Behind every ‘good dog’ is a responsible owner and a great trainer! Whether you’re teaching your pooch basic obedience or trying to resolve a behaviour problem, choosing the right trainer is crucial, not only for puppies but for dogs of any age.
That said, the early weeks of puppies’ lives is the critical socialisation period when they are most open to learning and accepting new experiences and most vulnerable to bad experiences.
Unfortunately, dog training is an unregulated industry so anyone can call themselves a dog trainer, regardless of their qualification. Some trainers also still use antiquated force-based training methods and equipment, such as electronic devices or prong collars, which can cause pets serious injury.
So how do you choose a good dog trainer to help put your pup’s best paw forward? Barbara Hodel from Goodog Positive Dog Training and President of Pet Professional Guild of Australia shares her advice:
Reward-based dog trainer
The number one thing is to find a dog trainer who uses reward-based training methods, also called force-free or positive reinforcement training. If your chosen dog trainer talks about dominance and pack leadership, run! These concepts are outdated and unhelpful at best and downright abusive at worst.
Rewards-based training involves food (treats), play, praise or patting; whatever is most ‘valuable’ and suitable to your dog.
Dog training requires skill and knowledge, so you need to find a dog trainer with appropriate educational qualifications, such as Cert IV in Companion Animal Services from Delta or Animals on Course, which focus on positive reinforcement.
Membership with industry organisations
Another criteria to look for in a dog trainer is membership to a professional dog training organisation committed to force-free dog training, such as Pet Professional Guild of Australia (PPGA), Delta Institute or Association of Pet Dog Trainers Australia (APDTA).
Be sure to verify the dog trainer’s membership on the organisation’s directory.
Like any other profession, professional dog trainers need to stay up to date with developments in their field. Find out what courses they’ve taken to develop their knowledge and skills in training.
A few dog training organisations, such as PPGA, require continuing education for their members and learning opportunities for pet owners.
Check the dog trainer’s social media accounts, read customer testimonials, ask your dog loving friends and your veterinarian for recommendations of rewards-based trainers.
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