Choosing a dog training school

Why It Matters

Choosing a dog trainer can be one of the most important decisions that you make in your dog’s life.  The techniques that a trainer uses can strongly affect how you interact with your dog for years to come and it’s therefore really important to choose wisely.


Dog training is an unregulated industry. This means that literally anyone can advertise as a dog trainer and even a behavioural / aggression specialist. They do not have to have a special license, certification or any training whatsoever.  


Always remember, training should be a fun experience for both you and your dog.  Find a professional that's right for you and your dog and avoid those trainers who are unethical and even dangerous.


Here are some pointers to look for:


1. Positive reinforcement / Reward-based training. 

There are numerous ways to train dogs.  In addition, each animal has his/her own learning style and preferred motivators.  Positive reinforcement / reward based training is the type of training which allows the dogs to work for things (for example, food, play, praise) that motivate them rather than techniques that focus on using fear or pain to punish them for undesirable behaviours.  Research shows that dogs do not need to be physically punished to learn how to behave, and there are significant risks associated with using punishment (such as inhibiting learning, increasing fear, and/or stimulating aggressive events).


2. Good teacher.

 A good instructor should explain what behaviour they are training, why it is important, and then demonstrate it.  In a class situation, they should provide ample time in class to practice and individually assist students.  They should be able to adapt their training methods to the individual dog and class sizes should be small to ensure individual attention.


3. Continual education. 

Look for a trainer who demonstrates continual self education.  A conscientious trainer will keep up-to-date with new training theories and methods, and may attend workshops and conferences.


4. Respectful. 

A good trainer should be personable and respectful of both you and your dog. Avoid trainers who recommend using physical force (e.g. alpha rolling, pushing a dog into position, hitting, choke chains, pinch collars, lead corrections, spray bottles) or methods/devices that have the potential for harm, as an acceptable way to train. 


5. Observe a class. 

Always ask to observe a class before attending. You need to make sure that the teaching style of the instructor will work with how you learn.  Also, watch the students and their dogs.  Are they having fun or looking stressed?  Talk to the current students—are they enjoying the class and feel that their dogs are learning? If a trainer does not allow you to observe a class, ask yourself (and the trainer) why.


6. There are no guarantees.

Because of the variable and often unpredictable nature of behaviour, a conscientious trainer cannot and will not guarantee the results of training. However they should be willing to ensure satisfaction of their services.


7. Vaccinations.  

A good instructor will take care to protect the dogs in a class situation. They should have vaccine requirements for the dogs, and should discourage owners from bringing sick dogs to class. Make sure that your veterinarian is comfortable with the trainer’s vaccination requirements, especially if the trainer is running puppy classes.


For more advice on choosing a suitable trainer or behaviourist visit this link Welfare in Dog Training