Make your own free website on Tripod.com

 

What to look for in a Professional Dog Trainer, Behaviour Consultant, or Canine Aggression Specialist -Yes there IS a difference!

These pages are to help educate people who are looking for any dog trainer, whether it be a basic obedience trainer, or one who specializes in behaviour problems.

Being aware of the differences between a true professional, and a self appointed "behaviourist" or "specialist" can make all the difference, if your training program with your dog will be successful or not.

It will also help prevent future heartache, and loss of money for that matter. Here I have complied information in a condensed form, from various sources... personal experiences, professional trainers, behaviourists, breeders, vet's, Humane Society, etc. including:

 

Finding a Professional Dog trainer

Recommended sources of Dog trainer referrals: (Link: See Behavorists vs Dog trainers)

Be wary of a trainer that claims to be licensed or certified. There are NO national or state certification or licensing programs at this time. NADOI has a lengthy written test that must be completed and approved before membership is allowed and APDT has a wealth of educational material supplied to its members (APDT is currently working on a "certification" program)

Finding a Behaviorist

Referrals to Behaviour Consultants: Behavioural Consultants have academic training in the science of animal behaviour, as well as hands on experience. Consultant's are certified, and are active members of professional organizations. Certification indicates that the individual has met strict requirements in terms of educational experience and professional ethics.

Dr. Patricia McConnell (SP?) (Add address info etc.)

Add more referrals services

When choosing a Trainer or Behaviour Consultant

Dog training is much art as science; there is no one method that works for every dog or every person. There are no regulations concerning who can call themselves a trainer.

Experience alone is not a guarantee of quality or success, so dog owner's must make their own evaluation!

References from breeders or veterinarians are helpful, but always watch a few training sessions to evaluate trainers and their methods.

The techniques used to train dogs range from very harsh to very passive.

Always beware of harsh methods, or "closed door" training sessions, and get a second opinion if you see anything which bothers you.

When choosing a trainer, it is important to remember the type training experience you want for your dog.

You want the trainer to help build that bond of trust between you and your dog. NOT a trainer help your dog to learn to fear you.

Make sure that the training experience is one that YOU, owner, can be involved in. Beware of promises. Not every dog can be trained in a given amount of time.

Your trainer should be flexible enough to work with you and your dog - at your pace. A good trainer won't make guarantees on the outcome of the training. Dog trainers are not simply training the dog, they're training the owner as well. Good communication skills are a must.

Look for:

  1. A consultant who will treat you with respect and is not abrupt or abrasive. Look for people who recognize the importance of YOU in working through the problem with your pet rather than sending it somewhere to be "fixed."

  2. A trainer who treats both people and dogs with respect, rather than with an "I'm the boss" attitude.

Qualifications

Some behaviour consultants are veterinarians with veterinary board certification in the field of behaviour. Others are trainers with varying degrees of experience and education. Check references.

Make certain any behaviourist who interests you is actively engaged in continuing his/her education. The study of animal behaviour is constantly being updated.

When choosing a trainer remember that bigger is not necessarily better. Just because they have big advertising budgets, or are seen on TV, does not mean they are the best trainer out there nor may they be right for your situation. On that same note, make sure the smaller companies or individual trainers have the necessary qualifications and background.

Kinds of Training Programs

There are different types of training programs from group classes, private tutoring, or even training/boarding packages.

Have the perspective trainer explain the different programs they offer and which they feel is best for your situation and why. They should be asking you as many questions about your dog, its history and your family situation as you have questions for them.

If you choose a group program, be wary of trainers who handle large classes of twenty or more dogs. If so they should have an assistant. Better to look for smaller class sizes.

You need to ask the perspective trainer how they train and what methods they use. (Link: see different types of training methods on the K9aggression site) Training methods do include physicality but excesses should never be tolerated.

*Don't overreact if a trainer applies physical discipline in cases of aggression or extreme disobedience. The instructor is responsible for their safety and the safety of the other dogs and handlers if present. If the instructor seems too physical or you do not understand something the instructor does, ask!!

Remember all breeds have their own traits and within each breed, each individual dog has its own personality. Training results will vary. Be wary of absolute guarantees.

