Did you know that there is a significant difference between dog trainers? It frustrates me when I hear people calling themselves an animal psychologist or other given titles when there is no schooling backing up the claims. Consumers of these services do not know that there are no laws concerning these tiles. Can you imagine going to the doctor, or so s/he calls but s/he has no schooling? This is what it is like in the dog world. As a good consumer of services, it is important to ask a lot of questions concerning credentials.
Questions to Ask
Are you certified or did you attend any school? Any person right now in the United States can go to a print shop and put together a great looking card that has their name on it with a title of dog trainer. This does not make a person a great dog trainer or qualified to help you with serious matters like aggression. Please do your homework! There are many different professional organizations that have been organized to help people prove their knowledge in many different areas pertaining to canine training. One is the Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers (www.ccpdt.org ). Trainers must pass a four hour closed book exam that is done at a testing facility and before the test is allowed the trainer must have completed at least 300 head training hours. There are also actual trade schools like Triple Crown Academy that trainers can attend.
What is your style of training? I will never forget after I had trained for many years, I rang a student’s doorbell for our very first time to meet and our first session together. As the door came flying open she asked, “Are you the trainer that brings in the tennis racket?” I am sure that my eyes were wide with confusion and then I think I started laughing. “No, how ridiculous!?” She went on to explain that there was a trainer in the area using a tennis racket in her sessions. Positive Reinforcement training is a scientifically based method. I like using a variety of tools within positive reinforcement like the clicker. This is an area that trainers vary even within the same method. I think the bottom line is choosing someone that you are comfortable with. If you aren’t comfortable over the phone, then I would suggest moving on. Yes, your dog will be trained, but you will too, so it’s important that you are comfortable with the person that you choose.
Ask for Letters of Recommendation with phone numbers. This is something I think will allow you to really get a feel for someone before you hire a trainer.
There is also a difference between a dog trainer and an animal behaviorist.
A dog trainer is kind of like going to your regular doctor and your doctor knows a lot about the body, but sometimes there are needs for a specialist. An animal behaviorist is like the specialist in the dog world. A dog trainer works towards some behavior modifications and the regular basics like sit/stay and can help you with competitive dog sports. An animal behaviorist has at least a Masters in an animal science and helps clients with more difficult behavior modification cases like severe aggression, anxiety, etc. Expect an animal behaviorist to charge more than a dog trainer and the price will vary depending on the location you are in the US.
Please do not expect a dog trainer or an animal behaviorist to fix your problems in 20 words or less over the phone for free. A great trainer or animal behaviorist will ask a lot of questions and listen well. I also believe that each will know their own limitations in what they can do for your dog and honestly let you know.