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What to Look for in a Dog Trainer

When you're in the market for a dog trainer, you're putting a lot of faith in the expertise of another person. After all, a dog trainer can have a positive impact on your dog or a negative effect on your dog, but one thing you can count on: The effect will be lasting. So it's important to know what you're looking for when seeking out the dog trainer who will be making a very important imprint on your beloved pup.

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Beware of gimmicks. There are a lot of them out there. Clicker training, treat training, prong collars, shock collars, and the list goes on. First of all, you want a dog trainer who uses natural methods, not gimmicks. So when you're doing your due diligence, make sure that your dog trainer candidate speaks of pack leadership, pack mentality, and that the concept of the pack is central to his ideology with regard to dog training.

Flexibility. If you're a senior citizen who prefers to stay close to home, you may not feel the need to take your dog to obedience classes. Your interests may lie more in developing habits that are specific to your stay-at-home lifestyle. Conversely, if you own a retail store and want to make sure that your dog is trained well to go to work with you and be one of those super cool "hanging in the store with my peeps" kind of dogs, you will want training that includes a lot of socialization. Ideally, your dog trainer will be able to provide both, but tailored to your needs.

Correction, yes; Punishment, no. If a dog trainer implements punishment, such as swatting or slapping, as part of his or her methods, kindly show them to the door and don't look back. Some schools of thought subscribe to such techniques; however, it is misdirected and creates additional problems. Instead of building your dog's confidence in you as his pack leader, he learns to fear you, which is a mixed and confusing signal with negative results. Correction should be firm, gentle, and redirect the dog to the desired behavior, which reinforces your role as confident pack leader.

Ongoing support. It's realistic to say that dog trainers do not learn all there is to know about training dogs in one day, and neither will you. During your initial discussion, a dog trainer should be able to provide a reasonable expectation of the time involved to get the both of you off on the right track, but also be prepared to visit again should a new situation or behavior arise that is outside the bounds of your new skill set.

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