In the past, it was not always seen as a necessity to take a new puppy to training classes – thankfully, this attitude has changed over the years and we now understand how beneficial it is for our young and adolescent dogs to work with us in a controlled, group environment. Training classes can not only help us master the foundations of important skills such as lead walking and recall; they can also be great places to properly socialise our dogs and provide important enrichment to our dogs’ lives.
The trouble is that the dog training industry is, sadly, and unregulated industry – this means that anyone can call themselves a dog trainer (or even a behaviourist!) even without any formal qualifications or experience. This can make it incredibly hard for new dog owners to know who to turn to for advice – it’s a huge undertaking and the stakes are high, as the fallout of inadequate or outdated training during this formative stage in our puppies’ lives can be extreme and impact us for the rest of their lives. That’s why we have written this guide to let you know the red flags and things to look out for when you are trying to choose a dog trainer.
How long have they been in business?
One thing to be mindful of when seeking out a dog trainer, is how long they have been in business for. Being in business a short while doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t a good trainer, but you’ll want to see other signs that they know what they’re doing if this is the case – for example, have they got formal qualifications or have they got a background in working with and training dogs?
It is incredibly common to find brand new, unqualified trainers offering puppy classes and it is a worrying trend – while puppy classes might feel like they’d be the “easiest” ones to run, working on the very basics of training, they are also hugely influential in a dog’s life. As we’ve already discussed, this is a formative time in a dog’s life and a poorly managed class can cause more problems than it prevents. Classes can easily be overwhelming for our dogs and failing to carefully manage how the puppies are feeling and dog-to-dog interactions can lead to lifelong behavioural issues such as fear and reactivity.
For this reason, we recommend looking for an experienced trainer who you can trust to ensure your puppy has positive first experiences around other dogs and people and can start their training journey the right way.
Who were they trained by and what qualifications do they have?
As an unregulated industry, it can be tricky to find trainers with valuable qualifications. There are a huge number of trainers out there who represent themselves as behaviourists with absolutely no behavioural training or qualifications, and even amongst those who make no such claim there is often a concerning amount of misrepresentation when it comes to the training and assessment they have undergone. Look into the organisations that trainers claim to have been trained by or accredited with – for example, does the organisation offer external accreditation? Many organisations offer pretty graphics for websites and business pages and offer what is actually pretty meaningless accreditation!
We recommend looking for recognised accrediting bodies such as the IMDT (institute of modern dog trainers), the APDT (association of pet dog trainers) or the IAABC (international association of animal behaviour consultants). Many of these organisations are also happy to help you locate trainers/behaviourists in their organisation who are local to you. For example, the IMDT have a trainers directory page on their site: https://www.imdt.uk.com/find-a-qualified-imdt-trainer
In addition to accreditation, what qualifications does the trainer/behaviourist have – experience is incredibly valuable but a true, in-depth understanding of how our dogs learn, dog behaviour and how and why the methods we use work and impact on our dogs is equally important if they are to deliver effective, ethical training for you and your puppy.
Are they a registered company?
This is often one of the most overlooked considerations when looking to hire a dog trainer, but it can say a huge amount about the type of service you will receive. Many people view dog training as a hobby – while we totally agree that training dogs is a wonderful hobby, we also know that the advice and training you and your puppy receive from self-titled professionals should be taken much more seriously than that. Every training session, interaction and new experience you and your dog have will have an ongoing, long lasting impact on your lives together – if the trainer you are looking at views the job as a side hustle or pocket money, can you truly have confidence that they will take their responsibility to you and your dog seriously?
What CPD are they doing?
Continued Professional Development is another important part of working in the dog training industry. Any good trainer should have the passion and drive to continue learning, to become the best trainer they can be and to provide you and your dog with the best advice and methods possible, based on the latest science. Behavioural science is a thriving industry that is making new discoveries and developing theories all the time – there is no limit to the amount of CPD a trainer could be doing, with big names in the industry offering workshops, webinars and courses all the time.
If a trainer is not investing time and money into furthering their knowledge and continually looking to improve upon the training they provide, then they are already falling behind – with so many trainers out there promoting unethical equipment and unkind methods, based on outdated science that has long-since been debunked, one of THE best things a dog owner can do to safeguard themselves against falling victim to such potentially harmful advice is to find themselves a trainer who prioritises annual CPD.
If you want training that is genuinely accredited and qualified click here