You as the owner and your immediate family are as much responsible for the outcome of the training as the trainer. You have to put out the proper time and effort as explained by the trainer.

Knowing your lifestyle, choose a trainer and plan that best fits your situation. Make sure you are comfortable with the trainer. Aside from speaking with them on the phone, you should always meet the trainer, and evaluate a few training sessions before hiring them.

Check the trainer(s) you are considering with local training clubs and with friends who have had their dogs trained. "Check references"

Remember there are different levels and types of training. From basic obedience, to advanced obedience, to show dogs, to trick training, to guard dogs, to guide dogs, to military dogs to basic and advanced problem solving and more.

Make sure the trainer you hire is qualified in the area you are looking for.

If you find a trainer you are considering, invite yourself to the trainer's group class and watch. Talk to the clients, watch the interaction between the trainer, dogs, and clients. It should be a fun yet focused environment. The clients should appear comfortable with the trainer, almost as if its a "dog owners" support group!

Beware of a trainer who tries to get money out of you before offering an opportunity to see his work.. That includes training fees, book's or video's they have produced.

Owner/trainer relationship-Your right's as the dog's owner

If the trainer or behaviourist you are interviewing....YES interviewing, as you are hiring them to do a job. If they cannot or worse yet refuses to answer any of the questions in this article.....look elsewhere.

You must meet with the trainer in an almost personal atmosphere, as you must feel comfortable with the trainer. It is the trainers job to teach and communicate, if the client doesn't like the trainer, or is uncomfortable then communication will not happen. If anything and I mean anything at all - makes you uncomfortable, Ask the trainer about it. If not completely satisfied with the answer, find another trainer.

But keep in mind that some scammers specializing in gaining a clients trust. Even if you really like the person, check references, do your homework. Take time to decide.

If so, find another trainer. If your dog is continually being threatened, and does not feel safe in this learning environment, not only could his current behaviour problems worsen, he could develop new behaviours as well.

And finally, the trainer should be respectful, professional, ethical, and should be able to provide unbiased information to pet owners.

Questions to ask a Behaviour Consultant or Aggression Specialist before joining their classes or hiring them:

1. Ask about the trainer's academic training in the science of animal behaviour, as well as his hands-on experience.

2. Ask about the trainer's certification--it indicates that the individual has met strict requirements in terms of educational experience, and professional ethics.

3. Ask if the trainer is an active member of any professional organizations. Membership suggests communication with colleagues and an interest in keeping current on new information.

4. Ask for professional references (e.g., from former clients, colleagues, and veterinarians who refer cases).

5.How would they correct an adult dog... a puppy? Do they use leadership or dominance techniques?

6.How do they deal with aggressive dogs ...passive dogs? What equipment do they use (choker collar and lead, prong collars and shock collars)?

7. Ask if you can sit in on one of their classes, or one on one sessions. If they refuse for any reason, go elsewhere.

8. Look for a trainer who recognizes the importance of you working through the problem with your pet rather than sending him somewhere to be "fixed."

9. Look for a trainer who not abrupt or abrasive and will treat you with respect.

Avoid trainers who:

1. Who demonstrate or advocate hanging, helicoptering, alpha rolls, withholding food or water as a means to demand compliance.

2. Avoid a trainer who offers guarantees for specific results. Such a trainer either ignores or fails to understand the complexity of animal behaviour.

3. Avoid "quick fixes." This approach does not do justice to you, your pet or the problem.

4. Beware of a trainer who tries to get money out of you before offering an opportunity to see his work.. That includes training fees, book's or video's they have produced.

5. Beware of trainers who trumpet the number of dogs or animals they have trained.

6. Beware of people who suggest the use of drugs as the first or only solution for a problem. Drug therapy is best used as part of a complete plan. Remember, only veterinarians can prescribe drugs.

7. Avoid trainers who use ONLY choke chains, pinch collars or shock collars.

8. Always beware of harsh methods, or "closed door" training sessions.

9.. Remember all breeds have their own traits and within each breed, each individual dog has its own personality. Training results will vary. Be wary of trainers who disregard breed traits, like excessive barking.

