Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Do I Actually Need to Hire a Dog Trainer?

I spoke with a deaf dog owner on the phone recently. They told me that they hired a dog trainer for $95 an hour, only to find out that (a) the trainer didn't seem to even like dogs, and (2) the trainer had no clue the dog was deaf.

$95 an hour? Ouch! (Hm...maybe I should consider changing careers!)

Our conversation inspired me to write down a few thoughts about dog training.

There are no standardized training programs for dog trainers yet.

Standardization is in process, but right now, a "dog trainer" can claim to be "certified" by taking an online course and receiving a certificate - without even coming near to or touching a dog. So if you decide to hire a "certified" trainer, do your research and make sure that their certification includes hands-on training of some kind.

If a trainer claims that they can take your dog away from you and turn them into a perfect angel

Run, run away fast! Sure, your dog may learn to respond to commands and behave themselves perfectly in the company of the trainer, but even if the trainer runs down the commands with you after the training session, are you going to remember to practice the commands when you return to your daily life? And is there any guarantee that your dog is going to behave with you like they did with the trainer?

Unless you are present, learning alongside your dog, dog training is basically useless.

Nobody really LEARNS anything unless we DO it. There are probably exceptions to this rule of thumb, but the bottom line is that if YOU are the one who does the research and takes the learning curve, you are going to be more invested in the training process, and as a result, you will be more likely to remember and practice any training techniques that you learn. This includes the day-to-day good house manners that make a dog a delight to have around, but aren't necessarily part of standard training programs.

There is nothing wrong with hiring a dog trainer to teach YOU how to train your dog.

A good trainer can give you feedback on things like body language, cues, or timing that you might not be aware of. A trainer can also be helpful if your dog is exhibiting bizarre or troublesome behaviors that you can't figure out how to correct by yourself.

The bottom line

You're best off doing the research and figuring out how to train your dog yourself. You're the one living with your dog, you know your dog and your lifestyle better than anyone else, and you're going to get more out of the process of researching and trying stuff out yourself than learning by rote or sending your dog away to doggy boot camp. If you aren't getting the results you want, or there is a problem that has you stumped, by all means hire a trainer who will observe you and give you feedback, or who can help you come up with solutions for your issue.

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