Before I started training and knew anything about animal behavior, I would have probably just found the first dog trainer I could if I needed help with my dogs. After all, isn't a dog trainer a dog trainer?
It's very important for people to realize that Dog Training isn't regulated-anyone can call themselves a trainer. If you're reading this blog-you could legally call yourself a dog trainer and get paid to train dogs.
There's also a fierce debate between trainers- Positive Reinforcement vs. Punishment Based Trainers. I know, I know. Immature, right?!?! 😝Trainers like myself and thousands of others use Science Based, Force Free methods. We use Operant conditioning to reward a dog when they have done something we want them to do, and Classical Conditioning to change the way a dog associates and feels about something. This works exceptionally well with Aggressive or fearful dogs.
Balanced or Punishment based trainers use aversive tools to stop a dogs behavior.
I won't get into a whole debate on why I think Positive Reinforcement is better-Science explains it better than I ever could anyways. No matter which method you decide to use, it's important to know what to look for in a trainer before you hire them. Here's some tips:
Hire a Certified Trainer! Ask where they have gotten their certification from and then do your own research on it. Not all certifications are the same, so make sure to check out exactly what one has to do to become certified. If a trainer says they are Certified but won't tell you through which certifiying body, that's a red flag. I'm one of 13 Certified Professional Dog Trainers-Knowledge Assessed in Palm Beach County. I've taken a rigorous, psychometrically sound test from the leading independent testing agency in the United States. I shout this from the rooftops!
Ask what methods they use. If a trainer uses Shock, prong or choke collars, make sure to do your research and look at all the pros and cons before deciding if this is right for your dog. I won't bash any tools on this post, but it's important to know how any tool works, and the potential for fallout on them. I always tell a client that I can't help them with e-collar training, but if they do decide to use that tool, after doing their research, test it out on themselves at the level they will be using on their dog and then make a decision.
Does the trainer do continuing education? I can't say enough how important this is. No trainer should ever stop learning; there's so much to learn about behavior that we may not be able to learn enough in a lifetime. If a dog trainer tells you they already know everything there is to know about Animal behavior, that's a red flag! I am always taking courses on Animal behavior to gain Continuing Education units for my certification. My motto will always be "Never stop learning".
What does the trainer specialize in? I'm a firm believer that a trainer should have their own niche. I specialize in Behavioral Modification, including Aggression, Resource Guarding, Reactivity, Leash Reactivity, Separation Anxiety and Fears/Phobias. I also do general dog obedience, as well as Service dog training and therapy dog preparation. Next year, I plan on transitioning to only aggression cases. Not every trainer is trained in dealing with Aggression cases, so it's important to know and ask what work they have done before. I love bragging about my success cases, so your trainer should love being able to brag about theirs!
This is by no means an exclusive list on what to look for when hiring a trainer, but it's a starting point. If you're not local to Palm Beach County and need help finding a trainer in your area, you can always call or message me for advice.