Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pick a Winner

We are often asked to give a referral for a “good dog trainer”. Selecting a trainer is as important as choosing the proper person to be your kids’ nanny. We often recommend trainers who are educated, perform regular continuing education, use reward-based training, will let you monitor a class to see if you feel comfortable and have references. If you’re new in a neighborhood, doing the research can be tough; thus websites often end up being a starting point to pare things down. I thought it might be helpful to point out some key phrases which might indicate steering clear is the best option.

  • Pack Leader/Pack Theory: This phrase alone may indicate that the trainer is ascribed to dominance-based training which does not promote a good relationship with your pet.
  • Balanced Training: This means using “good” and “bad” to achieve balanced training. Good would be positive reinforcement. The bad is most likely positive punishment with choke chains, prong collars or electronic collars. Combining good with bad will, at best, give you something neutral. I would prefer a good experience personally.
  • Done without harsh punishment: This means there will be punishment, but not HARSH punishment. Yes, they could mean negative punishment (walking away or turning your dog jumps on you), but I doubt it. Harsh is subjective, so I would pass on this one.
  • Fast results guaranteed: If you have ever touched a hot burner or have been shocked by a short in an electrical cord – you know you only do it once. Fear is a powerful motivator – but it does not make for a trusting relationship between you and your pet.
  • No bribery: This essentially means they don’t use treats to train “commands”. The thought process is that the pet must do what’s asked out of respect for you – or out of respect for the pain that you can inflict if he doesn’t follow instruction.
  • Obedience to fix problem behaviors: Behaviors problems are not always an obedience issue. If that were the case, your dog would be doing things just to make you mad – which isn’t in their mind set. For instance: If your dog is barking, it may be because he’s scared of the kid who throws rocks at him over the fence. Expecting your dog to shut up because you say no won’t make him less frightened.
  • Specializing in Board and Train: There can be trainers who offer board and train in a responsible positive manner. The concern is that you have no idea how your pet is being trained in your absence.
  • The use of e-collars, stim collars or remote training collars: These are all euphemisms for electric collars and should not be used in training.
Other helpful sources:
American College of Veterinary Behaviorists How to Select a Trainer
American Veterinary Society of Behavior’s How to select a Trainer handout
Trainers through the Karen Pryor Academy
Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers

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