by Marina Somma
It takes a good dog trainer to know a good dog trainer. (It also takes a good dog trainer to spot a terrible one!) Before you bring a dog trainer into your life and take their advice, there are a few important things you should know.
Not all dog trainers are cut from the same cloth. Many “traditional” ones still use outdated techniques that can be incredibly detrimental to your dog. Read on to learn more about the different training techniques and which you should use.
Dog Training Methods
People use several different types of dog training. However, two have pulled to the forefront of the training world today: traditional and positive reinforcement.
We’ll briefly address how each of the two methods work, and explain what makes traditional outdated and what makes positive reinforcement the most effective.
The so-called “traditional” dog training method reigned supreme for years. In fact, many television shows, YouTube channels, and other media outlets still spout these methods to the public. So, what exactly does it entail? Well, this method of dog training revolves around the idea that your family should be like a wolf pack, and you should be the alpha wolf. Essentially, it tasks you with the role of bullying your dog into submission to “show them who’s boss.”
Peer-reviewed research that tells us this method is detrimental to the psychological welfare of our pets and isn’t more effective. It’s an outdated method that many researchers and animal trainers consider dangerous.
Positive Reinforcement Training
Based on scientific findings, it's no surprise that positive reinforcement training is steadily displacing traditional dog training methods. Positive reinforcement is incredibly simple in nature and works without psychologically damaging your pet. When a dog does something desirable, you reinforce them to increase the likelihood that they’ll do that behavior again.
Not only is positive reinforcement simple and effective, but it also helps you develop a stronger relationship with your dog.
The Training World
In reality, the dog training community is incredibly far behind the times when it comes to new training methods. In fact, positive reinforcement training wasn’t even used extensively with dogs until the 1990s. The first group to fully embrace the use of positive reinforcement training was actually the zoological community.
Choosing a Good Trainer
What exactly does all this information have to do with choosing a good dog trainer? Why, everything of course! You need to choose a dog trainer who uses the most effective, safe and well-rounded methods with your dog.
However, method isn’t the only thing you need to consider when choosing a dog trainer.
A good dog trainer is actually more than just good dog training methods. The most important aspect of dog training is that you need to understand how to continue the training yourself.
This is why it’s incredibly important for your dog trainer to be a good people trainer, too! They should have good communication skills and be comfortable teaching you new things.
If your dog trainer doesn’t seem comfortable talking to people, you’ll have difficulty understanding the training methods they use on your dog. You should also search for a trainer that tries to ensure your dog has a well-rounded life, instead of simply “fixing” the problem behavior. One of the best ways to be sure that your trainer follows a specific regimen is to search through the various certifications and organizations. You can look into their methods and code of ethics to ensure that trainers with those certifications use methods that you are comfortable with.
The Whole Picture
Dog training should revolve around finding the source of a problem rather than just trying to fix a behavior. For your training to be most effective, your dog needs to have a solid base of mental stimulation, and your trainer should address any underlying issues.
For example, when a trainer is working with a dog who barks at guests, they shouldn’t simply address the barking. It is important that they discuss with the client how they should socialize their dog, what activities their dog needs to make sure they receive enough mental stimulation and what types of supplements (like CBD chews or tinctures) could help ease their dog’s base level of nervousness.
Your Pet and You
Your dog is a member of the family, and you wouldn’t take a family member to a bottom-of-the-barrel therapist. The things your dog trainer tells you can potentially alter your dog’s psychological well-being and impact your dog’s relationship with you. That’s why it’s so important to choose a knowledgeable, certified trainer who uses positive reinforcement methods with your dog.
Marina graduated from Monmouth University with a B.A. in psychology and a B.S. in marine and environmental biology and Policy. She also holds CPDT-KA dog training certification with the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. She has over eight years of experience in zoological and domestic animal care and has worked at various facilities all around the country. Marina and her husband, Vincent, own, operate and manage an animal behavior/training and media company based out of Central Florida called petsETC.