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Questions to Ask Your Potential Dog Trainer

By Jason Wright

October 18, 2022

What to Ask Before You Hire a Dog Trainer

Knowing what you should ask a potential dog trainer can help you find the best training option for your pet. However, you should understand that there are many ways to train your dog. This article is only meant as a starting point for your research. You need to educate yourself further and decide on what you are most comfortable with.

Your First Conversation with a Dog Trainer

Knowing what to look for in a good dog trainer is tough. The questions below will help you narrow down if they are a good fit for you and your dog. Make sure you go into the conversation as educated about the process as you can be. It’s always a good idea to talk to trusted friends and family who have gone through training with their dogs. Beyond that, trust your gut and look for as much transparency as possible.

What type of training, certifications and/or experience do you have?

Learning to work with dogs can happen through many different mediums. Experience will be the number one teacher and allow a trainer to better read the subtle signs a dog gives. Without the ability to understand a dog’s body language, a trainer won’t be able to properly help.

Of course, proper training from an accredited establishment is a great starting point and one that helps validate a trainer. Ask if they are part of any associations, have certificates that they can share, and/or have been awarded any accolades for their time spent training dogs.

What training method do you use?

There are many different training methods. You need to research them and establish what you are comfortable with. A lot of companies will state that they use all-positive training. However, all positive training is not ideal. Punishment is part of learning, cruelty is not. Take this into account when deciding what type of training you want to use with your dog. Understand what your expectations are and how they might be achieved.

How do you reward the dogs?

Rewarding while training and reinforcing positive behaviour is the basis of any well-structured dog training program. High-value rewards are most often treats (such as liver bits) however, they differ from dog to dog. Your dog might respond more positively to play or a toy. Be sure you know the best high-value reward for your dog so you can help the trainer have the highest chance of success.

What type of punishment do you use?

As stated above, punishment is part of learning, cruelty is not. It is fine to incorporate punishment into training. However, you will want to ensure that it does not go to a point of inflicting extended pain or cause a permanent increase in stress levels. Ask them to detail what is done if a dog does not follow through with a command, if the dog shows signs of resource guarding, and what happens if the dog repeatedly barks. These three scenarios should give you a good idea of the punishment used in the trainer’s program.

How do you identify if a dog is under stress?

Mentioned above is the importance of experience in understanding a dog’s body language. We suggest you research this so you can identify some telling signs. Once you know, you can ask the potential dog trainer to tell you how to identify when a dog is under stress. If they cannot tell you or tell you something you know to be wrong – this is a red flag. End the conversation and move on to the next trainer.

What type of equipment do you use?

A simple question and one that they should be able to respond to with a straightforward answer. Different tools are used with different methods of training. Again, you need to research and establish what you are comfortable with.

What type of services do you provide?

Each trainer may structure their services in their own way and address behavioural issues differently. Common services will be puppy training, obedience training, and behavioral rehabilitation. Stemming from these services will be different programs. You need to know what you want to get out of the training so the trainer can guide you to the best program for your dog.

Have you worked with any dogs like mine?

You should be ready to explain the issues your dog is facing and ask them if they have had any similar cases. If they do, ask them to explain how it went, what was successful and if the family is now happy with the outcome. This will be a tell if the trainer has experience.

Do you train in different environments?

You will need your dog to follow commands in a multitude of environments while experiencing different stimuli. This will help your dog generalize their improvements. Typically dogs are not good at generalizing so it is a crucial part of any training program.  If their training does not happen across different environments, how can you expect your dog to follow commands when you are in unfamiliar surroundings? We suggest choosing a trainer who incorporates “field trips” into their training. 

Do you offer support after the initial training is done?

You should ask what support looks like after the training program is completed. Often, trainers will collect the money and that is the last you will hear from them. A good program will send you home with different materials to help keep you on the right track. Further, having access to your trainer for a certain period after the program ends is very helpful.

Do you offer a guarantee?

This one is a trick question. There is no guarantee in dog training. So much relies on you continuing to train your dog and reinforce the behaviour they were taught while training with a professional. If they offer a guarantee, you may want to consider a different trainer.

The iTK9 Way

We have been training dogs for years. Our methodology relies on a balanced approach, and we focus on training designed to shape happy and obedient family pets. We train across different environments and alongside other dogs so that your dog is properly socialized and ready to obey your commands wherever you are. We are ready to answer any questions you may have. If you are considering dog training, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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