Training your dog is an important part of being a responsible dog owner. It provides healthy mental stimulation and is a great way for you and your pooch to bond.
Choosing a good trainer is like finding the right teacher for your child, and there are all sorts of important factors to consider when making this crucial decision. To make an informed decision, it is helpful to thoroughly research a shortlist of trainers in your area before you commit to hiring anyone.
Look for a trainer with a positive attitude who is affectionate, encouraging and kind to dogs and uses a reward-based training approach with loads of treats, toys, and safe play.
Call the trainers on your short list and chat to them about their techniques and approach on the phone. The definition of classes e.g. puppy, beginner, intermediate and advanced will vary between trainers so you can ask the trainer to explain how their particular system works.
If you like what you hear, then set up a time to drop by, without your dog, so you can observe a training session. This gives you the opportunity to see the instructor in action and assess if you feel comfortable with their manner and methods working with dogs ... and with their humans.
Red flags to look out for when you visit
It’s normal for dogs to be anxious on their first day in a new environment and a good instructor will work to help calm the dog and put their owner at ease so they can both relax and enjoy the session. Be wary if there are dogs cowering, keeping their tail between their legs, or avoiding eye contact.
Don't join any class if the training methods being used relies on fear, choke chains, rough handling or hitting. Lots of shouting or barking can indicate high-stress levels and unhappiness.
Watch out for large class sizes and note that the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (UK) recommends no more than eight puppies in a class with an instructor and one assistant.
And finally, no instructors, even kind and well-meaning ones, should ever give advice about medical issues or serious behavioural issues. Dog owners should always be advised to speak to their vet or referred to a clinical animal behaviourist.
While training your dog is the right thing to do, by far the most important consideration when choosing your instructor is that training should be a fun, positive experience for the both you and your dog!