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Learn On How To Choose a Dog Trainer

Guidelines for Choosing a Dog Trainer

Searching for someone to help you with your dog’s training or behavior problem is
something you should take seriously. You want your children’s teacher to be well
educated and professionally trained; not just someone who loves children and likes to
teach. If your child was having behavior or learning problems in school you’d seek out a
counselor or psychologist who was professionally educated and trained.
Seek out help for your dog from the same perspective. Don’t rely on who is the most
visible or does the best marketing in your community. Evaluate the credentials of the
people who you considering. Your dog is going to be a part of your family for likely well
over 10 years so investing in the best help available is worth it. Your dog’s life may
literally depend on it.

1.You should know that because there is no licensing for dog trainers or behavior
consultants in the U.S., anyone can use any professional title they choose. Just
because someone calls themselves a “behaviorist” doesn’t mean they’ve had any
formal education in the science of animal behavior. Popular terms are behavior
consultant, dog or cat behaviorist, dog trainer, and even behavior therapist (a term
which in some states may be illegal because the “therapist” designation is a term
protected through state licensing). Read on to see which terms are protected.
‰ Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist is a protected term that refers ONLY to those
individuals certified by the Animal Behavior Society. Anyone using this term who is
NOT ABS certified is doing so illegally, and this should be brought to the attention of
the Society.

2 Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorists are veterinarians who have received post
graduate training in behavior and have meet the criteria of the American College of
Veterinary Behaviorists. These individuals can also call themselves “behavior
specialists”. Other veterinarians can NOT use the term “specialist” unless they are
board certified. Unfortunately, non-veterinarians can use the term “behavior
specialist” regardless of their education or experience. Learn more at
www.veterinarybehaviorists.org. Veterinarians with a special interest in animal
behavior may be members of AVSAB.

3. The only certification program for dog trainers that requires passage of an
independently administered examination is the Certification Council for Professional
Dog Trainers.

4. Ask if the trainer or behavior consultant is certified, and if so by whom. You should
know the name of the certifying body, how long they’ve been in existence, what the
criteria for certification are, and whether the certification is independent of a specific
training or educational program. “Certification” that comes as the result of someone
graduating from a for-profit training program is not what you’re looking for because
there is no independent evaluation of the person’s credentials.

5. Ask trainers what type of training they received, and from where, to become a
professional trainer, how long they’ve been training professionally, and what kind of
experience they have. Ask behavior consultants how they acquired their knowledge
about behavior, and how they learned to be a behavior consultant. Look for academic
training from accredited colleges or universities in animal learning and ethology, as
well as supervised practical training.

6. Look for both trainers and behavior consultants who hold memberships in
professional organizations and who pursue continuing education. This indicates
individuals who are interested in keeping current on the latest advances in their fields.

7. Both dog trainers and behavior consultants are really educating and training people,
so look for individuals with good communication and social skills, who you feel
comfortable talking to. Look for professionals who treat both people and dogs with
respect and compassion. The Animal Behavior Society, the American Veterinary
Medical Association and the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers all
have ethical statements and guidelines on their websites.

8. Choose trainers and behavior consultants who focus on encouraging and rewarding
the right behavior with positive reinforcement, rather than relying on punishing or
correcting undesirable ones. Both professionals should be willing to use whatever
type of positive reinforcement works best for each pet, whether it is food, toys,
petting or other enjoyable activities. Don’t believe “he should work for me not for
food” myth which is a mis-representation of how treats and other reinforcement are
used in training.

9. Look for trainers and behavior consultants who recognize the importance of people
working with their own dogs under their direction, rather than sending the dog
somewhere for a professional trainer to train.

10. Behavior consulting is different from general obedience training. Multiple or weekly
visits by behavior consultants may not be necessary. Many problem behaviors won’t
be seen during a behavior consulting appointment (e.g. house-soiling), but behavior consultants should have other means to follow-up with owners and help them
implement the behavior modification plan.

11. Because of the extremely common myths and misconceptions surrounding the idea of
“dominance” and the importance of being “alpha” over a dog, look for trainers and
behavior consultants who do not focus on these ideas. The majority of behavior
problems in dogs have nothing to do with “dominance”, and recommendations based
on this idea often make problems much worse.

12. Avoid anyone who guarantees results. Pets are living creatures and no one knows
enough about their behavior to guarantee outcomes. Some trainers and behavior
consultants may guarantee satisfaction with their professional services, which is a
different thing.

13. Observe a training class. Are the dogs and people enjoying themselves? Talk to
participants to see if they are comfortable with the training methods used. If a trainer
won’t let you sit in on a class, don’t enroll in class. For confidentiality and safety
reasons, it will be unlikely a behavior consultant would allow a pet owner to sit in on
a consultation with another client. Instead, ask the behavior consultant for references,
such as from veterinarians or shelters that use their services, or from former clients
who have given permission to share information.

14.If either a trainer or behavior consultant tells you to do something to or with your dogthat you don’t feel comfortable with - don’t do it! People should not be intimidated,
bullied or shamed into doing something they believe is not in the best interest of their
dogs. Dog owners should not allow anyone to work directly with the dog unless they
first tell owners what they are going to do. Don’t be afraid to tell any trainer or
behavior consultant to stop if they are doing something to that dog that you feel is

15. Because behavior problems can have medical causes, look for behavior consultants
who encourage you to first consult with a veterinarian. Be wary of trainers or
behavior consultants who insist on diet changes or alternative homeopathic remedies
without relying on input from veterinarians.

16. No matter how good the trainer or behavior consultant is, if owners don’t follow
through with practice either in their everyday lives with their pets, or with special
practice sessions, they won’t get the results they want.

17. The Delta Society publishes a booklet entitled Professional Standards for Dog
Trainer: Humane,Effective Principles,which provides guidance in identifying
humane and effective dog training principles.

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