Quad-City Creatures By Heidi Dahms Foster, Prescott Valley, Arizona A local blog all about pets and pet activities in the quad-city area.PV, Prescott and beyond.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
So how DO I find a good dog trainer?
Heidi Dahms Foster
Herding is a very popular sport for dogs in the Quad City and extended areas, and a challenge for dogs and their owners. Photo by Heidi Dahms Foster
The relationship between you, your dog, and your dog trainer can affect your life for years to come, because you have to live with the end result. So how do you find a good dog trainer? The Quad City area has a LOT of trainers, and the decision may look overwhelming. Here are a few tips to help you find the right fit.
First, think about what you want to accomplish with your dog. Do you simply want your dog to learn basic manners? Or, are you looking to compete in some of the activities that are so popular now with dogs and their owners, such as agility, obedience, flyball or herding?
If you are looking for basic training, by all means take a look at local kennels, and trainers who advertise. Some of the department style pet stores also offer obedience classes. Once you find a class or two that looks suitable to you and fits your budget and available time, ask around! Word of mouth is a great way to find out if other people are happy with their experience with your prospective trainer.
Did they get the results they wanted? Did they get along with the trainer? Were they comfortable in class?
If you want to compete in some of the competitive venues with your dog, you'll have to seek more specialized training. Go to a dog show, or obedience/herding/agility trial, and ask around about trainers. Check the phone book for dog trainers, kennels, and kennel clubs. There are some very good performance clubs in the area, and dog/handler teams participate in an amazing array of activities. Purebred dog owners are a great source for information, because they often compete with their dogs. Again, once you find what you think will be a "fit," visit, observe a class and ask around.
Some good questions to ask - does the trainer have any certification? This is not always indicative of a good trainer, because many have trained and competed with their dogs for years and their training is an extension of that experience. Perhaps the best way to find out if your trainer knows what they are doing is to find out what they have done with their own dogs.
Once you're in a class - do not let a trainer intimidate you. If you are uncomfortable with any method of training and if your dog is stressed out, LEAVE. Our area, through the years, has had its own unscrupulous, and downright abusive, trainers. Methods of training vary, but you should never feel as if you can't ask questions, and you should never feel uncomfortable with the way the trainer handles your dog. Your trainer should be able to explain his or her methods to you without talking down to you.
Observe how other dogs react to your trainer. Do they cower? Stress out? Does your trainer lose patience with slow learners? A good trainer will be upbeat, positive and confident, and the dogs will respond accordingly.
Remember that when you enter a relationship with a trainer, you have a responsibility too. You'll need to commit to consistently practice what you learn in class. You've heard the old saying, "Practice makes perfect," and that applies to training your pet as well.
The great thing about dog training, though, is it only takes a little time each day - as few as five or 10 minutes - to get great results. Consistency and a positive attitude are the keys.
And, as I'm fond of telling everyone who wants a great dog - the more quality time you spend with your dog (not training time, "hanging out" time), the better your relationship will be. If you tie Fido outside for most of the day and night, don't expect a close bond, but do expect behavior problems. A dog that has plenty of exercise and attention from you will be content and less likely to be a problem child.
So go find something fun to do with your dog, get the right trainer, and have fun building a relationship that will bring both you and your dog great joy.