A question that I’m often asked is “how do you choose a dog trainer?” The answer to this question depends on a number of factors, which we’ll cover in this post. At a high level, you’ll want a trainer who takes a balanced approach, and whose philosophy aligns with yours. They also need to communicate with you, and be transparent.
The Philosophy Of Balanced Training
A good dog trainer takes a balanced approach to training. What does that mean? Well, think about it this way: A dog has roughly the same intelligence as a 2-3 year old child. As such, they respond to different forms of punishment and reinforcement. Below, I’ve outlined the four quadrants of balanced training, with examples of each. A good dog trainer will use techniques from all four quadrants, in order to get the desired behaviors.
Positive Reinforcement (R+)
The addition of something that the dog likes, which increases the frequency of the behavior.
Example: The dog gets a treat when they heel next to their owner on a loose leash.
Negative Reinforcement (R-)
The removal of something that the dog does not like, which decreases the frequency of the behavior.
Example: Leash pressure lets up when the dog stops pulling on the leash.
Positive Punishment (P+)
The addition of something that the dog does not like, which decreases the frequency of the behavior.
Example: A pop on the leash when the dog pulls ahead on a walk.
Negative Punishment (P-)
The removal of something that the dog does not like, which increases the frequency of the behavior.
Example: Turning away and removing attention when a dog jumps up on a person.
When selecting a dog trainer, ensure that their philosophy aligns with yours. There are trainers out there who rely heavily on e-collars and corrections, and others who rely mainly on positive reinforcement (while ignoring all undesired behaviors). Both of these trainers will produce dogs with underlying issues when they go home, as neither method effectively addresses the underlying cause of the behavior.
By adopting a focus-based approach, Dogology gets the dog to “check in” with their owner whenever they encounter a new stimulus. This cements the bond between dog and owner.
Communication & Transparency
In addition to taking a balanced training approach, a good dog trainer will communicate regularly with you, and will provide updates on your dog’s progress. They’ll break things down, and will make sure that you understand not only what you need to do to continue your dog’s training, but also why it’s important, and how to correctly execute the training.
Transparency is also key! At Dogology, we invite all of our board and train clients to visit their dog whenever they want – all we ask for is an hour’s notice to make sure that we’re home! We also provide shared Google docs where we update the dog’s progress on a weekly basis, and work with the owner every Friday before their dog goes home for the weekend.
Questions To Ask
When evaluating dog trainers, here are a few questions to ask:
- What method of training do you use?
- What is your educational background in the area of dog training (and behavior if applicable)?
- What is some recent continuing education that you have attended?
- What equipment do you use?
- What kind of follow-up do you provide to your clients?
- Can you provide a list of clients we can contact for references?
- Do you belong to any professional associations, and if not, why not?
- What are your credentials? Do you have any certifications?
- What sort of services do you provide for pet owners? Do you provide specialized services? (i.e. therapy dog training, competitive dog sports training, service dog training)
If you’d like to learn what our answers to these questions are, or if you’d like to learn more about our training programs (and to see if we’d be a good fit), contact us. We’d love to talk with you, and determine how we can help you and your pup!