Many people don’t have the time, energy or patience to devote to dog training. Few other activities require as much, if the result is to be a safe, well-adjusted dog and a happy human. For some, the answer is to outsource the effort to a professional trainer.
As in any profession, quality and cost vary. And, like many professions – especially those involving human-animal interactions – training philosophies vary considerably. So, you already have some parameters to guide your selection.
Examine your budget and your needs. Depending on where you live, training can run anywhere from free – often supplied on a weekly basis by volunteers to parks or shelters – to $100 or more per session. What constitutes a reasonable fee will vary depending on geography, trainer experience, length of program and your goals.
Examine your schedule. Some training programs are weekly, others more often. You may have to leave the dog and pick it up later. Or, more likely, you may join a program where the training involves you directly. Most will suggest that you spend some time training the dog every day, whether at home or at the trainer’s facility.
Examine your commitment. Dogs, especially early in training, need regular, large blocks of time and attention in order to learn. An hour a day is not at all unusual.
In some cases, ‘boot camp’ training programs are preferred. The dog goes away to a special facility for up to several weeks. The training is regular, long and intensive. Don’t be concerned for the dog. They love that! Near the end, you’ll usually have to participate in order to ‘transfer’ the obedience from trainer to you.
But the results are often amazing. Dogs who ‘graduate’, even when not special service dogs, are disciplined and eager to follow instructions. Yet, paradoxically, these dogs show no signs of being repressed. They’re happy and play with great enthusiasm.
Examine your goals. You may want a dog who can be entered in shows, or you may just want them not to chew on the couch or chase the cat. In either case, regular training is required. How much and what kind will vary with breed and individual temperament.
Some dogs are fearful, either through being mistreated or from a natural tendency toward submission. Some are too assertive, again through abuse or natural striving for alpha (pack leader) status. What training you select will depend on how you want to influence them and what attributes they have you want to shape.
Whatever your goals, budget or commitment you want a trainer who exhibits massive patience and boundless energy, not to mention a deep love for dogs. Most have these characteristics in spades.
Beyond those basics, you’ll want a trainer whose philosophy makes sense to you and matches your goals. Some insist that dog training is more about training the owner than the dog – and there’s some truth to that in some cases. Some are lenient and friendly, leaning toward the ‘touchy-feely’ style. Others lean more toward police or military style training. And many lie between these two extremes.
It’s unlikely that one training style suits all, but neither is it entirely subjective. Even where there are disputes there are common principles that most will agree on. Patience, persistence, consistency and the need for the human to lead are only a few of these.
Ask for recommendations from those you trust and don’t hesitate to shop around. Be prepared to change trainers once or twice to find one suitable for your needs. Be careful, though, not to change on a whim. Dogs need consistency and a regular environment in order to absorb what’s being taught.
Good luck and good hunting!