How to choose a dog trainer: Part two

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The U.S. Department of Labor projects a growth of 21 percent for animal training jobs through 2018.

In a growing and unregulated industry, anyone can call themselves a trainer. Last week we looked at some of the criteria: the trainer’s experience, knowledge and training methods; you’ll want to consider when searching for a dog trainer. Today we’ll examine some additional things for you to weigh as you search.

One of the most important things a dog trainer needs is passion for their job. The truth is, one group class is very like another. It’s easy for a trainer to become bored with teaching “the same old thing” repeatedly. However, the passionate trainer understands that the classes are not routine.

The information presented may be obvious to the trainer, but completely new concepts to the students. These new ears deserve that the class be presented in an interesting format. The dogs also change with each class, so the dynamic of every group is different, which requires that the trainer adjust as needed for the dogs present.

How do you know if your trainer has passion?  Ask a lot of questions. The enthusiastic trainer is excited about what they’re doing and the dogs and people they meet. They have a dog-oriented reason for entering the field of training and are happy to tell you about it. Some of the large pet retailers are required to have a specific number of trainers employed, and thus recruit dog trainers from existing store employees, some of whom have no interest in the position. Make sure the trainer you choose wants to train dogs, loves the training process and is ardent about what they’re doing.

Another way to assess a trainer’s passion and knowledge is to see what sort of dog activities they are involved in outside of their training facility.  Do they compete with their dogs in any sort of dog sport? Do their dogs have any performance titles? Do they hunt with their dogs, or take them on visits to hospitals or nursing homes? Do they even own dogs? Also look to see if the trainer has a demo dog. A good trainer should have a well- trained dog which can reliably demonstrate the skills being taught in class.

Sometimes people who are skilled at something are not good teachers of it.  In a dog training class, you are relying on the instructor to be able to explain the behaviors to you and guide you in the performance of those skills. Therefore, you need to find a trainer who is not only good with the dogs, but who understands how to explain, answer questions and deal with people. Talk to the trainer before signing up and ask questions. The type of answers you get should tell you something about the person’s teaching skills. You can also ask to observe a class, or ask for references from previous students. You also need a trainer who is prepared for each class. Someone that coasts along, reading from a prepared script, may not be properly assessing the dogs in the class, and thus adjusting the material to the level needed for that particular group.Conversely, the trainer who “wings it” and teaches without any sort of plan may be sporadic in their instruction and miss important steps or skills.

Another thing to consider when choosing a dog trainer is the location where lessons will be held. This is especially important for group classes. Is there adequate room for the dogs to have some space and distance from one another? When it’s time to practice the skills, is there room for each team to work? Can the instructor easily see all the teams and move from one group to the next? It’s important that a trainer be able to quickly intervene or assist if needed. If the training is taking place outdoors, is the location safe? Is there adequate lighting, and is it quiet enough that all students can hear the instructor? Should a handler drop their lead, is the area far enough away from a road that the dog is not in danger of darting into traffic? What types of provisions are there if the weather is stormy or hot? Is the location private enough that class won’t be interrupted by passers-by?

Your desire to train your dog is a great thing. When your dog masters basic manners and is obedient, he is a much more enjoyable companion.  Your dog trainer should be your partner as you work towards your goal.

Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years. Readers are welcomed to send their questions to: info@TrainMyK-9.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for possible inclusion in future columns.  Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.

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