Yanking, Clicking, Treats, and Trainers…How do you find a good one?

Photo: The Pack
Photo: The Pack

At some point many puppy owners decide it would be best to enroll themselves and their furry friend into training classes. Whether you are just looking to socialize your puppy more, help with polishing your pet’s manners or are on the road to a “perfect” obedient dog the question remains…how do you start looking for a good trainer?Some people just choose to go to their local big box pet store because it’s convenient and the promise of positive training methods sounds good. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if (and that’s a big IF) the trainers are professionals rather than someone who took a workshop on how to clicker train dogs.

The next question then, is what makes some one a true “professional” trainer? Unfortunately, anyone can really call themselves a trainer but there are some organizations that trainers become members of. For example, in Canada there is the Canadian Association of Professional Pet Trainers (CAPPDT) there’s also the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) and the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT). Generally, memberships in organizations such as these require the trainers to follow a code of conduct, may require trainers to update their training etc.

Of course a membership to an organization does not guarantee someone is a good trainer. It’s important to find out where they obtained their education, how long have they been training etc.

If you’re planning to go to a group class (like most dog owners), find out if you can watch a class before hand. That way you can see if they really do have a maximum of 6 dogs per class? Is it a free for all or relatively controlled (this might also depend on if you are taking puppy kindergarten or just a socialization class)? How does the trainer behave in class? Do they use positive methods of training (eg. clicker training) or old school physical methods (eg. yanking)?

We took our puppy to a kindergarten class that was being held by a prominent dog “academy” and daycare center in our area (not a box store). They promised socialization opportunities, low dog to trainer ratio, fun classes etc. We made the mistake of not observing the class prior to signing up….it turned out that due to the continuous enrollment (common in puppy classes) and allowing people from other class times to make up classes during our time slot…there was typically 10 puppies in the class. Unfortunately, the room we were in couldn’t accommodate that many dogs. As a result, attempting challenging skills like a proper heel with a young, easily distracted puppy in a room with many excited dogs….was a joke (in fact this is not how a puppy should be introduced to “heel” anyway). The trainer was also rather burnt out, gave contradictory advice and very critical of dog owners (and proceeded to yank puppies around the room to demonstrate how to get your dog to heel). Needless to say, we dropped out and pursued other training avenues.

Next time, I’ll look at what the options are for training your puppy if for some reason you can’t access (or don’t have any good) trainers.

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