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 if we're being honest, it's more difficult for some dogs than others. In our experience, it wasn't long before we started thinking about hiring a certified dog trainer. But it was quite a while before we actually went for it.
Why So Many People Try to Train Their Own Dogs
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 with up-to-date information, DVR'd a few episodes of The Dog Whisperer and tried to get in some hands-on experience with our less-than-advanced skills. That is until we realized that Westin was six months old and still gnawing at the couch as if he's got separation anxiety.
The allure of the DIY approach to dog training was just too good to ignore—until we figured out his problem behaviors were not going away. Westin definitely needed a professional trainer (preferably certified by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers) to help him get on the right track.
The Risks of Passing Up On Dog Trainers
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.
However, if you're fumbling through as you go along, you stand to lose valuable moments in your dog's life that could be spent sending mixed and inconsistent messages. Yet again, we learned this the hard way. Our private training sessions weren't working at all!
Westin was a pup when we started training. 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 to train them. My advice to anyone with a new pooch is to hire the services of an in-person dog trainer sooner rather than later.
If you have dog training experience—with the knowledge of learning theory, operant conditioning, and techniques—then go for it. Otherwise, bite the bullet and hire a dog trainer for a program or course. You'll be glad you did when you see your pooch flaunt his trained skills. But it's crucial to zero in on legitimate dog trainers, too! Let me explain...
The Danger of Hiring an Amateur (and Not a Professional Dog Trainer)
Do you know someone who claims to be a dog trainer? Maybe they'll train your dog for free or give you a discount for private lessons or even group classes. There aren't many situations in which this works out.
It is imperative that you find the right one for your dog—and that isn't always a family friend or relative. Dog training is not something you should leave up to chance. When you hire someone you know to train dogs, you're less likely to ask hard questions because you don't want to offend them.
Case in point: service dog training and therapy dogs. Are their development techniques compassionate and safe for health? 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?
Learning About Different Types of Professional Dog Trainers
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! How many different methods and schools of thought could there be?
Surprisingly, there are many different methods and types of dog trainers. They can provide anything from private training to obedience and behavioral courses. While the cost and courses vary, they are all aimed at providing students (and owners of pets) the value of practice and hard work. Below are the basic categories of dog training you'll have to choose from:
This is the most basic and common type of dog training that is done. Behavioral dog training addresses issues like chewing, barking, and housebreaking. It's best done when they're still puppies, too. This is what we started Westin on, but then we moved on to obedience training once he shed his disruptive behaviors.
With professional help, it wasn't long before Westin was ready to get started on obedience dog training. We were able to use the same dog trainer. Here, he learned to obey common commands like sit, stay, lie down, and rollover. These commands are more than just parlor tricks. When a dog learns to sit and come on command, you can use them to keep him out of tricky or dangerous situations.
Agility training takes obedience training to another level. Agility training teaches dogs to participate in sports, obstacle courses, and jumping. This is actually an integral part when you're looking to train service dogs. It basically combines physical strength and skill. Having a reliable joint and hip support product is a must in this program.
Working dogs that are meant to herd, hunt, do rescue work, or become service dogs all must go through vocational training. If this is what you want for your dog, you will need to find a trainer who specializes in the course or skills so they can begin learning and understanding effectively.
All dog trainers fall into one of two categories: “Do” and “Don't.” Many certified dog trainers believe that the key to training lies in rewarding good behaviors instead of punishing pets for bad ones. These are “Do”-based certified trainers. “Don't”-based trainers do the opposite.
Lure-Reward Training – Enticing dogs or puppies by rewarding good behavior with a food lure (or treat).
Compulsion-Praise Training – Physically manipulating the dog to perform your requested task (e.g. sitting), and then rewarding it with a treat.
Marker Training – Using a sound aid or clicks along with rewards to let your dog know which behaviors you desire.
Replacement Training – Correcting undesirable behavior with a more desirable one.
Consequence Training– Employ an undesirable consequence to the dog when he performs an undesirable act. A choke collar is one example of consequence training, but it isn't the only one. Consequence training could also mean taking away attention or affection whenever the dog performs an undesirable behavior.
How to Know Which Trainer is Right For You
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. 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.
Pros and Cons of Professional Dog 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. However, it certainly helps to give your dog professionally supervised time with all kinds of other breeds. This is the biggest reason why knowledge and certification are a must when looking for dog trainers. Access to veterans of the industry can be tricky!
Why Personality Matters
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. Not doing so can result in some negative consequences in the long run.
Questions to Ask a Potential Trainer
Before you hire any professional for dog training, 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:
How long have you been training dogs?
Have you ever trained this breed before?
What type of equipment do you use and will I have to buy anything?
Can you explain your training method? What happens when the dog performs an undesirable behavior?
Do you guarantee any results?
How will you know if my dog is stressed during training, and what will you do about it?
We hope this article on dog training will help you find the right trainer for your dog's needs. Dogs are easy to teach, but they can be pretty stubborn students, too! Remember, it will be a journey that you will take alongside your pet, so it's one you should enjoy as well. And don't hesitate to contact us if you'd like to get in touch with certified pet homeopathy experts.
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