Today, anyone with a trained dog can claim to be a dog trainer. How then do you differentiate the good ones from the average? The following are some guidelines you can use. Do note though that the list below is not exhaustive and that if unsure, dog owners should not be afraid to ask and have their questions clarified.
Certified Dog Trainer
Is the trainer a Certified Dog Trainer? Not all trainers are certified. Some are self-schooled and may not understand the latest developments and techniques as dog training has evolved significantly since the work of Dr. Ian Dunbar and Karen Pryor’s introduction of clicker training to the canine world.
Modern training revolves around the use of positive reinforcement and only where needed, negative punishment like a time out, which is equivalent to withdrawal of privileges when punishing a child. Physical punishment (e.g. leash correction) is never used.
In contrast, many traditional trainers do not subscribe to this training advancement and continue to use choke chains and leash corrections (ie physical punishment) to train dogs.
Being certified is good. It means the person understands well, the theory behind dog training and has the competency to train dogs. But having the competency coupled with an excellent track record in training top performing dogs is even better. Not everyone can train dogs that consistantly outperform all others under the Singapore Kennel Club Obedience and Utility Trials condition. If a trainer has never trained a top performing dog, how then is he going to teach you the finer points needed to get the best out of your dog?
Hence, we encourage everyone to look into the track record of the trainer to see if his track record is as good as his credentials.
Has the trainer advanced with the times? Or is he still advocating that dogs cannot be trained with food treats or rewards and that they have to learn that they have no choice but to comply? If so, he may not know the difference between food rewards and bribes.
More importantly, rather than be affected by such dog training myth, realise for yourself that in the last 10 years, the Singapore Kennel Club’s Obedience Dog of the Year and Utility Dog of the Year titles was won more often by positive rewards based dogs trained by our trainers, than dogs trained through any other means. This is the best proof yet that food rewards are effective in training dogs, as food treats are not allowed in the obedience ring and yet these dogs perform remarkably well!
Ask to Attend His Obedience Lessons
By this, we mean to attend his obedience classes without your dog. While there, observe the following:
- How does the trainer handles dogs?
- Is he hard and harsh on the dogs?
- Are the dogs and owners having fun? Training should be a fun activity for both the owner and his dog.
- Is a choke chain being used and if so, do you wish to subject your dog to leash pops and leash corrections when more humane methods are available?
- Are the dogs enthusiastic or are they displaying stress signals? Examples of stress signals could include tail between the legs, dog cowering or ducking often, no eye contact between owner and dog or worse still, dog delibrately looking away to avoid eye contact
And if you intend to progress to competitive obedience, its a good idea to ask the trainer if prong, e-collars or throw chains are used in their competition dog training. Why? Because not seeing these used in their basic obedience classes does not guarantee that they will not be used in competition training where speed and precision are needed.