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Back to School! - How to choose a dog trainer

on September 29, 2021

Back to School! - How to choose a dog trainer

Do you need some help with training your dog? – perhaps it’s time to book those canine classes and get studying, after all dog trainers are there to teach you how to work with your dog.

But how do you choose a good dog trainer? And what makes a trainer good?  
With 10% of all dogs acquired during the pandemic (PDSA, 2021) it’s important to get to grips with doggy etiquette so that those play dates in the park go without a hitch.

If your dog is already showing signs of behavioural problems, it is vital that you seek advice from your vet and a suitably qualified behaviourist. However, if you would like to embark in some training and get advice on socialisation before problems develop, then you can seek help from a dog trainer.

I need a dog trainer, are all dog trainers the same?

In the UK anyone can set up a dog training business, it is not regulated by government and the title ‘dog trainer’ is not a protected one. Therefore, it is important to do some research before choosing a trainer. The wrong advice could result in problems with your dog’s training or behaviour and may cause the bond between you and your dog to break down.
Dog Training

How they train

Look for trainers that practice force free methods of training and use reward based techniques. Avoid anyone that advocates punishment, choke chains, tugging or pulling on the dog’s lead or mentions anything about ‘alpha dogs’ or ‘pack leaders’ as these theories are outdated and dangerous.

Ask the trainer if you can watch a session before you take your dog so you can see how they interact with the dogs and owners and their teaching methods. Choose a trainer that has small class sizes, no more than 5-6 dogs in a class, large classes can be stressful for the dogs and means that the trainer cannot give their full attention to everyone attending.

Qualifications and Regulatory bodies

Look for trainers that are regulated by a reputable regulatory body. This would be one that advocates kind, modern training techniques and ensures their members are qualified to particular standards.
APDT – Association of Pet Dog Trainers
IMDT – Institute of Modern Dog Trainers
ABTC - Animal Behaviour and Training Council

Experience and on-going training

A reputable dog trainer will expect you to ask questions! Apart from asking them what qualifications they have and who they trained with, you should also ask about their experience. Asking other dog owners for recommendations is a good way of getting reliable information on trainers.

Ask about what CPD they undertake too. CPD or continual professional development involves on-going training so that you can be sure your trainer is keeping their knowledge as up to date as possible.

What is the difference between a dog trainer and a dog behaviourist?

A dog trainer will be able to advise you on toilet training, socialisation and teaching your dog everything from how to walk nicely on the lead to a reliable recall. They may also teach fun activities such as scentwork, agility, hoopers or parkour.

A dog behaviourist is essential if your dog is showing problems such as separation anxiety or aggression. You should look for a suitably qualified and experienced behaviourist. A good place to start your search would be to ask your vet or try the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC).

Other considerations

Are they insured? Do they have canine first aid training? Do you like the venue they use, or is it very noisy and distracting for your dog?  These are just some of the other things you may wish to consider when choosing a trainer.

Enjoy the training!

Finally, don’t forget that school can be fun! The right trainer for you and your dog should ensure classes are enjoyable, they will help you understand why dogs do the things they do, make home life harmonious and create a long lasting bond between you and your four-legged family member.