Most dog owners know that it’s a lot easier to train dogs when they are younger, but they’re not really sure how to go about it and what they should look for when seeking out a trainer. Today, we’re going to review how (and when) you should go about getting your puppy professionally trained.
Ensure health first
Before seeking out any kind of training or classes, always make sure that your pup is up to date on his or her vaccinations and doesn’t have any other concerning health issues. The last thing you want to do is expose your dog — or other dogs — to potential illness or injury (e.g. kennel cough).
Start at the right time
While “the younger, the better” is largely true, there are still optimal times for seeking out training for your pup. For example, while regular training classes typically shouldn’t be started until your puppy is at least 6 months old, there are specific classes available for very young dogs. You should enrol your pup in this type of class from 8 to 16 weeks of age.
Ask about certifications
While there are certainly plenty of great dog trainers out there who positively change the lives of their canine charges and their Pack Leaders without possessing any kind of formal certification, it’s still worth asking trainers if they have been certified.
There are all kinds of programs that will provide people with a “certification” paper simply for completing a paid class, so try to find a trainer who has met the requirements of Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers(CCPDT), or the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants(IAABC).
If a trainer has a certification from one of these programs, you know that their abilities have been individually measured and that they have completed a significant number of training hours.
Demand humane methods
There are many philosophies about how best to train dogs, and it’s true that not all dogs are the same — while some are food-motivated, for example, others prefer play or affection. But most respected organizations agree that positive motivators that reward dogs for good behaviors are more effective for training than negative motivators that punish them for bad behaviors. This is especially true for training puppies, because most haven’t really had time to have any unwanted behaviors become ingrained.
If you notice a puppy trainer engaging any training techniques that involve hitting, scaring, slapping or yelling at dogs, look elsewhere right away. This is abuse. You want someone who ignores unwanted behaviors, praises appropriate behaviors, and engages in calm, assertive corrections when necessary. Remember, a correction does not mean hitting a dog. It means redirecting or blocking them from an unwanted behavior. Most puppies will naturally gravitate toward acts that earn them rewards.
See how you feel
A trainer may have years of experience and a successful track record, but if you don’t approve of their methods or feel comfortable working with them, you should probably look for someone else. Even if a trainer is detailing all of the things that you are doing wrong with your pup, they should be able to treat you respectfully and explain things in a way that’s easy for you to understand.
Additionally, good trainers will keep up with the latest in dog training methods and be able to tell you about what’s out there, adapt their methods to an individual dog’s needs, and have rules in place to protect dogs, such as requiring vaccinations — this last one is especially important for puppy classes!
Ultimately, there’s only so much you can do when picking a trainer for your pup. If you choose someone and then later feel like you made a mistake, don’t hesitate to seek help elsewhere. And if you’re unsure where to find good puppy trainers, talk to your vet or other pet owners you know for recommendations.