How to Pick a Dog Trainer

Look for someone who’s transparent, experienced in training owners, and respectful of your training goals.

Rebecca Golian has 15 years of experience in dog training and behavior modification. She joins us monthly to offer advice on building trust and respect with our four-legged family members.

If you’ve never worked with a dog trainer, the process of finding the right person and the right training style can feel a bit overwhelming.

That’s why this week we’ll focus on choosing a dog trainer, including some important questions to ask when interviewing candidates. We’ll also talk briefly about the difference between obedience training and behavior modification, and what to look for in a trainer if your dog’s goals include some form of behavior rehabilitation.

If you’d like to first take a step back to see whether dog training is right for you, check out my previous posts on why it’s important to train your dog and how to find the best dog training method. Otherwise, let’s jump in.

How do I pick a dog trainer?

Seek help from a dog trainer who is transparent. Look for someone who shares work via photos / videos and who is upfront about his or her training philosophy and tools.

As I mentioned last time, there isn’t a single best dog training method – the right training style for your dog depends on your goals. Your trainer should understand and respect those goals and be experienced in the training method that will best help you achieve them.

Finally, look for a trainer who’s also experienced in owner training. You might be surprised to know dog training is as much about training the owner as it is the dog. At the end of your training program, you should feel empowered to continue working with your dog. Pick a dog trainer you feel comfortable with. Choose someone who listens to your needs and enjoys working with you as much as he or she enjoys working with your dog.

What questions should I ask when choosing a dog trainer?

When interviewing dog trainers, ask them how they train, what tools they use and how they plan to address your dog’s behavior. Look for candidates who can give direct answers.

If a trainer’s website doesn’t include details about his or her training philosophy, programs or pricing, ask during your consultation.

And if your dog needs behavior modification, make sure your trainer has experience working with those kinds of issues. Ask for testimonials or social media content that shows the trainer working with difficult dogs. Find out how he or she plans to stop the dangerous or unwanted behaviors and make sure your training philosophies align.

What’s the difference between obedience training and behavior modification?

Obedience training teaches your dog specific obedience commands such as sit, down, stay, come, place, etc.

There are also more advanced levels of dog training such as off-leash remote collar training; protection, bite and sport training; agility; search and rescue; hunting and herding; and service dog training. These dogs learn basic obedience commands as well, but they also learn specific, job-related tasks.

Behavior modification is another category of dog training. Not all dog trainers specialize in behavior modification (also known as behavior rehabilitation). Typically this type of training is for dogs that have some form of fear, anxiety, OCD behaviors, aggression or reactivity.

Although obedience should be part of every dog training program, learning obedience commands doesn’t necessarily stop unwanted or problematic behaviors.

I’ve worked with many dogs that have excellent obedience, and they know all their commands, and they still exhibit extreme behavior problems. So having good obedience training doesn’t necessarily correlate to having a well-balanced, behaviorally adjusted dog. Behavior modification addresses a dog’s state of mind, and that’s a very intricate process.

About Rebecca Golian

Rebecca Golian is a licensed and certified professional dog trainer and the owner of Love in the Lead Canine Training, which offers dog training, behavior modification and a service dog training program. She lives in Charlotte with her dogs Benji and Mistletoe.

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Ask a Dog Trainer

Have a dog training or behavior question for Rebecca? Send it to us at contact@dogclt.com and she’ll answer it in an upcoming column.

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