Most responsible dog guardians seek out the advice of a professional dog trainer to make sure their dog is the happiest they can possibly be. Whether it is to deal with undesirable behaviours or purely for fun. But choosing a dog trainer can be a daunting task. At the moment, the dog training industry is unregulated and picking the right trainer for you and your dog can be somewhat of a minefield. With lots of conflicting advice and ideas out there. Unfortunately, this sometimes results in dog owners with their dog’s best interest at heart, employing and taking advice from under qualified trainers who employ damaging training methods.
So, what can we do to ensure we use the best trainers?
There is a great organisation called the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) who’s members will have voluntarily put themselves forward for accreditation. This accreditation process tests members learning theory through a written essay and a formal interview. Their practical skills are also tested by being assessed whilst taking a class. If they pass accreditation, the trainers are invited to become a member and they commit to only use force free training and put dog’s welfare at the forefront of whatever they do. As a pet guardian, this gives you the confidence that if the trainer you are looking to work with is a member of the APDT, then they will be of a high standard and will only use force free training methods. You can check out trainers local to you here.
Unfortunately, the APDT is a voluntary body that trainers have to apply to join. Anybody with the resources to do so, can set themselves up as a “dog trainer” regardless of qualification, experience or understanding of learning theory. This means that some of your local dog trainers may be using incorrect training methods and giving out bad advice that will only harm the welfare of your pet.
We are passionate about force free, professional dog training here at Positive Pet Training. We work to demand action from the government to put in place a governing body to regulate the dog training industry. A governing body, similarly to the APDT model could carry out accreditation of dog trainers. This could ensure that all professional dog trainers are of the highest standards and are using only correct training methods. They could also keep a log of all professional dog trainers CPD to ensure that accredited dog trainers remain up to date with current training methods and scientific evidence. We think it is appalling that well-meaning pet guardians can spend good money on Charlatans who end up ruining their dog and want to do everything we can to prevent this.
How do I tell the good from the bad?
With outdated dog training ideas so ingrained in the British pet owning psyche, it can be confusing when trying to differentiate between good and bad dog trainers. As I mention above, where possible, think about using a member of the APDT. But if there is not an APDT member in your area, you can still find good trainers employing force free training methods.
Firstly, make contact with the local trainers. Give them information about yourself and your dog and ask them what sort of training methods they employ. From the responses you get, you will see a distinct difference between two types of trainers.
Good trainers will tend to use words such as;
- Force Free
- Treat Based
- Operant Conditioning
- Classical Conditioning
Bad trainers will tend to use words such as;
- Pack leader
- Instant results!
From their response, you will get a good idea of how suitable their training methods are. But I would always recommend going along to one of their classes without your dog to observe them in action. You will get a really good feel of what methods they use and you can chat to other pet guardians at the class to get their feedback too. We personally use our seminars to allow potential clients to get to know us, understand our approach and qualifications in dog training but if people would like to sit in to ensure they are happy with our methods we are more than happy to accommodate.
Protecting your dog
Overall if anyone tries to convince you to do something you or your dog aren’t comfortable with it is your job to protect your dog and be strong enough to say “no!”. We have sadly met so many people who said they thought what they were doing was wrong but because “a professional” told them to do it they felt that they had to. Stay strong and believe in yourself, if it feels wrong, say so. A science based trainer will be able to explain how that method works. If you still aren’t comfortable can find another way to train the same behaviour. Pain should never be used in training. It has been scientifically proven that dogs can be fully trained without any need for pain or fear at all!
If in doubt, time to get out!
If at any point, you feel that the trainer isn’t the correct one for you. Don’t entrust your dog’s training with them! Even if you’re concerned that your dog needs training asap, keep on looking for a good, force free trainer. Time under the tuition of a bad trainer isn’t fair to your dog and can damage your dog. In the long run it creates more work for you. It will take a lot of time to undo that damage and could cause more undesirable behaviours to develop.
If you think you are already enlisted the help of a trainer who is using incorrect methods. Don’t panic. Stop all training straight away and get in contact with a local force free trainer. Make sure you let them know what previous training methods your dog has been exposed to. They will be able to tailor a training programme to this and they will make sure that training is conducted at a pace that your dog can handle.
Like most things in life, word of mouth is a really good way of finding good dog trainers. If you use Facebook, there are some great local dog training discussion groups who you’ll be able to get some great information and tips from. Including local force free dog trainers.
We wish you and your dog the best of luck on your training journey together and choosing a dog trainer!