10. Avoid trainers who insist they train without you being present, or take the dog on a "board n train" Most professional dog trainers do not employ these methods.

**There are exceptions to this rule, as in such cases where the owner does not think they can safely keep the dog in their home until some progress has been made. Or the dog needs some major one on one time that the trainer cannot give in a class setting, or private lesson. But this has to be something the owner is comfortable with. The trainer should only suggest and not insist. All the more reason to check out their references, credentials, talk to past clients (anyone you choose, NOT just clients of the trainers choice) etc.

11. If you choose a group program, be wary of trainers who handle large classes of twenty or more dogs. If so they should have an assistant. It might be best to find a smaller class.

Expanding on the Board and Train

If you feel you need to go the board n train route make sure the trainer has the proper facilities to care for and protect your dog from harm.

Insist on being able to come and visit your dog at will, and hopefully be apart of his training session.

The trainer needs to train you the owner how to continue with the training once the dog comes home. Training is an on going and sometimes lifetime commitment, especially with dogs with behaviour problems or aggression.

Beware of trainers who won't take the time to train you as well. If they explain they will give you instructions on what to do the day dog goes home, you may find yourself without a support system, after what he has been paid to do is over.

Make sure your dog will not be exposed without strict supervision to other dogs with behaviour problems, for fear of attacks, learnt behaviour .

Inspect where the dogs will be housed, ask about feeding times, availability of water, antiquate fencing, veterinary reference in case of an emergency etc.

Again be wary of a trainer who has a large number of dogs at his establishment to train at one time (especially one's with behaviour problems or aggression) Make sure they have antiquate number of assistant's who are well versed in dealing with these types of dogs.

Make sure they are licensed to have that amount of dogs living on their property, as different local bylaws have limits one can have without a permit. It would be very traumatic to get a call that your dog has been seized by the local animal control.

Even more traumatic would be liability if your dog bite someone while in the trainers care. MAKE SURE that they have all the necessary and proper liability insurance, in case of such incidences. Ask to see proof.

Some other questions you could ask of a prospective canine behaviourist:

It is certainly not necessary that you ask all of these questions below. But a few pointed intellectually asked and professionally answered questions, will help you determine if the trainer is a true behaviourist.

A true behavorist has studied dog behaviour in depth, and has the experience and to back it up. In contrast, a self appointed "specialist" with little or no training, experience, or real knowledge about canine behaviour will have dificulty answering on the spot...or may refuse. If so, find another trainer!

These questions were asked in an online posted interview with a true professional behaviourist in the UK, she answered them all without hesitation, and gave very intellectual thought provoking answers:

Q. What influenced your study and specialization in dog behaviour?

Q. When and where did you train and whose training methods influenced you most?

Q. What aspects of dog behaviour interest you most?

Q What are the most common problem areas you encounter with your canine clients?

Q. What are the most common problems you encounter with your canine client owners?

Q. In your opinion, do you manage to resolve these problems and how do you go about it?

Q. What range of programmes do you offer?

Q. After the completion of a reprogramming course can problems reoccur and if so how best can this be avoided?

Q. Do you find any important behavioural aspects that concern you?

Q From your observations can you detect which characteristics may be inherited (genotype) and which characteristics are learnt from the environment (phenotype)?

Q. Where all attempts at rehabilitation fail, as must occur from time to time, have you found any common cause and if so could these situations have been prevented?

Q. Are these general traits as far as dogs go or are they breed specific?

Q. With the aloofness being the most common problem that you have found with the breed, what are your keys to the management of this aspect where it appears to be a problem and can you provide several case examples?

Q. How much influence does genotype, that is, the dogs inherited genetic "blueprint," play on outward behaviour?

Q. How much does phenotype, that is, learnt environment, play in determining attitudinal and behavioural patterns?

Q From your observations can you detect which characteristics may be inherited (genotype) and which characteristics are learnt from the environment (phenotype)?

Q. What range of training techniques would you recommend to promote good social skills for puppies and young dogs?

Q. What is the most important goal which you wish to achieve with your work?