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Seven Things Dog Trainers Don't Want You To Know

Updated on February 10, 2016
agilitymach profile image

Kristin is a dog agility instructor and competitor with almost 20 years in the sport.

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An Overwhelming Decision

For a new dog owner, it can be daunting looking for an obedience instructor. One quick glance at the internet, and the wide variety of methods, programs, schools and instructors can be overwhelming.

To make matters worse, there are things some dog obedience instructors don't want dog owners to know. Knowing these seven items can be a helpful tool in an owner's search for the right obedience trainer. Read below, and when you are looking for your next dog trainer, be sure to keep these seven things in mind.

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#1 - No Education Necessary

Anyone can hang a shingle and become a dog trainer without education, training or certifications of any kind. Amazingly enough, to become a dog trainer you don't need to have ever trained a dog or owned a dog.

There is no governmental oversight or licensing when it comes to dog trainers, so buyer beware. While most dog trainers have seen to their own professional training and studies, some have not. When looking for a dog trainer, ask about the instructor's experience. The college of "Been There. Seen That." is the best education available for dog instructors. Instructors with years of experience will have more tricks up their sleeves to help an owner deal with unusual behaviors or difficult dogs.

A good dog trainer will happily share their experience resume with any potential client.

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#2 - Tasteless Alphabet Soup

Often, professional dog trainers will attempt to lure clients by putting the alphabet soup of certifications and associations on their websites and advertisements. The simple fact is, most of this alphabet soup is worthless. Most associations can be joined by simply paying an annual fee. Any dog trainer can join these associations, and they in no way indicate a "better" dog trainer.

Many - but not all - certifications do not indicate a better or more educated instructor either. By simply passing a few basic on-line tests, a person can become a "certified" dog trainer in some programs. Some programs require no mentors, no hands-on classroom experience, no internship. These certifications are essentially worthless when it comes to hard core, on-the-job dog training.

There are a few certifications that have good programs to back them up, but in most cases, the best education is experience. As with medical doctors, even an obedience trainer with a "real" certification can be a poor trainer. The best way to find a good trainer is to ignore the alphabet soup of certifications and associations, and instead check out real-life results. Visit classes. Listen to word of mouth. Study up on the various training methods. Know the difference between positive training and punishment based methods. By doing just a little research, you can quickly begin to rule out trainers that don't fit you and your dog.

The simple fact is the best dog instructors I have trained under do not have certifications of any kind. What they have - and they have it in spades - is experience training hundreds if not thousands of dogs. While a trainer you love may belong to many associations and have several certifications, that's not what should influence your decision when looking for a good trainer.

A long list of associations and certifications is a way for trainers to bring in business, and many dog trainers don't want you to see past that smoke screen to examine their experience.

The first blue ribbon!!
The first blue ribbon!! | Source

#3 - Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Dog trainers can lie about their experience, association memberships, certifications and more. With some simple research, any potential client can quickly find out if the "boasts" are fact or fiction.

As with unscrupulous mechanics, plumbers and more, dog trainers can lie and get away with it, and some, unfortunately, do. If you are looking into a dog instructor for you and your Fido, do a quick internet search into that instructor. If the instructor claims to belong to an association, Google that association's website and look up their members to see if their claim is true.

I know of one trainer who claimed to be a member of several associations including some that didn't exist. With a simple search taking only a few minutes, his potential clients could have easily discovered the lies and found a more reputable trainer.

There are no checks and balances for this kind of behavior in the dog training world. Again - buyer beware.

#4 - One Trick Ponies

Many dog trainers claim to have THE one method that will train your dog. Some of these trainers are well meaning, and they do believe in their one method. The issue is that if you join their obedience class and find that method isn't helping your dog, what then? Does that trainer know how to implement other methods? Does the trainer have only one trick up their sleeve?

A good trainer will be able to teach several methods for training any behavior. Let's say you have a small, short haired dog who doesn't want to lie down on command. You've tried to lure the dog into the down position for weeks to no avail, and the trainer seems unable to give you any other way to train that simple behavior. You may be training with an "One Trick Pony" instructor. There are multiple things that can be done to fix such a simple problem including using a clicker to "capture" a down, using the "under the knee bridge" approach to getting the behavior, changing the surface on which the behavior is being trained and much, much more.

