(Part 2 of a 3 part series)
How To Choose A Dog Trainer & Behavior Specialist
Indicators that should tip you off to move on and find another dog trainer in David Letterman fashion:
- If your dog trainer and behavior specialist is not certified by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) and the CCPDT (Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers), find another dog trainer. Ask why not? There is no reason not to be unless they are unqualified. Older, outdated traditional dog “trainers” that haven’t kept up-to-date on the newest and most effective scientific ways to teach dogs, inexperienced trainers or anyone that practices outdated, force based, painful, punitive techniques do not qualify for this certification.
- If someone guarantees dog training results, or results in a certain period of time, find another dog trainer. Not only are guarantees against the code of conduct and ethics of most of certification bodies but it is simply impossible and unethical to do. Would you go to any lawyer that guaranteed you would win a court case? Or to a doctor that guaranteed you would live to 100 and never be sick a day in your life? Nor should you go to a trainer that guarantees results.
- If the dog trainer is not licensed, bonded and insured (and to what amount and degree), find another dog trainer. They should be all of the above and preferably not bonded & insured just to meet the minimum required level.
- If they do not have a long list of continuing education courses and classes they have taught and/or participated in regularly, their dog training and dog behavior skills may be just as outdated.
- Retail dog/pet stores that employ subpar trainers. Web sites, business names and dog training schools that start with “K9” are typically not force free positive reinforcement dog trainers. This would be a good time to find another dog trainer.
- If you do not see that the dog training company practices force free positive reinforcement, scientifically proven, gentle dog training methods proven to build the canine human bond and educate both most effectively, I would find another dog trainer. If they do not talk about the science of dog training, ethology, counterconditioning, operant conditioning, classical conditioning, habituation and desensitization or if they do not explicitly state something to this effect, I would think twice before hiring them and would find another dog trainer. Because “positive reinforcement” is the new buzz word to attract clients, this in and of itself does not mean a great deal. If they use “corrections,” leash pops, practice dominance theory, force or manipulate dogs into position, use punitive equipment (choke chains, pronged collars, shock collars, “E” collars) run the other way. Do not be fooled by catch phrases, make sure the dog trainer or behavior expert meet ALL of the requirements above or something very similar to fully understand how they train dogs and educate people.
- If their education is mostly from watching reality television shows and they practice dominance theory, hold dogs down, do alpha roles, are confrontational, tell you that you need to be the pack leader, boss or teaches with force, find another trainer. If they tell you to be “alpha”, force dogs into position, use choke chains, pronged collars, “E” (electric collars) or shock collars, kick, hit, poke or choke dogs find another dog trainer quickly.
- When a dog trainer uses linguistics incorrectly: When it comes to education, knowledge and communication are critical. Diction is of the utmost importance. If your dog trainer inappropriately and incorrectly claims they are “certified”, in just about everything, when in actuality they mean they completed a course, took a class, or paid a fee to join an organization. At best you can bet they do not have a handle on communicating or teaching effectively, correctly or efficiently and at worst they are intentionally trying to mislead you.
- If their web site looks like an infomercial or looks as if they are trying to sell you something mysterious (whispering) or secretive, I would find another dog trainer.
- If their website crashes your browser, or has any tracking cookies or spam move on to another dog trainer.
- If they use terminology such as always, never, or guarantee any results move on to another dog trainer.
- If they don’t require that your dog be up-to-date on basic vaccinations or don’t care if your puppy has all of their shots before attending a dog training class or session, find another dog trainer.
- If they name themselves after a reality TV “dog training” show such as “the dog whisperer” or claim they went to a college, university or school that they did not attend, it would be time to find another dog trainer.
- If they have a lot of confusing sales pitches and or try to obfuscate their lack of credentials, it would be time to find another dog trainer.
- If they list affiliations of which they are not a part of or are not honest about the level of affiliation or organizations in which they are members, find another dog trainer and company.
- If they claim to speak to the animals and have some special technique or training methodology that no one else knows but them that was passed down to them from the gods (or dogs). Any secrets that won’t be revealed or don’t make sense and can’t be scientifically proven and explained, that is your cue to move on to another dog trainer.
- If they do not know what the four quadrants of operant conditioning are like the back of their hand and think that Skinner is slang for the second part of the band, Lynyrd Skynyrd and start singing Free Bird, keep on walking.
- If they request to have a session alone with your dog or without your presence, it’s time to find another dog trainer.
- If you see a dog trainer claiming to practice positive reinforcement and then hypocritically claim not to use treats, food or rewards in their dog training methods you have stumbled upon a fraud and I would find another dog trainer.
- If the videos a dog trainer displays on their web site espouse dominance theory and has them referring to the dog incorrectly as alpha or dominating them, making analogies to wolves, advocating eating first, sleeping in a higher or better position, or if the trainer is advocating on dog walks that you must walk in front of your dogs at all times to show them who is boss and that you must go through doors first and not to let your pup walk a step in front of you or you will show them you are not the leader, this “trainer” has lost their mind. I would run to find another dog trainer.
- If your trainer is seen poking, forcing, prodding, jerking, yanking or popping the leash, bullying or using any physical force or intimidation on the dog such as: staring, looming over the dog, making threatening gestures, forcing the dog to do something, or flooding an animal, you have found a fraud. Run the other way and your dog will kiss you thanks later.
- If they flash celebrities pictures and name drop throughout their conversations with you and on their web site as their sales pitch, that is typically meant to distract you from finding their credentials, which many times do not exist. Celebrities don’t know about dog training or behavior any more than the average person does. In addition, most celebrities are as diligent about privacy and security as we are and I often sign confidentiality and nondisclosure agreements when I am working with one of my high profile clientele. If a person or company is constantly name-dropping I would find another dog trainer and company.
- If they don’t offer you a list of referrals, recommendations and contacts, find another dog trainer. Ask to see a list of referrals and recommendations from both professionals and clients that you may contact to enquire about their training methods, education, service provided…etc. If they can’t provide recent veterinarians recommendations, or a substantial list of both current, and past clients, you may want to ask why? Furthermore, make sure there are no conflicts of interest when you check referrals (you are not calling their friends, mother, father, siblings, husband, wife…etc.) Double check and look at their listed affiliations and organizations web sites and check references. Anyone can list a host of testimonials and recommendations and many do. Ask for a list of doctors and veterinarians that you can call to verify that they currently recommend your practices (sadly many veterinarians do not understand or are knowledgeable about the science of dog behavior as that is not what they study or specialize in. Look up the best veterinarians in Miami yourself and make sure they are currently in practice and strictly advocate and promote force free, positive reinforcement dog training in their patient waiting areas and verbally).
Sadly all of the above are common in Miami and South Florida dog training. I would suspect that there are people trying to trick good natured people all over the world so do your homework thoroughly.