Pet tips: choosing a dog trainer

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Choosing a dog trainer can be as difficult as choosing a dog -- you have to find one that is right for your needs, your budget, and of course, you doggie.

If you are not an experienced dog owner,

or if you just have a particularly fussy pooch on your hands, your best bet is seeking the professional assistance of a dog trainer.  You will find that choosing a dog trainer can be just as difficult a task as choosing a dog was.  You want to find someone who understands your needs, can work within your budget, and most importantly, gets along with your dog.  You should interview as many dog trainers as you need to until you are confident enough to make a choice for you and your beloved pet.  

First of all, what are your training needs?  If you are merely looking for someone to spend time with your new puppy because you have a busy work schedule to contend with, then you do not need to hire an intensive dog trainer.  You just need someone who is good with your animal to be around to play with your dog, take him or her for walks, and make sure that the animal is adjusting well to your home.  If the dog is not exhibiting any major behavioral problems, you should look into a dog sitting company rather than a dog training company – you will inevitably get more bang for your buck this way.  There’s no reason to pay for more than what you need, so if you don’t have an out-of-control pet, a dog sitter will probably be just fine for your situation.

If your primary reason for seeking a trainer is that your dog doesn’t get along well with other dogs, you should look into group training sessions.  In these training environments, other owners and dogs will be trained alongside you and your pet, and the trainers will focus on getting your animal to behave properly around his or her four-legged peers.  Group training is usually far less expensive than individual in-home training sessions, so if you think this might work for you, it is worth giving it a try before shelling out the big bucks for one-on-one training.  Many group training companies allow prospective-customers to observe a session before signing up for one, and if this option is available in your area, you should definitely take advantage of it to see if you feel that you would be comfortable in the environment.  

If your dog is really in need of some comprehensive training, hiring a professional dog trainer to come to your home for a series of training sessions may be just what the vet ordered.  Keep in mind that not all trainers are created equal.  A trainer who specializes in working with toy and small dog breeds is not likely to be the best fit for training your German shepherd or Pit bull.  Ask for some references from your vet.  When you call trainers to inquire about their services, ask questions about their experience.  Find out how long they have been in the business and what certifications and accreditations they hold.  Find out what breed the trainer has worked with.  Ask for customer references.  If the trainer is as good as they claim to be, they will be totally willing to give you all the information that you need to make an educated decision.   

Make sure that you pay close attention to the way that your dog’s trainer interacts with your dog.  Observe the tone of voice and the motions and commands used.  Take note of the way that the trainer rewards the dog so as to reinforce positive behavior.  Your dog trainer isn’t just training your dog – he’s training you, the owner, so that you can take the lessons that you learned and implement them into your real life – after the trainer is gone and paid for.   The most important thing when getting a dog trainer is making sure that you pay attention so that you can learn how to be the best “best friend” you can be!

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