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How Do You Choose a Dog Trainer?

dog trainer

There is more to dog training than simple commands, and if you have a dog with behavioral issues, choosing the right trainer can be especially difficult. There are just so many out there, especially in the great state of Colorado – and quite frankly, not all of them know what they’re doing. The right trainer can help you treat the root cause of your dog’s issues and prevent new ones from occurring – plus teach your puppy how to establish the proper foundation of life skills. Whereas the wrong trainer can make your dog’s issues ten times worse or even create new ones.  To find the right dog trainer or canine behaviorist, you need to find someone with experience, a balanced and holistic methodology, with a deep focus on the human-dog relationship. 

A dog training specialist’s experience is especially important. Make sure to consider your potential trainer’s referrals and reputation. They need to know how to train and handle difficult dogs in real world situations (like at the park, around other dogs, outside a busy mall, etc. not just in a nice, controlled environment like the back room of a pet store), and they need to have a proper understanding of puppy development in order to understand how dog issues are created and how to prevent them. An experienced dog trainer will be able to efficiently deal with difficult situations between dogs and their owners as they arise and prevent potential problem behaviors from developing while teaching dog owners how to apply these techniques as well. An inexperienced trainer may cause more issues than they resolve and rely on one tool (treats, ecollars, gimmicks) too much instead of taking a balanced and integrated approach to dog training. For example, I have met and retrained many dogs that developed issues of reactivity, overstimulation, and aggression because their trainer indulged and reinforced their “cute” overexcitement when they were a puppy and the trainer had never addressed or motivated the owner to change, either.

board and training Try to find a dog trainer with a wide range of tools and methodology. Unfortunately, whether they be Positive Only or Force-based, many dog trainers base their philosophy in a black-and-white “one-size-fits-all” mentality, and I have had to retrain far too many dogs that came from these schools of thought. Every dog is different, and a method that works for one dog may actually worsen another dog’s issues or even create them. I’ve seen shy, anxious dogs shut down by the over-use of force-based techniques, and I’ve seen aggressive, out-of-control dogs running the house and biting the kids because their previous trainer insisted on using only positive reinforcement and gave the dog no consequence for their actions. A more experienced, balanced trainer would have recognized that the shy, sensitive dog needed less force and more confidence-building and that the aggressive, out-of-control dog needed fewer treats and stricter rules and boundaries. This may seem obvious to many people, but very often trainers and dog behavior specialists approach dog training from an all too human point of view and expect dogs to approach life from that same perspective. Despite our two different species’ compatibility and shared history together, dogs are dogs and exist in a completely different world than we do with a different perception of what is going on than us, so working with them requires a more involved approach based on energy, instinct, and communication. Not just treats or unnecessary force.

Dog training Naturally, it follows that your dog trainer needs to focus on the human-dog relationship and not just “magically” have them listen to the trainer. I’ve had some clients even invite me to live with them in hopes their dog would listen better with me around, but the fact of the matter is that you can’t have your trainer live with you and your dog 24/7. It’s you, the pet owner, who has to lead and teach your dog.  It’s you who needs to be trained, believe it or not… The reality is, we just need to learn how to communicate with our dogs and see life from their perspective, and day one things begin to improve! Any good dog trainer, behaviorist, veterinarian, animal behavior consultant, dog aggression specialist – whatever they want to call themselves – will spend time with you and your dog in multiple environments to get a full grasp of your relationship with your dog, and while they may take part in training to get your dog on the right track or every so often to demonstrate, you should be handling your dog with your trainer’s guidance so your dog learns how to listen to you in your shared real world experiences. This means your trainer needs to be able to communicate clearly with both you and your dog. Think of them as your dog’s translator and relationship counselor all in one! 

Brett Endes is a professional dog trainer and canine behavior consultant in the Denver metro area of Colorado with 25+ years of experience. He is the host of the popular dog training show “The Untrainables” and has been featured on The Hallmark Channel, National Geographic Wild, and other media for his experience and understanding of dog behavior and training.  Brett graduated from The Academy of K-9 Education and has a degree from the State University of New York in Comparative Psychology.  He can help you solve problems such as dog aggression, separation anxiety, leash pulling, phobias, and puppy issues, even if you have a difficult rescue dog or have seen other trainers, behaviorists, or veterinarians who have labeled your dog untrainable. Contact Brett now!

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