Questions to Ask a Dog Trainer

Training your dog can help protect you, your dog and the public.
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A responsible dog owner trains her dogs. Training makes your life easier and keeps your dog safe. For example, a dog that isn't well trained may run away and get hit by a car, while a well trained dog will respond to a command to sit or come back. If you decide to hire a dog trainer, ask some specific questions to ensure that the training style meets your needs.

What Type of Training Do You Offer?

There are two options for dog training with a dog trainer: have a trainer help you train your dog or pay a trainer to train the dog for you. In most cases, having a trainer work with you to train your dog is the best option because you want your dog to listen to you. If the trainer trains the dog without you, the dog may not view you as an authority figure and may have trouble following your commands. However, a trainer training the dog for you is appropriate if your dog is a show dog and the trainer will be the dog's handler at shows.

Do You Offer Group Classes, Individual Instruction or Both?

Ideally, the dog trainer you choose will offer group classes and individual instruction. Group classes let your dog socialize with other dogs and people, which can help your dog remain calm when presented with groups, such as at a park. Individual instruction allows you and your dog to work together with the trainer on behavior problems your dog has without having to use time in a group class.

Do You Use Discipline or Positive Reinforcement to Train?

Training your dog should result in your dog respecting you instead of your dog fearing you. In order to do this, your dog trainer should use positive reinforcement. For example, when teaching your dog to sit, slapping the dog or jerking on its collar if it doesn't sit is discipline training. Positive reinforcement for teaching a dog to sit can include giving the dog a treat and praise when it sits, and encouraging it to sit through hand motions and gentle coaxing.

How Many Skills are Taught in Each Session?

One skill is ideal for each training session because you then have a chance to focus on that single skill until the next session. In some cases, two skills, such as sit and sit-stay can be taught in a single class since they are similar. If you use a dog trainer who teaches multiple skills in each session, your dog may become confused, and as a result, may be harder to train.

Do You Offer Refresher Courses and Advanced Courses?

After your dog finishes the initial training course, you may decide that you want to build on the skills learned. Some trainers offer advanced courses, such as agility training, citizenship training or show training. Refresher courses may help you and your dog remember the skills learned during the initial course and provide an opportunity for you to discuss any training challenges you experienced since the initial course.

Do You Provide Proof of Completed Training?

While this may not seem like a big deal, it can be. Some insurance companies give discounts for dogs who have successfully completed a training course. Even if you aren't likely to need the proof for that reason, you may need it if you change to a new trainer so that you won't have to go through the classes for the same skills all over again.

Are You a Certified Dog Trainer?

A certification shows that the dog trainer is knowledgeable in training and helping owners to come up solutions to training issues. While there are numerous organizations that certify dog trainers, Association of Pet Dog Trainers and National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors are the two main associations. If you aren't sure of the certification the trainer presents, ask the trainer what the criteria were to receive the certification or contact the certifying agency to find out.