Hiring the right dog trainer is of utmost importance. If you don’t hire the right dog trainer, not only will you be out good money, and not only will your dog not be trained, but there is also a high probability that your dog will end up in worse psychological condition than before you started training. Here’s what to look for in a dog trainer:
Insider Point #1:
Hire a dog trainer who has real, hard-core experience in the dog world. By this, I’m not talking about the number of years he has been training, but rather the quality of those years. Does he engage in continuing education? Has he worked or trained under some of the most prominent dog trainers in America, or in Europe? I know many people who have been driving an automobile for more than 30 years, but still cannot parallel park. So, when you hire a dog trainer, you want to be absolutely sure that you are hiring a person with quality experience.
Insider Point #2:
Group classes vs. private instruction Unless you happen to be training for a specific type of competition, group classes are generally a waste of time. Many people enroll in group classes because they think it makes for good socialization and interaction with other dogs. However, as long as your dog was with its litter from six weeks of age to eight weeks of age, then he has already learned proper dominant and subordinate behavior with other dogs. Remember, you are not dealing with a child…where supervision and socialization are required for several years. Now don’t get me wrong, I think it is important to work your dog around other dogs as a distraction. But this should be done after the dog has gone through the training phase of learning what each command means. And once you recognize this fact, you don’t need to spend $80 to $100 on enrollment in a pet store sponsored group class. You can obtain the same benefits by taking your dog down to the beach, or to Starbucks Coffee and get the same type of stimulus and distractions for free. In contrast, the amount of progress you can make by working with a qualified dog trainer can be phenomenal. For example, in less then ten minutes, you can take a dog that has been pulling on its leash for the last three years and get him to pay attention to you and keep the leash loose. If you watch students in a group class, you will see people who have been training for more than a total of 10 hours (weekly sessions) and their dogs are still pulling on the leash! I urge you to consider a “learning to drive ” analogy. You can learn something about driving from a group class, but you are kidding yourself if you think you will learn to actually drive without taking private instruction. Dog training is the same. It’s a hands-on discipline that must be learned in a one-on-one environment. (Of course, you should include your family, too!)
Insider Point #3:
How much you should expect to pay for dog training? Because there he is no licensing or regulations in the State of California to open a dog training company, there are a lot of unqualified practitioners claiming to be professional dog trainers. The bottom-line is that you want to hire someone who can really deliver the results. Hiring a dog trainer is a lot like hiring a good heart surgeon. Given the choice between hiring a heart surgeon who charges $30,000 for an operation and one who charges $395… you have to wonder. There are some times in life when you don’t want to make your selection based on price, and hiring a dog trainer is one of those times. Why not? Because, simply put, not all dog trainers are alike. And not all dog trainers can deliver the type of results you are looking for. And furthermore, you don’t want to let an amateur (or worse, an idiot!) jeopardize your dog’s psychological well being, simply because you wanted to save a few bucks. Let me be honest with you. Those dog trainers who can actually deliver outstanding results are few and far in-between. And the ones who can deliver the goods are definitely going to be charging the absolute premium for what their services are worth. Currently, at the time of this printing, a comprehensive obedience dog training program can run anywhere from $500 to $800. Anything less than approximately $500 and you are probably dealing with someone who, deep down inside, knows that they can’t deliver good results. Top-notch dog trainers are going to charge top-notch rates. There is no way of getting around this fact. So, chalk up any training expenses as part of the cost of owning a dog, to be calculated with other expenses such as dog food, veterinary bills, and grooming.
