Canine science has evolved significantly in the last 10 – 15 years and as a result, dog training has moved away from methods using punishment to positive, reward-based techniques. We uncover the common myths on dog training that are still prevalent on the Internet today.
We would now define a ‘good’ trainer as someone who uses force free positive dog training methods, has a thorough knowledge of how dogs learn and use this to assist dog owners to achieve their aim of a well mannered canine companion.
So, before you decide on a dog trainer for your pup, here are 6 tips to help you find a good dog trainer that uses positive reinforcement methods.
6 tips to find a positive dog trainer
- Look for a trainer that uses positive (force-free) methods – the trainer should be able to explain the methods used in class and justify them in terms of current research into dog cognition, behaviour and training. Positive methods may include clicker training or at least use food rewards or toys that will motivate your dog.
- Ask about the trainer’s qualifications – As the industry is unregulated, those conducting training can call themselves experts and specialists so be sure to explore the experience of the instructor. Experience in training security dogs or in the services does not necessarily qualify instructors to conduct companion dog classes. Look for a trainer with qualifications in positive training methods. Your professional force-free dog trainer should maintain memberships only with select organisations that advocate humane, ethical training methods that are minimally aversive to animals.
- Equipment used in the class – The Pet Professional Guild says a force-free professional trainer will recommend using equipment that has been designed with a dog’s safety in mind. The trainer should explain the equipment and tools that will be required in the class such as leashes, flat collars, bite-sized treats etc. Tools you don’t want to see include electronic collars, prong collars, choke collars, spray collars and flexi (retractable)-leads.
- Is everyone having fun in the class? Check out the class. The dogs should look as if they are enjoying the class. Remember: Training should be fun for you and your dog.
- Class size – Delta Society recommends four puppies in a baby puppy class (up to six if space permits and there are at least two instructors) and six older dogs (up to eight with two instructors).
- Class venue – Delta Society says all classes for puppies who have not completed their vaccinations should be held on a disinfectable surface. While these are usually held at veterinary practices, other venues may be appropriate. There should be adequate space to avoid physical contact when puppies walk to the end of their leads. Classes for older dogs are usually held in larger venues – most in Australia are held outdoors but some may be in community halls or undercover areas. There should be few or no distractions – if in a public area, the instructor should have contingency plans to manage this. There must be sufficient seating and space between dogs.
- Find a professional dog trainer professional via the Delta Institute of Australia.
- Find a positive dog trainer professional who is a member of the Pet Professional Guild in Australia
Not all dogs suit dog training classes
Companion dog training classes are not suitable for all dogs. The class situation may cause some dogs stress, which will impact on their ability to learn.
Some dogs have issues with their behaviour which are not resolvable with training. In these cases, the positive dog trainer should have a referral network to veterinarians and veterinary behaviour consultants to assist the owners of these dogs.
Find a positive dog trainer sources