Updated: Aug 2, 2019
Finding the right dog trainer can be hard. When I adopted my first dog, a Mini Aussie named Jasper, I found out that despite having excellent obedience, he had serious reactivity issues. I tried trainer after trainer with no success. His problems could not be solved with what is known as "pure positive" training. I tried so hard to get it to work for us. Finally, in one of the pure positive classes we attended, Jasper almost bit a trainer because they were forcing interaction and he was uncomfortable. They thought his behavior could be fixed with treats, but we learned very quickly that this is not always the case.
It broke my heart that I couldn’t help my dog. This dog that had been there for me through so much, and I couldn't return the favor. Then I found a more balanced approach to training and it literally saved Jasper's life. Then it became my passion to help other dogs like Jasper, who need a more balanced approach to address their underlying issues.
How do you choose a dog trainer?
There is such a wide variety of dog trainers out there. How do you know which one is "right?" What do you do when you feel, like I did, that you are failing and letting your dog down?
The first thing to look for in a trainer is their experience. How long have they been training? Just like any other service you are hiring, you want someone who has a lot of time and experience under their belt. The longer they've been training, the more dogs with more personalities and behaviors that they've worked with.
Then, look at what their own dogs can do and how they act. A good trainer will have well behaved dogs who set an example of their work. My dogs have become my assistants. They are well trained, to the point that they are trustworthy and reliable enough to help me teach other dogs.
Most importantly, look at how the dogs interact with the trainer. You want a patient, loving trainer who takes the time to form a bond with their training dogs. Dogs don't lie. Is the dog scared of the trainer or excited to see them? Trust your instincts. Ultimately you need to be an advocate for your dog. If you aren't comfortable with a trainer, don't be afraid to try another one. Ask for recommendations from people you trust. Keep looking until you find someone you are comfortable with, who is getting the results you want.
Spend time with your dogs. Build a bond. Find someone who will help you teach with gentle guidance and learn to communicate clearly.