Many people choose a trainer or training facility because of location, or solely rely on word of mouth from others without actually checking out the trainer's techniques, methods and practices for themselves. There are some simple ways to get an idea about what your potential trainers methods, and the trainer or facility should be more than willing to accommodate your request. If a facility holds group classes, ask to sit in as an observer during the training. This can help to give you an over all picture of techniques, personality, dog and people skills that this particular trainer holding the class has. Don't be afraid to ask questions after class is out, or raise any concerns that you may have with the trainer before you sign up. If the trainer doesn't offer group classes, ask to set up a time when you can call or email and obtain information on how the trainer works. Request an initial one-hour private lesson (charges will apply for this) to get an overall picture of those who don't offer their services in class settings. This will help you to find out if he or she is right for what you are looking for in a dog trainer.Ask for references from individuals who were looking for the same results as you are. Ask for the trainers qualifications; are they competing in and sports or activates (and doing fairly well) with their own dogs? Have they had any sort of formal schooling? How long have they been involved with dogs? How long have they been training for (their own dogs included)? Ask what their main training method involves: clicker, positive motivation only, reward and correction methods, compulsion methods only, and choose someone that you think will best compliment you and your dog. If you feel at all uncomfortable with the trainer or their techniques - DO NOT use them. Training should be a fun learning experience for both you and your dog, and you should never be made to feel uncomfortable during class or private training. If you think that your dog is uncomfortable with a particular trainer - DO NOT use them. Training is stressful to a dog, regardless of where it takes place, but adding more stress because a trainer seems to make a dog uncomfortable will only inhibit learning, and your dog may come to associate training with stress only, and this can be detrimental to the process.
Find a trainer who you are comfortable with, who is willing to always keep an open mind and try new techniques if the first or second does not work; not every type of training works the same for every dog. Each dog is an individual, and must be looked at as such when devising a training program for a particular dog. Find one who relates well to not only the dogs, but to the handler as well. Dog training involves an abundant amount of people training, and if the trainer can not relate with the handler or is lacking in people skills, it is going to make it that much more difficult for you and your dog to learn. Find one who is knowledgeable about canines and their behaviour and has some experience in the area that you are looking to train for, be it formal obedience, agility, rally-o or just family pet.Don't be afraid to ask questions, and always keep in mind, training should be a fun process for you and your dog, but you should also expect to come away with knowledge, new ideas, techniques and a better understanding of your canine companion. These will all help you on the road to having and maintaining a wonderful family companion or your next competition dog.Julie Deans © 2007