Columbia Star

1963        Celebrating 60 Years      2023

What to expect when you hire a dog trainer



The first step in a successful relationship with your dog is to select a breed that is compatible with your lifestyle. This is the author’s working line German Shepherd dog in a rare moment of relaxation.

The first step in a successful relationship with your dog is to select a breed that is compatible with your lifestyle. This is the author’s working line German Shepherd dog in a rare moment of relaxation.

So you’ve decided that it’s time to hire a dog trainer. Maybe you can’t seem to housetrain your puppy. Maybe your dog needs better house manners. Maybe your dog is fearful or lunges and barks at people or other dogs. Whatever the reason, you may have watched YouTube videos or read books to try to solve the problem yourself and have not made satisfactory progress.

Selecting a trainer is an important decision for your dog’s well-being and for your relationship with your pet. Before you begin your search it is important to understand what trainers can do and what they can’t do.

All trainers wish they had a magic wand and could come in with a wave of the wand and immedi­ately fix the problems. It would make our professional lives and your personal lives easier. We are used to the conveniences of remote controls or being able to touch a button to make something happen. Unfortunately, the magic wand or magic button does not exist. What good trainers do have is education, knowledge, and experience. Luckily, there are many more learning resources now for trainers than there were 20 years ago. Science has provided today’s educated trainers with consistent, proven practices for modifying behav­ior. An ethical, responsible trainer will keep up with the newest science in dog behavior and new reward-based training techniques for the benefit of you and your dog.

A qualified trainer can help you teach your dog new skills and management techniques to redirect unwanted behaviors. Sometimes this involves helping family members learn how to change their behavior to help their dog behave.

A qualified trainer can help you teach your dog new skills and management techniques to redirect unwanted behaviors. Sometimes this involves helping family members learn how to change their behavior to help their dog behave.

Hiring a trainer is much like hiring a tutor and a psychologist for your child. Trainers cannot completely change your dog’s personality. What trainers can do, in most cases, is modify unwanted behavior or assist you in teaching your dog valuable cues. For example, if a dog exhibits aggressive behavior, this behavior can be caused by fear, early trauma, lack of socialization, or a genetic component. A competent trainer will interview you to examine the dog’s history and determine what needs to be addressed before the training or behavior modification begins. Training and behavior modifica­tion may only achieve moderate changes in the behav­ior if the behavior is caused by a deeply rooted genetic trait or lack of early socialization. What you can expect from the trainer is advice on managing and preventing the behavior and learning techniques to continue to work on changing the behavior to a more acceptable response. The success of the training depends on your willingness to consistently and accurately practice the exercises you are given. Training is teamwork, and your involvement is critical.

Gigi’s chewing is a natural but sometimes frustrating behavior of dogs. A trainer can­not change a dog’s desire to chew but can help you understand your dog’s natural behaviors.

Gigi’s chewing is a natural but sometimes frustrating behavior of dogs. A trainer can­not change a dog’s desire to chew but can help you understand your dog’s natural behaviors.

Trainers cannot change your dog’s breed and genetics so initial selection of your dog is an important decision. Select a breed or mix that is suitable for your lifestyle and expectations. A working or hunting breed is not a suitable selection for apartment or sedentary living. Herding dogs are energetic, can be sight and sound sensitive, and may bark a lot. Labrador Retriev­ers and Golden Retrievers and their doodle mixes chew things and will persistently jump on you. An energetic working breed like a German Shepherd dog or Mali­nois cannot be trained to relax on the couch and sleep all day while you are at work. Siberian Huskies or any of the Japanese breeds are independent and may be a challenge to train. Toy dogs such as Maltese or Dachs­hunds are frequently difficult to housetrain. Puppies of any breed will have housetraining accidents and will mouth you. What a competent trainer can do is help you understand your dog’s or puppy’s unwanted behavior and provide management and training cues to make your dog a more liveable partner. Your trainer cannot change the dog you have into a totally different companion or teach your puppy how to act like a mature dog, but the trainer can help you manage and prevent the behavior and help you understand what to expect with the dog or the age.

Erin Rolison of Wonderdog Training is an example of a credentialed trainer who contin­ues her education to provide the most recent, science-based training.

Erin Rolison of Wonderdog Training is an example of a credentialed trainer who contin­ues her education to provide the most recent, science-based training.

If your dog has practiced the unwanted behavior for years and you’ve finally had enough, don’t expect a trainer to be able to give you a few lessons and the dog is “fixed.” It’s best to contact a professional, reward-based trainer as soon as the unwanted behavior appears for the best training results.

Lee Cato is teaching Secret a new trick. Trainers can offer sugges­tions on using techniques to manage a dog’s energy.

Lee Cato is teaching Secret a new trick. Trainers can offer sugges­tions on using techniques to manage a dog’s energy.

If you contact a professional trainer who says he or she guarantees his or her training, find another trainer. No trainer can guarantee the behavior of a dog or its response to an environmental stimulus. Dogs have their own feelings and their own individual expe­riences that affect behavior. There are complex and varied factors that affect who a dog is and how it behaves, including early socialization, in utero factors, genetics, traumatic experiences, and countless other factors.

Instead of a dog training guarantee, what you can expect from a trainer is support for you throughout the training in the form of accessibility through calls, emails or texts, and written homework as guidance.

A trainer can help your dog develop skills that will be helpful in coping with challenges such as veterinary visits or grooming. Emily-Rose Allred is teaching Tetris a chin rest.

A trainer can help your dog develop skills that will be helpful in coping with challenges such as veterinary visits or grooming. Emily-Rose Allred is teaching Tetris a chin rest.

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