Hiring a dog trainer

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Your dog is part of the family, but dogs and humans have different needs and ways of communicating. Taking time to understand and train your dog can make for a more satisfying relationship.

"Training a dog takes both the commitment from you and your pet. We had a lab that was really hyper," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List. "She was a young puppy and it eventually required us to send her to training. They would run her on the treadmill and teach her obedience training, but it didn't stop with that. We had to learn all of those things as well and be great reinforcers once she was home."

Top dog behavior problems trainers can fix: barking, destruction, jumping up, running away despite being called, pulling hard on a leash.

Angie's List asked highly rated animal trainers about the benefits of working with a professional. They include:

  • Help in working through the frustration that can arise during training sessions.
  • Maximizing results for busy people.
  • Specific ideas based on years of experience.

Common types of training;

  • Dog training styles range from reward-based to military-style approaches.
  • Training methods may focus on gestures, body language and voice tone, or may be reward-based, with treats or praise, or may include electronic collars or other correction tools.
  • Classes may be taught in groups or individual sessions, at a facility or the owner's home. Some offer "boarding training," in which a dog spends days or weeks at the facility, being trained, and the owner is later shown how to continue what was taught.
  • Puppies can enroll in training as soon as they've had their necessary vaccinations.

"One word of caution when it comes to hiring a pet trainer: you need to do your homework because there is not a single source of licensing for pet trainers," warned Hicks. "There's certainly certifications that pet trainers can receive so check on those. How long have they been training and what is their experience with the type of animal that you have? How are they going to help you transition to being the one in charge with your pet."

Angie's List Tips: Hiring a dog trainer

  • States don't require that dog trainers be licensed.  Ask about the trainer's education, credentials and experience. Consider a trainer who's a member of a professional organization, such as the Association of Pet Dog Trainers or the Association of Canine Professionals.
  • Talk to your vet. Before hiring a trainer, consult with your veterinarian to rule out a physical cause for behavior issues. Make sure you hire a trainer who asks for your dog's health records, to reduce the chance of disease spreading.
  • Interview potential trainers. Ask for details about their training approach and techniques. Check into the differences in pace and expectations between individual and group instruction. Observe a class to make sure you agree with a trainer's approach before paying. Many trainers will offer a free evaluation.
  • Get details in writing. Costs vary widely, with hourly rates, as well as multi-class packages, available. You should have all details of the training in writing. Also, ask for a money-back guarantee.

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