with her patients, Denyse believes in not only helping pets achieve optimum health, but keeping them in tip-top shape for their entire lives.
We invite you to learn more about Denyse's expertise in the alternative field.
July 26, 2021
Thank you for your comment. I hope this article has proven helpful to find a trainer to best suit your needs.
July 26, 2021
I’m living in nyc lm look for a trainer to train my dog to protect my family from danger while walking the streets
June 21, 2021
Choke chains of slip chains are not inherently bad. It is obviously bad to use them incorrectly, but a good trainer will know how to use these tools without harming a dog. Letting a dog pull on a flat buckle collar can damage a dog’s trachea over time, and putting a dog in a harness encourages pulling. The best thing for dogs is to learn to walk nicely on a leash. Slip chains, and pinch collars should be used on a dog that is relatively insensitive to pressure on their neck. The leash pressure and corrections applied with these collars are actually significantly less likely to cause damage than allowing a dog to pull on a collar for years. If a dog is food or toy motivated, these things can and should be used to motivate the dog. The rewards show the dog why they should want to do the behavior, and the collar shows the dog that the behavior is still necessary when the environment out-competes the rewards.
February 08, 2021
Great article. My daughter is interested in getting a dog and wants to train it. I agree with you that you should train your own dog. What would you say is the main concern when starting training? I enjoyed and learned a lot from your post and will be returning. Thank you. Take care.
February 02, 2021
This post was far better than most “how to choose a dog trainer” articles, but I strongly disagree with you saying there are “do” and “don’t” trainers… You should never hire either a “do” or a “don’t” because if the person is one or the other then it tells you they have a limited understanding of what they are doing and therefore, a limited ability to help your dog. The best trainers combine all of the subcategories listed under both “do” and “don’t” to create a customized approach for each individual dog and family. Dogs vary widely in their motivations, personality, drive, desire to please humans, etc. Families vary widely in their desire and ability to “read” their dog, willingness to invest time in learning how to speak Dog, and their ability to be consistent in their training. A family with several children and a spouse who thinks training is a waste of time may benefit from sending their dog to a program that creates habitual good behaviors that they can easily reinforce at home. A young couple or single person may have the time, ability and desire to invest in learning the intricacies of dog language and want to build the deepest, strongest relationship possible with their dog. They will benefit greatly from a balanced training approach that teaches them how to communicate with their dog on a deep level and surpass the need for any kind of external reinforcement due to their strong bond. That requires 1:1 study with a highly experienced trainer who does both on and off leash work. Then, there are a million other situations besides these two specific cases. A very good trainer uses many different tools, approaches and training techniques to best suit each individual circumstance. So both the dog and the rest of their family can be as successful as possible. If a trainer says something like, “I am a so-called ‘pure positive’ trainer” or a “dominance-based Alpha trainer” or “an e-collar trainer” or “a clicker trainer” KEEP SEARCHING because every one of those trainers is working with a limited toolbox that only applies to a small portion of the training and relationship-building process and none of them will be able to help you achemieve all that you and your dog are capable of. A trainer who says they tailor their approach to each individual circumstance and is familiar with and uses a variety of approaches during training based on what is most appropriate for the stage of training you are in and the abilities, interest level and desire of all participants in the process (dog included) with a heavy emphasis on building an intrinsically rewarding relationship between all parties (not a transactional or quid-pro-quo relationship, which is quite shallow) then you have a much greater chance of success. Best wishes!!
November 16, 2020
That was an interesting post.
September 14, 2020
Thank you so much. This article was a balm to my guilt. We have a 4 month old Shih-Poo who is one of the most intelligent dogs we ever owned. Her eyes were just seething with it at 8 weeks and still are. Laser focused on our face when we are talking to her or moving around. She’s eager to please and is a perfect dog to train. And she started to train so fast, even overnight when we potty trained her with a bell. She knows to ring it. And does.
But she has developed an independence and stubbornness, and picks and chooses when she wants to obey the “come” command, which is far less every day. And she relieves herself in the house, not always because we didn’t hear her ring the bell either. As a puppy she’s a chewer and biter of course, but she could win records over those. She knows “kisses” means to not bite our hand or fingers, and she adorably growls every time we remind her, while she tries to get a smaller nip in anyway. It’s a non-stop, all-day job to be aware of her chewing and redirect. And therein lies my guilt. Because I don’t have the time or the focus.
We didn’t buy the dog. Our college son did to ease his pain and anxiety over our 14 yr old Shih-Poo getting closer to the end of life. He can’t handle it. And she has been so lonely after losing her 14-yr long companion when our Havanese passed away two years ago. He wanted to give her a new friend as well as create a bond for him that would be there once she passed on. You don’t see 22 year old boys cry often, and it’s authentic when you do. We told him the expenses were his and he must train her, or at least start a program before returning to school in the fall, and we would take care of her while he was away. That did not happen, at all. And the burden falls to me. And I’m not capable at this point in my life, both physically or emotionally.
So I came to the internet to see if there were people who trained dogs for others yet. The last time I asked that question I was publicly scoffed at and told I had no business owning a dog if I had to even ask, as it’s no different than kids. If I made the choice I need to grow up and be responsible, regardless that I was 40 at the time. Needless to say that is why I was overwhelmed with guilt today.
Then I found your article and it so eloquently explained my predicament. It opened a shade to sunshine. I’m going to immediately start interviewing and hope for finding someone as well fitted as you did.
August 03, 2020
Reading something ought to be in hands on with a dog is 2 different things
June 29, 2020
That was an interesting post, Denyse. In my 10 years as a certified trainer, there’s ONE BIG LESSON I have learned. More intelligent dogs are better behaved. A More intelligent dog takes commands easier and understands what you need from them. The good news is no matter how clever you think your dog is.
You can unlock their hidden intelligence quickly and easily. If you guys are interested in brain training for Dogs course, please email me at email@example.com
It’s great for eliminating any bad behaviors by tapping into your dog’s hidden intelligence.
June 01, 2020
Hey there!! Thanks for your comment and concerns about going to a trainer. You have nothing to fear as a good dog trainer will be a guide for YOU to train your dog. So in your dog’s eyes YOU will always be number 1!
June 01, 2020
Will my dog favour my trainer over me?I sound entitled but its my first time getting a dog and Im really nervous
May 11, 2020
Can a dog trainer guarantee the dog is going to be train? Yes, but only if the client buy a board and train package.
Is the client is expecting to have his/her dog trained with one hour a week session? they better follow the trainer instructions during the week, dogs learn by repetition the owner must work his/her dog 2 times a day a least for 10 minutes if the client hires a dog trainer and expect to have a train dog without doing their homework, they are just burning their money.
March 17, 2020
Dog training our goal is to teach you the skills to have a well behaved dog that is welcomed everywhere as well as enjoyed by all.
February 27, 2020
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February 27, 2020
This is an incredible rousing article. I am essentially satisfied with your great training process. Consistency are key to successful obedience training. Exact and liberal rewards are critical to dog training. And it is essential that you devote time to training on a routine basis until you are seeing the behaviors you want.
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March 29, 2019
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April 25, 2022
Thanks for mentioning how it would be beneficial to get dog training as early as possible since the first year of a dog’s life is extremely formative and they might make a habit out of bad behaviors if not reinforced with good ones properly. We just got a Golden Retriever puppy quite recently, but we don’t know much about dog training to do it by ourselves. Hopefully, we’ll be able to find dog training services within the area that might be able to help us. https://santamonicapaws.com/dog-training