Whether you’ve just bought a new puppy or you want to teach an older, rescued dog new tricks, joining a training club or hiring a dog trainer is a brilliant idea.
Dog training as part of a class or one-to-one can be a great way to build a long-lasting bond with your four-legged friend, as well as helping you achieve your training goals.
But choosing the right club or trainer is essential.
Do your research
Before you sign up to any club, we recommend going along to watch a training class as a spectator. To avoid any distractions, it’s best leave your dog at home this once.
Watch carefully to see how the trainer works and think about whether you and your pup would feel comfortable in the surroundings. Do the other dogs and owners look relaxed and happy? Is there a suitable dog to trainer ratio? Are food and toys used appropriately as part of positive reinforcement techniques?
It’s not just about watching – have a good listen too. A training class should be relatively quiet – barking and shouting are clear signs things aren’t under control.
Be honest about your ability
If you like the club and the training ethos, think carefully about the right class for you before you pay up. Your ambitions might be big, but choosing a class that is too advanced will put you and your dog out of your depth from the very start. It’s better to be honest about your current level and to think long term.
There are big benefits that can come from working within a group but if you’re working on specific training issues or you are tackling behavioural problems, one-to-one training from a specialist in that field could be the best way to get results.
You might need specialist help
Dogs struggling with fear or aggression problems will not get on well in a group environment and need special attention. But before you engage on a program with a trainer, don’t be afraid to ask about their experience and their methods.
Sadly, some trainers still use ineffective and unfair practices from lead-jerking to electrified collars. So be sure to choose someone that follows up to date, researched, reward-based methods.
A good dog trainer will find out what motivates your dog and use food rewards and appropriate dog training toys to shape his behaviour.
The sky is your limit
Once you’ve found the right training route for you, you and your dog can begin to enjoy the many benefits. Not only do these include socialisation and mental stimulation, but training can also be a great form of exercise for both of you.
The Association of Pet Dog Trainers works to ensure trainers apply the principles of kindness, fairness and effectiveness in their training that are in keeping with modern learning theory.
You can find accredited clubs and trainers via their website.