Insider Point #4:
There are no guarantees in life. My personal feeling about offering a guarantee in selling dog training services is that one should not be offered. And if someone is offering a guarantee, then it’s a marketing gimmick, and they probably aren’t being straight and honest with you. Why? Because there are three factors when it comes to offering a guarantee for dog training services. First, I can always guarantee that my techniques will work on the client’s dog. And second, I can guarantee that I can get the client’s dog to work, that is, do the exercises. But the third factor is that there is no way in the world that I can guarantee that my client will go home and use and practice the techniques I teach them. Nor can I guarantee that the client will instill a sense of respect in the dog. For example, all of the greatest techniques in the world will not make a bit of difference if the client has the internal attitude that his dog is untrainable. So, in effect, the client has already convinced himself that none of what I teach him will actually work. And the dog can sense that the owner doesn’t feel it will work, and therefore doesn’t respond. In actuality, in these types of cases, it’s not that the owner is actually using the technique in the manner in which it was taught. So, if the owner is correcting his dog for undesirable behavior, then he’s usually administering a correction which lacks motivation. And because it lacks motivation, then the dog doesn’t respond appropriately. Now, in the beginning, all novice trainers and dog handlers run into this problem. But in such cases, there’s a point where the trainer has to draw the line and recognize that the owner is intentionally (either consciously or unconsciously) not giving good corrections. And it is for just this kind of reason that I feel it is impossible for a dog trainer to guarantee results.
Insider Point #5:
Charging for results, rather than charging for the number of sessions. On the other hand, while I offer no legal guarantees for the dog’s performance, the way I do structure my services is that I charge for the results, rather than for a specific number of sessions. In other words, after I’ve done a consultation with the owner and the dog, I can usually tell about how many sessions it should take to train the desired behaviors. But, in the event that it takes longer, I continue working with the owner for as many sessions as necessary. When you hire a dog trainer, you want to make sure that you too are paying for the results, and not for the number of sessions. Let me give you an example: If a trainer is going to charge you $500 for six sessions… what will happen if the dog is not completely trained at the end of six sessions? It could happen… even if you’re using the best trainer in the world. The reason is that there is no way we can tell how quickly you, the owner, will pick up on the techniques (since dog training is really 90% training the owner). So make sure that there is an open-ended agreement that you are paying for the dog to learn specific behaviors, rather than paying for a number of sessions with the trainer.
Insider Point #6:
Training the owner vs. training the dog Don’t kid yourself. As I mentioned earlier, dog training is approximately 90% training the owner. There is no way you are going to send your dog away for in-kennel training, and have him come back and work brilliantly for you. Not unless you’re planning on sending your dog away for more than a whole year. There are two reasons why you need to be the one who learns how to train your dog. First, it’s your dog. In essence, learning to train your dog will heighten the bond between you and your pet. And in more practical terms, owning a trained dog is like owning a finely tuned sports car. You may have the fastest Ferrari in the world, but if you don’t know how to drive it, it’s going to sit in your driveway and you won’t be able to do anything with it. Now, Mario Andretti may come over to your house and be able to make your Ferrari do amazing things. But, for you… it may as well be a broken down Volkswagen, because if you don’t know how to drive… it really doesn’t matter what kind of car you own. Unless you have a chauffeur… or in this case, a live-in dog trainer. The second reason you need to be the one who learns how to train your dog is that, sending your dog away to be trained at a kennel or training facility ensures that your dog will sit in a kennel run 23 hours a day, and get trained for maybe half an hour. Additionally, he’s not being trained in a variety of training environments, so he learns to work only at the training facility, and only for the professional trainer, who, like Mario Andretti, already knows how to work his craft. Once you retake possession of the dog, you’re now in a position where you: 1.) Haven’t developed enough handling skill to make the dog work like you saw the professional trainer make him work, and 2.) Are now in a different environment, where the dog has yet to learn that he has to work for you. The only way you will get lasting results with your dog is if you are the one who learns how to train and work your dog, in a variety of different settings. Insider Point #7:What if I only want to fix one behavior? It’s very rare that you can just hire a quality professional dog trainer to come out and fix one behavior. The reason is that the problem will get fixed… however, the fix will only be temporary. Or the dog will substitute one problem behavior for another. If the owner is not taught how to establish themselves as the pack leader (which takes practice), soon the dog will learn that, since the correction is coming from what it sees as a subordinate member, then it is a correction which has no meaning. Another problem with the “one-shot training session” is that the fixes prescribed rarely fix the cause of the problem, and only deal with one specific symptom. Without dealing with the root of the problem, other symptoms will soon follow.