"One Trick Ponies" often will claim their method is superior. A good trainer will start with their most successful method and move to other methods as the first method proves unsuccessful for that team. Whether the method is unsuccessful because the dog's owner isn't performing it correctly is not the issue. If the owner isn't doing it right, the trainer either needs to figure out why her instruction hasn't gotten through to the owner, or she needs to come up with an alternate training method that the owner can grasp.

Either way, it comes down to the trainer having more than one method to teach each behavior. Don't fall for the "My Method Only" trainers.

The dumbbell retrieve in competition obedience performed by the author's color-headed white Shetland Sheepdog, Jericho.
The dumbbell retrieve in competition obedience performed by the author's color-headed white Shetland Sheepdog, Jericho. | Source

#5 - In Life, There are No Guarantees

Recently I heard someone say that good dog trainers give "guarantees" of success. This baffles me because it is IMPOSSIBLE for an obedience trainer to guarantee success. The reason is simple. There are too many variables to dog training over which the instructor has no control.

For instance, as an agility instructor, I have no control over whether a team practices at home or not. I cannot "guarantee" success unless the behaviors are practiced and trained. It's impossible for a dog to learn how to do the weave poles in agility through osmosis or by the owner just "wishing" his dog could weave. It takes hours of practice to learn that difficult behavior.

The same goes for teaching the simple "stay" command in basic obedience. Unless the behavior is trained at home, there is no way an instructor can "guarantee" success.

What an instructor CAN do is take the risk that the student will train at home and be willing to cough up the class fee if the owner doesn't train and the dog never learns the behavior. That sort of "guarantee" can be given, but it would be a high risk of money lost for the trainer. A guarantee is not a sign of a good instructor.

#6 - Word of Mouth

In my experience, the best trainers are found by word of mouth. These trainers often (but not always) need to do little advertising as students flock to their doors. Obedience schools that do large amounts of advertising or seeking of media attention should be viewed warily.

How happy were you with your last obedience instructor?

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#7 - Insurance Needed

Because many dog trainers can decide to open business as a sole proprietor with no need to incorporate and with little to no governmental oversight, some trainers either forget or intentionally overlook the need for insurance. Some trainers ignore costly insurance because it eats into the meager profits earned in dog training.

Before choosing an instructor, check on insurance. Lack of insurance may well indicate a trainer with little experience and slim to no business acumen. While the chance of an incident occurring under the training of a good, experienced instructor is slim, what is called among trainers as "dumb handler" insurance can give you peace of mind in case that rare incident happens to you or your dog.

Bad dogs!!
Bad dogs!! | Source

How to Find a Good Obedience Trainer

The good news is in every area of the country there are good obedience trainers. These trainers care about dogs, about giving those dogs quality life with their humans and about increasing the quality of the humans' lives as well. A professional dog trainer doesn't train dogs. They train owners how to train their dogs, and good instructors care deeply about each human/dog team they encounter.

With a little research and a little knowledge, you can find a trainer that's just right for you and your dog. For more information on how to find the right obedience trainer for your team, click here to read Agilitymach's article on the subject.

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Agilitymach writes about dog training, the sport of dog agility and other dog related topics. She has been competing in agility for 15 years, and she has been a professional agility instructor for ten years. She currently competes with her Sheltie, Asher, and is training her puppy, Aenon (pictured above), in agility.

To be notified of Agilitymach's recent articles, you can follow her on Facebook by clicking "like" on her Facebook page, or you can follow her on her profile page here on Hubpages.

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    • agilitymach profile image
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      agilitymach 2 years ago

      Thank you Larry!!

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Very helpful hub.

    • agilitymach profile image
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      agilitymach 3 years ago

      Yay!!!! Thanks for dropping by and commenting.:)

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      Barbara Linden 3 years ago from Claremore, Oklahoma

      As a trainer, I WANT people to know about every word in this article!

