In my career as a certified dog trainer, I have come across an array of excuses as to why some
people don’t want to hire a trainer. Although the Internet is a wonderful resource, unfortunately, when it comes to dog training, there is a lot of misinformation and downright inaccurate advice out there. My advice is always to hire a certified trainer, because when it comes to communicating with a member of a different species that we love and live with, there is nothing like having a professional explain exactly what is going on and specifically what to do.
Let’s address some of the most common reasons as to why people don’t want to hire a trainer:
“I don’t have enough time.”
- Who isn’t busy these days? Between work, family, friends, hobbies, a social life, and the daily rituals of eating, showering, and sleeping, it sometimes seems that there isn’t room for one more thing! Unfortunately, the reality is, your dog is not a robot that is programmed to be perfect on his or her own. Getting a dog is a big commitment, and that commitment involves devoting some of our time. Yes, training takes some time, but living with a dog with behavioral issues is going to be much more time consuming (and stressful!) One of the great benefits of hiring a trainer is that we can come right to your home, give you realistic guidance to fit within your schedule, and create a training program that works best for you, your family, and your pup!
“It’s too expensive.”
- Just as you invest in your work, car, house, and loved ones, think of training as an investment in your dog. Hiring a qualified trainer can sometimes be expensive, but so is replacing your rug or hiring a lawyer if a lawsuit arises (and you thought dog training was expensive!) Training prevents problems from happening and also helps resolve current ones. If you have a dog with a behavioral issue, whether you realize it or not, you will be spending money on it in one-way or another. This way, you are at least putting the money toward a happy, healthy, well-behaved dog in the long run. I can honestly say, even if it is just for minor issues, any money spent on training with a certified trainer that uses positive methods is money well spent. Remember, you are also investing in you having the knowledge needed to bond stronger with your dog and communicate with him or her for the rest of your lives together, and you can’t put a price tag on that.
“I can do it myself.”
- You certainly may be able to teach your dog some skills and tricks, especially if you are well read in dog behavior and have some experience around other dogs. Certified dog trainers go to school to get certified and spend years learning, reading, evaluating, and working hands-on with many different dogs and issues. Hiring a trainer allows you to have someone with specific experience evaluating dog behavior to give you some tips, guidance, and methods that you may not have thought of. Think of if you just purchased a brand new car. You may be able to read up on how to fill the windshield wiper fluid, change a flat tire, or change the oil, but if the engine was acting up most people wouldn’t advise trying to fix it yourself (even if you read a hundred articles and watched a video). You’d probably bring it to the mechanic to ensure it was done properly, right? We all know that person who thinks they can fix everything on his or her own, refuses to call for help, and it can sometimes just wind up making it worse. Well, the same can happen with your dog’s behavior. Hire a qualified professional and your mind can rest easy knowing that the job is getting done right!
“We did a training class and it didn’t work. My dog can’t be fixed.”
- In all honesty, several of my clients are those who went to puppy classes or signed up at a large chain pet store for dog training classes and were dissatisfied. Luckily, they didn’t give up and sought out other training options. Not every type of class or environment will be the best for your dog to learn in. A certified trainer will be able to tell you specifically, what your dog’s needs are. Just like humans, not all dogs are the same, but all dogs have the potential to be trained, to focus, and to learn. No dog is “too nuts” or “too stubborn” to learn and benefit from training. As dog trainers, we have seen hundreds of the “crazy”, “nutty”, “hard-headed” dogs of the world! It’s our job. I have trained everything from six-week-old puppies with a “fresh” start to senior dogs that have been practicing bad habits for several years. Every dog has potential.
“It’s not that important.”
- Some people view dog training as a “luxury” when it should be viewed as a requirement or necessity. Too many dogs are living in our world and are given the wrong direction, too little direction, or no direction. For example, many of the dogs that find themselves in shelters (aside from those surrendered due to living arrangements, a death, or similar event) are ones that didn’t receive proper training and were surrendered for behavioral issues. I hear of too many cases where a dog was purchased, became “out of control”, was surrendered to a shelter, and later on put down, all over a few things that could have been improved and/or resolved with a little bit of proper training. Overall, our human ways of communicating with dogs is confusing for them. Even though many dogs tolerate our ways, wouldn’t it be nice to know how to communicate with our beloved fur-friends?
“I don’t know how to go about finding a qualified trainer. There are too many options.”
- Just like when hiring a contractor or a doctor, you want to find someone qualified that you can trust. Unfortunately, there are plenty of unqualified and/or not-so-good trainers out there. The first step is ensuring the trainer is certified. Most trainers will include their certification on their marketing materials and website. If you don’t see it, make sure you ask or just continue on with your search. In my opinion, when you spend all that time, energy, and money into getting certified you want to let your potential clients know! It’s like handing someone your resume and not including that you graduated from college.
- The next step is to ask a lot of questions! Primarily, you should ask them what kind of methods they use. Unfortunately, there are still some trainers out there that will use aversive techniques to “train” your dog. These techniques usually involve inflicting pain and/or discomfort to your dog to get him or her to act desirable or complete a skill. Many scientific studies show these types of techniques can have long-lasting negative effects on your dog and can make behaviors worse, among other things. Not to mention, it’s not assisting in strengthening the bond with your dog or helping him or her enjoy the training process. Modern dog training has been geared toward positive methods for training. So it is important to ask questions like, “How would my dog get rewarded?” “What happens if my dog does something incorrectly?” “What types of training tools do you use?”
- The last step is ensuring you like the person and they seem like a good fit. I know this sounds obvious, but it’s important. Don’t think just because the person has a bunch of credentials slapped after their name that they are the best trainer to hire. I have seen certified personal trainers who are out of shape and I’ve talked to doctors who aren’t up to date on the latest in natural-remedies. Both examples are technically qualified for what they do, but they just wouldn’t be what I would be looking for. Does the trainer sound friendly? Does he or she sound helpful? Is he or she answering all of your questions? Is he or she fully listening to you? The reality is, this person is going to be coming into your home and working with you, your dog, and your family. Make sure it is someone who is personable, patient, professional, and who is a good listener. Overall, make sure it’s someone who you wouldn’t mind spending time with, because you will be!
Whether you notice your dog is currently having some behavioral issues or you’re trying to ensure you prevent any problems from occurring in the future, realizing that your dog needs training is a truly wonderful and responsible thing. If you are seeking information on training or currently signed up with your pup, be very proud that you are doing the right thing for your furry family member!