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Find a good dog trainer in just 10 easy steps

One of the best investments a dog owner can make is signing up for training classes. Training helps strengthen the bond between dogs and their owners, a friendship based on mutual, genuine love and respect. Many owners turn to dog trainers to assist them in building the canine-human relationships or addressing specific behavioral problems that are preventing that bond from flourishing.
There are no regulations or licensing involved with becoming a dog trainer, so anyone can claim to be one. The trainer you hire might have years of experience or none at all. As dog training is expensive and time-consuming, you want to choose a trainer who has your and your dog's best interests at heart. Not all trainers are created equal, so here are 10 steps that can help you choose the right trainer.
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1. Look for a certified dog trainer.
When you choose a trainer, look for one who has taken the time and spent the money necessary to become a professional through certification or education. Good trainers will have degrees in animal behavior sciences or similar fields or certifications from well-known associations such as the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.
2. Observe a trainer's class.
Legitimate, confident trainers will invite you to sit in on one of their training classes without cost. Observe how the trainer interacts with the dogs and their owners. Watch how the dogs react to the trainer; unhappy dogs are often the result of an intimidating trainer – someone you do not want to hire. Check to see that the trainer communicates effectively with owners as well.
3. Ask about the trainer's methodology and philosophy.
You want a trainer who uses positive-reinforcement techniques (including the use of food rewards) based on sound and current science. Ask any potential trainer to explain the methods they use and why. Avoid working with trainers who use methods adverse to dogs, including processes involving punishments, corrections, prong or shock collars, or alpha rolling and leash jerking.
4. Verify the trainer's professional memberships.
A professional trainer should be a member of positive-reinforcement training organizations and associations, such as The Pet Professional Guild or The Association of Professional Dog Trainers. Don't just take a trainer's word for it; check with the organizations in question to verify the trainer's current and good standing.
5. Check on the trainer's continuing education efforts.
There are multiple opportunities for dog trainers to continue to advance their educational training via conferences, certificate programs, schools, books, and online webinars. Continuing education is vital, and you want a trainer who can explain to you how he or she stays current.
6. Determine if the trainer offers the type of instruction you want for your dog.
Depending on your dog's circumstances – is he a puppy who needs basic obedience training or a dog with severe behavioral issues? – you may need a trainer who conducts group classes, private classes for one dog, or even board and train opportunities. Discuss your training goals with the trainer and be sure the right scenario is available for your dog.
7. Obtain and contact client references.
Good trainers have nothing to hide. A good trainer will want you to speak to current and past clients, and offer contact information for these individuals. It would help if you also looked at reviews and testimonials from online sites such as Google or Yelp to give you a well-rounded view of client satisfaction.
8. Look for the instructor's "demo dog."
A trainer should have a demonstration dog who showcases the trainer's talents and abilities in working with canines. The "demo dog" is a direct representation of the trainer's ability and a good model for what you can expect the trainer to accomplish with your dog.
9. Determine a trainer's adaptability level.
Each dog is an individual, and you want a trainer who will accurately assess your dog and adapt his or her training methods to best suit your canine. The trainer should also clearly communicate each step of training with you and be willing to change or avoid methods that make you uncomfortable.
10. Check for transparency.
If a trainer you are considering hiring claims to use humane methods, press him or her for further explanation. Ask what will happen if your dog gets a command right, what will happen if she gets a command wrong and if there are any more humane alternatives to what the trainer proposes. If you do not get clear, specific answers or you are uneasy about the answers, keep shopping for a trainer.
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Finding a good dog trainer can take time, but it is not an impossible task. Know the right questions to ask and follow the tips on this list. Your dog deserves a trainer who uses the power of positive training. Trust your instincts; you know your dog best, so use that knowledge to find the best trainer possible.
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