Whether you are looking to sign your dog up for puppy classes to learn basic obedience or seeking help in dealing with your dog’s behavioral issues, finding a trainer can be a daunting task.

But don’t rush right in. Take time to do research and speak with a prospective trainer.

The first and easiest question to ask is, what happens when your dog does something right? You want to determine what reward system is used and if it is something you are comfortable with.

Next, you want to know what happens when your dog does something wrong. Will your dog simply not be rewarded? Or will it be punished? If punishment is used, what methods does the trainer employ? Will your dog be forced to offer behaviors, or will it be asked and rewarded when it does the right thing?

What equipment or tools does the trainer use? Trainers who use e-collars and prong collars swear that when those tool are used correctly, they can be highly effective. The thing is, these tools are not always used correctly and improper use of aversive tools can damage your dog, both physically and emotionally.

Using force teaches your dog to mistrust you. It is important to remember that training based on the principle of, “If you don’t do it, I will hurt you” is not good training.

Ask yourself if there are less aversive methods that could be used, and if a trainer is choosing to use aversive punishment-based methods, when other methods exist, keep searching.

Ideally, you want to find a positive reinforcement trainer who will reward behaviors that you do want, and redirect or interrupt behaviors that you don’t before they happen. When you have a relationship rooted in trust you not only strengthen your bond with your dog, but you also eliminate the risk of emotional and physical damage.

Positive Training

Some pet owners may feel that they have exhausted their options and that they need to just get control of their dog. They may feel that their dogs issues, usually relating to aggression, are beyond the abilities of positive reinforcement trainers. But it’s important to realize that the issue that is very overwhelming to the owner can be very fixable for a trainer or veterinary behaviorist. It is always best to address the underlying issue first.

Behavior modification using reward-based methods addresses the cause of the issue. By addressing the underlying cause, positive reinforcement trainers can work on re-patterning a dog’s response.

Punishment-based methods don’t address the underlying cause of the behavior and cause suppression. A suppressed dog is not a happy dog, and it is more likely to lash out later on as a result of unaddressed stressors.

It is important to make sure that you and your family members are all involved in the training process. Programs that serve as a boot camp or train-and-stay, when positive, can be helpful. But making sure that the entire family is on board and comfortable with the commands and routines is essential to helping your dog succeed when it is back home.

If you are dealing with aggression-related behavioral issues, be sure to rule out medical reasons first. A good trainer will advise this before making a behavior plan. A dog that is in pain or dealing with an underlying illness may be showing signs it is uncomfortable through its change in behavior.

If you are just seeking a trainer to get your puppy or adult dog started on the right foot, then these tips should help insure that you choose the right person to strengthen your bond with your dog for a lifetime of good communication.

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