GETTING a pet dog or puppy also means trying to find someone who can help train your pet and with so many people claiming to be professional dog trainers and behaviourists, this can be a minefield. How can you determine who is best for you and your dog?
The wrong person who uses ‘yank and yell’ techniques or has no recognised scientific background can have devastating consequences on the relationship between you and your dog. However, a good trainer will enhance the bond between you and your dog. Most pet dogs are not meant to enter obedience competitions and a good trainer will recognise the difference between training for competition and training for life as a family pet.
Choosing your trainer
Where did you hear about trainers? Internet or newspaper? All can have glossy, expensive ads or websites and promise a well-behaved, loving pet in a matter of days or, as some TV programmes would have you believe, 15 minutes. These can be unreasonable expectations and should not be taken seriously.
Having a puppy or a dog with training problems can take time to resolve. Going too fast and expecting too much can have detrimental effects on your dog. Shop around and ask as many other dog owners as possible. Friends and family and your veterinary practice may have a list of reputable qualified trainers but don’t assume because the flyer is in the waiting room that they are practice-approved. This is an unregulated field, so anyone can claim to be a trainer.
The Association of Pet Dog Trainers Ireland (APDT) is a good place to start looking for an experienced, qualified, reputable trainer. APDT Ireland members have all been assessed by a panel of highly qualified trainers and behaviourists. All APDT Ireland members have reached a high standard of training and education and have an ongoing education in learning theory, body language and up-to-date ethical training techniques.
Ethical trainers put the dog first. Training dogs is not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. Recognised qualifications, degrees, diplomas and a scientific knowledge with reputable education providers costs time and money. To train and understand how dogs think and behave is fundamental in preparing your dog to be a well-behaved member of your family you can take anywhere, safe in the knowledge he will be confident and happy and, most important, will be looking to you for guidance in any situation. A qualified behaviourist will also work very closely with your vet, should you need behavioural advice. Vets recognise that someone trained and specialising in behavioural problems can often help them in dealing with some of the more challenging behaviour dogs and cats can present.
As this is an unregulated field in Ireland, anyone can call themselves a dog trainer or behaviourist. Be cautious of trainers claiming they can ‘guarantee’ to fix your dog. No ethical trainer gives guarantees. There are too many variables for each individual dog. An estimated time can be given but this is not an absolute.
Reward-based, kind, fair, ethical practices and an understanding of how dogs learn, their emotions and body language help us to effectively build relationships between our dogs and their families. Your dog is a well-loved member of your family so think carefully before you employ someone to teach you both. You are entitled to ask as many questions as you like and then it’s up to you to make your choice.
Remember, your dog is not a little wolf!