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How to Get the Most Out of Your Dog Trainer

Here's what a good trainer can do for you -- and what a good trainer will expect of you in return.

 |  Sep 25th 2013  |   8 Contributions


One of the first questions I am asked by clients when they contact me about dog behavior or training issues is, “Can you help us?” The answer is always an enthusiastic "Yes!"

However, there are important considerations that every pet owner needs to make when they seek training. First of all, know that I can help your dog. What I cannot do is magically fix your dog. I am not a miracle worker, nor do I carry a magic wand in my training bag. If only it were so easy! Here are my top tips for getting the most out of your dog training appointment.

  • Training involves both ends of the leash. If you are unwilling to change anything about the way you handle your dog or his daily routine, I cannot help you. After all, if the techniques you were using were effective, you wouldn’t have contacted me in the first place! We’ll work together to make the changes to your behavior easy, but expect that you’ll need to make some adjustments, at least for a little while.
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    Here I work with a young dog named Mischief during an Outdoor Adventures training class.
  • Practice works both ways. If you continue to allow your dog to practice the problem behavior because you cannot be bothered to institute the easy management exercises we discuss during the first training session, I cannot help you. Practice makes perfect, and if your dog is practicing the problem behavior six days and 23 hours out of the week and only seeing me once a week for an hour, we are not going to make headway.
  • My techniques work. If you mix training techniques and continue to try things that your co-workers, family members, or TV shows recommend, it makes it really difficult for me to help you. Mixing training techniques is confusing to your dog. My techniques are scientifically sound, and I use them because they are the fastest and most effective techniques available. You hired me for a reason, and that reason is I am a certified professional with years of experience. Please remember that you get what you pay for, and free advice from friends and family is often worth its cost. As tempting as it can be to try everything in order to fix your dog’s behavior, at least check with me before you start cobbling together different training techniques. Often there’s a good reason not to try the technique you’re wondering about, and the two of us can discuss the pros and cons of trying something else in advance.

Given that, I can help you, and together we can help your dog. Trainers help people, and a good trainer will be professional and trustworthy. Here’s what you can expect of your trainer.

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Here I am with my late dog, Dobby, with whom I shared hard times as well as good.

  • I am realistic. I promise that, unlike some popular TV shows, I will not give you impossible exercises to attempt, nor will I tell you to devote impossible amounts of time to fixing your dog’s problem. I will work with you to figure out your schedule and split exercises into simple, manageable parts. I will never tell you to devote hours to daily training but will instead help you figure out multiple, quick, 1-to-2-minute periods during which you can accomplish your dog’s exercises. Yes, you will need to make changes. But we’ll work together to make sure that the changes are reasonable for your lifestyle and schedule. I want you to succeed just as much as you want to fix your dog’s behavior problem.
  • I will never ask you to do anything that hurts or scares your dog, period. Nor will I yell at, deride, or intimidate you. I will be as kind to you as we both are to your dog, and if you are frustrated or overwhelmed, I will be there to support you and help you. I will be your coach, your cheerleader, and your adviser.
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    I don't train sea lions, but they like me just the same. Here I'm kissed by Ty at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium after a week-long camp for professional trainers in 2012.
  • I will work with your finances. Dog training services cost what they do because I am a professional. I devote hundreds of hours to continuing education each year. I travel out of state to educational conferences, write for professional journals, and read everything I can that comes out. I learn about biology, ethology, learning theory, neurochemistry, and canine cognition so that you don’t have to. If you need to set up a payment plan or barter for services, ask me! I want you and your dog to succeed. I do not give my services out for free or provide discounts, but I am happy to work with you to make dog training or behavioral consultations work within your budget. I’ve bartered dog training for snow removal, lawn care, professional massages, baked goods, cleaning services, and more -– it’s certainly worth asking if you’re having a hard time affording the help that your dog needs. I know that I’m more expensive than some of my competitors, but there’s a good reason for that. Don’t you want to work with a dog trainer who keeps up on the latest research and continually expands her education?

So, can we solve your dog’s behavior or training issue? Absolutely! However, we need to do so together. If you are committed to making things work, you will find that I am too. I offer permanent solutions that will make your dog the enjoyable pet you’ve always wanted. Work with me (or other professional trainers like me), and we will help your dog together.

Have you ever worked with a professional trainer? Did you both uphold your ends of this agreement? Whether you have a success story, a horror story, or a confession, I want to hear about it! Please share in the comments below.

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