Your pooch will always pick up new habits – whether you like it or not. Some habits are good; some are, well, not so good. Like all smart animals, dogs learn by observing, and also by independently seeking out rules and patterns of behavior.
That’s why training a dog is important. Good training can transform a problem dog into a well-adjusted family member. With consistency in reinforcing habits and a little investment of time and money, you could change a puppy or even an adult dog that has some bad habits into a good doggie.
A good trainer can help turn your dog into a valuable companion. Here are some things to consider when looking for a competent dog trainer.
The American Humane Society recommends only using trainers that practice positive reinforcement with your pet, using food, play time, praise and attention to encourage good behaviors.
It’s a good idea to watch the trainer in action before committing to them. See what techniques they use, how they interact with dogs and whether you’re comfortable with those interactions.
The Humane Society also lists some training techniques to avoid, including:
— Shaking the scruff
— Tugging on the leash
— Forcing the dog onto its back
- Any actions that cause fright or inflict pain
Fortunately, positive reinforcement has become the dominant method in dog training today, so you’re likely to find plenty of trainers who use praise and attention to effectively encourage good behaviors from your pet.
If you’re looking for a well-behaved dog, there’s a place you can always go for advice: the people who own well-behaved dogs.
If you know someone who has the seemingly perfect pet, ask them who their trainer is.
They should be happy to share advice and let you know who has had a role in training their dogs, along with feedback on how the process went.
It’s best to find several good trainers to pick from, so make a short list based on your research and talking with other dog owners. Trainers aren’t usually regulated by the government, so do your own research about the level of qualifications and years of experience for each trainer you talk with.
In general, it’s best for the dog’s owner — and even the whole family, if possible — to participate in the training process. Classes that involve the owner are likely to get the best results for a variety of reasons.
For one, you’ll be able to talk to other dog owners and watch how they interact with their pets. You’ll be able to learn as much as your pets do about getting them to behave at home.
For another, your dog will more comfortably transition their training to your house if you’ve been involved in the training process. If you leave your dog with a trainer without getting involved, they may end up responding better to the trainer than they do to you at home.
When you go to observe a dog trainer in action, the American Humane Society recommends you note the following things:
— Is class size limited to allow for individual attention?
— Are there separate classes for puppies and adult dogs?
— Are there different class levels (for example beginner, intermediate, and advanced)?
— Are training equipment and methods humane?
— Does the trainer use a variety of methods to meet dogs’ individual needs?
— Is proof of vaccination required?
— Are the students, both human and canine, enjoying themselves?
— Are dogs and owners actively encouraged?
— Is praise given frequently?
— Are voice commands given in upbeat tones?
— Are lesson handouts available?
— Is information available on how dogs learn, basic grooming, problem solving, and related topics?