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Choosing a Dog Trainer

20/12/2019 - Dog Training

If you want to hire a trainer, what do you look for?

It’s a minefield out there in Facebook and Google land – so many trainers, so many promises, who is best? Most importantly – who is best to help YOU and your dog?
I firstly recommend a suitably qualified trainer – I am IMDT trained and I recommend an IMDT trainer as they are not just qualified but pass a 2 day assessment on both dog and people skills. They abide by a strict code of ethics are also reassessed every year to ensure they keep their skills updated (I know I teach differently this year than I did last year even!). There is a trainer’s directory at https://www.imdt.com.au/find-a-qualified-imdt-trainer. There are some other great qualifications – ie  Karen Pryor Academy or Delta.
Then look at experience. Now, it does depend on your issue. If you just want help with some loose lead walking or recall, a young newly qualified trainer is perfect – they should have great methods and training skills for those training issues. If it is a more complex you might want someone with some more experience. However, years isn’t everything – a good question to ask a trainer is “what professional development training have you done this year”. You want someone who keeps their skills and knowledge up to date as research and science is evolving in dog training continuously – if they did their qualification 15 years ago and haven’t done any further professional development they will most likely be using out dated methods.
But find someone you feel comfortable with and whose teaching style suits YOU and your dog. This is very important. We all have different learning types plus you need someone you can trust.

And, if at any stage any professional, be it a vet, trainer or groomer, does anything you don’t like, be an advocate for your dog and say no!
So, you are looking at hiring a trainer? Here are some questions to help you find the right one.

  1. How many years have you been dog training?
  2. What qualification do you hold?
  3. What professional development have you completed in the past 12 months?
  4. What happens when my dog gets it wrong? (look for – we will teach it what to do right/redirect to a more appropriate behaviour– answer to watch for and steer away from “we will correct it”)
  5. Will I need any special equipment? (A flat collar or harness is fine – but answers to watch out for – yes a new halti/check chain/prong collar or ecollar – training should be effective without the need for special equipment)
  6. What methods do you use? Look for “positive reinforcement” or “force free” and be aware that the words “balanced” or ”traditional” mean they use aversive methods – and these methods have potential fallout and can impact your relationship with your dog.
  7. Are you appropriately insured?
I am happy to answer such questions from potential clients. In fact, here are my answers!
  1. I have been dog training since 2000, including 14 years as a professional detector dog trainer and handler. The Doggy Lady has been in operation since 2016, offering sniffer dog school and private behaviour and training consultations.
  2. I have Level 3 (OCN) Principles of Dog Training and Behaviour. I am also a full member of the IMDT.
  3. In the past 12 months I have attended:
    • Dog Aggression – John McGuigan (Scotland)
    • Hyper to Calm – John McGuigan (Scotland)
    • Human Movement for Dog Training – John McGuigan (Scotland) and Sam Turner (Netherlands)
    • Advanced Proprioception Training (Sam Turner)
    • Dive Deep (a 5 day Advanced Training course) – Ken Ramirez (USA)
    • Helping Dogs Thrive: Aging Dogs (6 week online course) – Lori Stevens (USA)
    • APDT Conference (3 days plus 1 day workshops) – Ken Ramirez (USA) and Michael Skikashio – Aggression expert  (USA)
    • Interactive Play Workshop - Craig Ogilvie (UK)
    • Communication, Arousal and Problematic Behaviours – Craig Ogilvie (UK)
    • Massage for Performance Dogs (6 week online course – in progress – Lori Stevens (USA)
    • Plus some local workshops, seminars plus webinars
  4. I will set your dog up to succeed so hopefully they don’t get it wrong anymore! Rather than correct your dog for getting it “wrong”, we will teach your dog a new replacement behaviour and reward them for that. So rather than just saying “No” and not telling them what to do instead – which can either frustrate them or have them just keep trying the “wrong” behaviour  = we say “try this instead” and reward them for it – so they start doing the “right” behaviour you have chosen.
  5. No special equipment required!
  6. My methods are best described as “force free”. I will always choose the most humane and ethical way of training. Training should be enjoyable for you and your dog. I also understand that not everyone is a mad dog training geek like me – so I endeavour to put training into your lifestyle so it is achievable and effective! I don’t use big training words either – I keep those for my dog training geek friends!
  7. I hold appropriate insurance – as required by my IMDT membership (another reason to hire an IMDT trainer - many of these questions are already checked off!)

I am always happy to provide people with names of great trainers in their area. Don’t be afraid to ask questions before you hire – a good trainer will be happy to answer.
And don’t forget - there is a trainer’s directory at https://www.imdt.com.au/find-a-qualified-imdt-trainer.
Happy Training!