Puppyhood seems to be the only time the world at large is accepting of dog training. Outside of that, you’re often met with a “What’s wrong with your dog?” accompanied by a lifted eyebrow and a doubtful look at your furry best friend.
While many see it as a sign that something has gone wrong, I see it as a sign that something is going very right. If you've been arguing with yourself whether or not to hire a professional dog trainer, I say make this Responsible Pet Ownership Month your time to give it a shot. With the right trainer, there's no downside and a tremendous amount of benefits.
Hiring a professional dog trainer can help dogs with behavior problems, but there's many more reasons than that. It’s also a great way to teach you how to communicate in effectively with your dog. You'll learn to play in a way they enjoy most and work towards a relationship based on mutual respect and a deep bond.
“Dog training” is a bit of a misnomer, because the bulk of the training is not for you dog, but for you. Like anything worthwhile, building an exceptional relationship with your dog will require work.
Movies like “Homeward Bound”, “Lassie” and countless others, make us long for the unparalleled bond between canines and humans. Like many things, we paint a “magical” picture of the ideal but neglect to realize that it takes time.
Getting a dog can be an emotional decision leading us to undervalue important factors like breed characteristics, individual personality and temperaments, as well as our own factors like lifestyle and environments. A dog trainer can help you sort out your expectations, so that you are aware of what is reasonable, what can be modified and what is simply not possible.
A good trainer will observe how you interact with your dog and point out body language that you don’t even know you’re doing.
In one of my sessions with my own dog trainer, Duckie was not heeling properly. Rather than her usual happy, bouncy walk with her shoulder perfectly in line with my knees, she lagged shyly with her ears back. I didn’t understand why, and I was once a dog trainer.
Thankfully, our trainer was there to point out that in my enthusiasm, I was watching her intently with my left shoulder dropped and my upper body slightly turned towards her. All behaviors and body positions that were intimidating to her. I wasn’t even aware I was doing it. I was trying to proudly show off her new skills and she thought she was in trouble!
The need for a dog trainer doesn’t end with basic obedience, either. A trainer is an excellent source for new ideas to keep your bright dog mentally engaged and challenged so they don’t become bored and destructive. They can help you bolster a shy dog’s confidence avoiding the down spiral of fear responses. That annoying thing your dog does that you have resigned yourself to just ignore? Your dog may be trying to tell you something that you’re not getting.
Trainers are also able to identify behaviors that are triggered by health, enabling you to catch and address potential problems while they’re still minor.
Finding the right trainer for you and your dog is key. Currently, there is no federal or state standard for dog training certifications, however, there are organizations that offer certifications based on completion of their course. Find out what certifications the dog trainer your looking into has and check into them.
Ask if you can you sit in to observe a few classes. Watch how his or her students (human and canine) interact with him or her.
Are their theories and methodology consistent with what you find humane and respectful? Do they have positive reviews from “graduates” of their courses? Do they have working knowledge of your dog’s breed? If there are specific concerns about your dog, do they answer your questions confidently?
When you've found the right fit, make the appointment. With the right trainer, there's nothing to lose and yet there's a whole world of joy to gain.