      I agree with every word here!!!

    • agilitymach profile image
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      agilitymach 3 years ago

      Thank you guys!!! It's so kind of you all to take the time to leave a comment. I appreciate it. :)

    • sujaya venkatesh profile image

      sujaya venkatesh 3 years ago

      grt work congrats ag

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

      Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for this useful post. The average person would not realize these issues and you've done a service to anyone looking for a dog trainer.

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 3 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Very interesting article. There is lot of information for people like me who want to train my dog through a professional trainer so that he stays by me during long distance hikes into wilderness and not wander off or start chasing wildlife.

    • agilitymach profile image
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      agilitymach 3 years ago

      Thank you everyone for taking the time to drop by, read and comment. How kind of all of you!!! I SO appreciate it.

    • Learn Things Web profile image

      Learn Things Web 3 years ago from California

      I don't even have a dog but I found this very interesting. Like with lots of other services, you have to do your homework to avoid being taken advantage of.

    • Adityapullagurla profile image

      Aditya Pullagurla 3 years ago from Sydney

      I Agree that trainers care about our dogs at most times. Good hub

    • Cre8tor profile image

      Dan Robbins 3 years ago from Ohio

      A well deserved HOTD! I've never had a trainer, we have done quite well with our pets, but I can see how people could easily be taken advantage of who do need one now. Love the pics!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 3 years ago from California

      What a great hub! And congrats on the HOTD!

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 3 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Congratulations on HOTD! Well done!

      This was very interesting information, and good to know. While it does not apply to me, as we do not have dogs anymore, it is still very vital information for the millions of dog owners out there.

      There are charlatans in every field, and I guess this one is no exception. I have watched several episodes of Caesar Milan's dog training, and have to wonder if he is one of your "one-trick trainers," although, he does seem to have a way with people and their dogs...as he says, he trains owners, not dogs. I do have to wonder what was edited out and not shown to the viewing public.

      Voted up, interesting, useful, shared and pinned.

    • aninda24 profile image

      Aninda Pramanik 3 years ago from Dhaka, Bangladesh

      OH! That's a nice a Hubs. Dog is my Favorite Animal

    • Aneegma profile image

      Merida Craze 3 years ago

      The first picture of the dog is spot on! what a super cute puppy. Congrats on HOTD. Nicely written and very informarive.

    • HopeS profile image

      HopeS 3 years ago from Skokie, Illinois

      Excellent article with great advice for dog owners.

    • agilitymach profile image
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      agilitymach 3 years ago

      Thank you all for dropping by and reading!!! I didn't even know this hub had won HOD until I read your comment heidithorne!! I appreciate you letting me know!!! :D Howler, I think there may be several different occupations where the "tasteless alphabet soup" is an issue.

      Thank you. :)

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 3 years ago from Chicago Area

      First, congrats on Hub of the Day! Well deserved. Love your "bad dogs" photo. Unfortunately, I can say that I've encountered the same scenario at my house. :)

      Having used many trainers and training styles over the years, I can definitely agree with your assessment. I also have found the best trainers through word of mouth.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 3 years ago from New York

      Good information for those looking for a good trainer. I was lucky and had a great trainer. She had a love of dogs, several of her own, and great references to boot.

      LOVE your photos!

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • howlermunkey profile image

      Jeff Boettner 3 years ago from Tampa, FL

      I see similar "alphabet soup" decalrations in the it field as well, usually by the new guys trying to prove themselves. "howlermunkey.... cdc, nbc, r.e.s.p.e.c.t., m.m. ....." Same deal, throw a bunch of letters out thar....thanks for the tips!

    • agilitymach profile image
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      agilitymach 3 years ago

      Thank techygran!!!! I appreciate the comment, and you dropping by to read. :)

    • techygran profile image

      Cynthia 3 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      I think you pretty much nailed how to look for a good dog trainer-- no excuse for anyone reading this to get 'rooked'... thanks! Sharing!

    • agilitymach profile image
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      agilitymach 3 years ago

      Thank you grand old lady for stopping by and taking the time to make a lovely comment. I appreciate it!!!

