7 Qualities to Look for in a Dog Trainer

Mar 2 / Jennifer Thornburg
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Did you know that dog training is an unregulated industry? Anyone who has loved dogs their whole lives can call themselves a dog trainer. But it doesn't mean they have the experience or education in the most current science on dog learning and behavior. A trainer's techniques will affect your dog's behavior for years and possibly your dog's entire lifetime so it's essential to choose your dog professional carefully. 

There are "dog trainers" who will use things that a dog doesn't want to happen to change their behavior. They may use terms like "dominance" or "alpha" to explain a dog's behavior. Or they may be sneaky in describing their methods, using terms like balanced, natural, functional, and intuitive. They'll call what they do adjusting, pushing, or correcting. And they may offer "boot camps" and talk about packs or how dogs get other dogs to change their behavior.  
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Your dog needs you to look out for them so please do your homework.
It's up to you to find an educated and experienced professional who will not rely on force fear to change your dog's behavior. Obviously, we know a very talented dog trainer. But if you're not local to Winston-Salem, NC and need an experienced dog trainer, here is a list of qualities we recommend you look for. 

7 Important Qualities to Look for in a Dog Trainer.
1. They should use terms such as positive reinforcement, relationship-based, reward-based, clicker training, or force-free in their descriptions of training methods. Be aware that "balanced" trainers may also use clickers and positive reinforcement training. Yet when their skills run out, they may rely on fear and force to change your dog's behavior. Abraham Lincoln said "Violence begins where knowledge ends." This is very true for the dog training industry at this time.

2. A qualified trainer will never offer a guarantee or timeline for training goals. They should work at the dog's pace and prioritize your dog's comfort over quick results.

3. If you seek to change your dog's behavior, choose a dog trainer that offers behavior consultations rather than an "obedience" or "manners" trainer. A group setting is not appropriate for a dog uneasy around new places, people, or other dogs.

4. Your trainer's certifications should be hard-earned rather than easily obtained. There are many organizations offering "certification" to anyone with the money to spend. Here is a breakdown of some of the certifications we recommend.

5. If your dog professional has these certifications, they must engage in continuous education. A qualified professional will always seek to know more and obtain this knowledge through conferences, webinars, and consulting with other trainers, certified veterinary behaviorists, and certified dog behavior consultants. 

6. They will take a team approach, sharing knowledge with you so you can continue to help your dog. They may add your vet or a vet behaviorist to your team. And your dog should always be the most important member of your team! 

7. Your dog professional should be your cheerleader! They will practice positive reinforcement with every species, including humans. They understand that dog training is actually about modifying behavior in both people and dogs.​

What about online reviews?
Many positive online reviews may suggest a dog trainer is outstanding in their field. Dog professionals who use coercive methods can absolutely change behavior, but at what cost?
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Long-lasting change comes from within.
When we train dogs, we teach them how to feel about the training, how to feel about the person training and the environment where the training occurs.

There is always fallout from punishment, even when it's not apparent to the untrained eye. For your dog, how they learn matters greatly. 
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Please watch this video by Jean Donaldson to learn more about choosing your dog professional in an unregulated industry.
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