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Very revealing article about dog trainers. Now I know.

    • agilitymach profile image
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      agilitymach 3 years ago

      Thank you, Mister Hollywood, for dropping by!!!

    • misterhollywood profile image

      John Hollywood 3 years ago from Hollywood, CA

      Very interesting hub! I did not know any of these thing. Will certainly keep these in mind.

      - Mister Hollywood

    • agilitymach profile image
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      agilitymach 3 years ago

      It is an experience dilemma, I agree. The good news is there are plenty of ways to get experience. A new trainer can get an internship, train at a local "club" (verses a school), work at a pet superstore, start out dog walking or grooming and more.

      Thank you so much for dropping by and taking the time to comment, too!!

    • kblover profile image

      kblover 3 years ago from USA

      Good points - I especially hate the "my method is THE method" types.

      Though, re: #6 - how would a new dog trainer get started without announcing his/herself with authority so that he/she can get students and start to build a reputation?

      It's like the experience dilemma. People want experience but don't want to give people a chance to earn experience?

    • agilitymach profile image
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      agilitymach 3 years ago

      Thank you, Rae!! I appreciate you dropping in to read it. :D

    • Rae Saylor profile image

      Rae Saylor 3 years ago from Australia

      Interesting hub! Will take note of these points. Cheers for writing it, pal! Voted up :)

    • lilcupcake profile image

      lilcupcake 3 years ago

      omg thank you!!!!

      He wasn't always scared, but on walks we often get charged by other dogs ready to attack. there hasn't been a fight yet, ive been lucky in getting out of it. people in my neighborhood don't seem to understand the importance of paying attention to their pets. I know accidents happen and sometimes they get out, but with some of the dogs i face it happens too often to be considered anything less than stupid to me.

    • agilitymach profile image
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      agilitymach 3 years ago

      This is super common actually, and a good trainer absolutely could help you with it. For fear issues, you need to study "classical conditioning." It's vital that your dog be socialized to the world and for him to learn the world is not a scary place. When doing this training, make absolutely sure not to use punishment or the old fashioned, worn out "alpha dog" and "alpha roll" concepts. This dog is fearful, and punishment based methods will only increase the dog's fear - not help it.

      Consider reading my hub on socializing a fearful dog at:

      https://pethelpful.com/dogs/Socializing-Your-Dog-T...

      This is totally common and easily worked through with time, patience, positive training and no "alpha dog" punishment based methods. :)

    • lilcupcake profile image

      lilcupcake 3 years ago

      He won't take treats while we're out :/ he has a lot of anxiety. I'm trying to work with him on that. I wish i could do more with him, but just recently we got to the point where we could walk past a dog in it's fence without him barking and throwing a fit. I can't afford a trainer, but all the training tricks I've read about don't help him. especially since most of them require him to take treats while we're out.

    • agilitymach profile image
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      agilitymach 3 years ago

      lilcupcake, A good trainer could help you with that. A little "proofing" (ie distraction work) with a good motivator (ie reward) could help you get control in almost any situation. It's so wonderful to have a dog you can take places besides the living room. You should go get more training and have some more fun with your dog. :) Thank you for the kind words.

    • lilcupcake profile image

      lilcupcake 3 years ago

      I can't even get my dog to sit when we're on a walk lol He listens at home, but once we're out that door most things I say goes in one ear and out the other. I couldn't imagine doing the things you do!

    • agilitymach profile image
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      agilitymach 3 years ago

      Awww. That's really sweet of you to say!!!

    • lilcupcake profile image

      lilcupcake 3 years ago

      You deserve it! What you do is great :]

    • agilitymach profile image
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      agilitymach 3 years ago

      Thank you lilcupcake!!!! I REALLY appreciate the pin :D

    • lilcupcake profile image

      lilcupcake 3 years ago

      Pinned it up my "hubs" board on pinterest haha. ^_^

    • agilitymach profile image
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      agilitymach 3 years ago

      Thank you, lilcupcake!!!

    • lilcupcake profile image

      lilcupcake 3 years ago

      I love this!