I often get inquiries about what I look for in a trainer. So, I decided to write a bit about what I look for. Everyone will have a different approach as people want different things out of training.
Currently I work with a few different trainers in my area. Can I train my dogs myself…yes. So, why do I take my dogs to classes? That is easy…socialization, working around distractions, and it is nice to have a trainer evaluate the work you are doing with your dog. When training it is critical to get feedback from others on how you are doing. Why? Simply because practice does NOT make perfect. If you are training your dog and getting a slightly off response, continuing to train that will just commit that off response to muscle memory. Then to fix it you must undo what you have done to redo your training for the proper response. So, perfect practice makes perfect. The sooner you find a problem and can troubleshoot the problem, the easier it is to fix the problem. Another trainer is a great person to have evaluate you and your dog.
Also, with each new trainer you work with you will get a different approach. I have been training dogs for over 20 years (yep, you read that right, I have been training since I was quite young) It’s ok to work with a few different trainers as you and your dog grow. The way I trained my first dog is nothing like how I train my current dog. Every trainer I work with has given something new to my training style and ability. As I learn, I grow as a trainer. So, do not think because you used this one trainer you now must use them and only them forever. Doing this you will eventually find yourself in a rut where you are not growing or expanding your skills.
The one piece of advice I have when looking for your first trainer, is to know where you want your dog to be and then find a trainer that can get you there. If you think you want a competition dog, then I highly recommend finding a trainer that has several titled dogs. (also, dogs that are titled beyond the first level of a sport) If you want a family pet with stellar house manners, then find a trainer who has dogs that fit what you are looking for.
Now I know what you are thinking, it is just basic obedience why does it matter at this point if I want to compete down the road? Anyone who has been training and competing knows how important foundation work is. Your foundation work is the groundwork for all competition training down the road. You cannot rush or slack in this department or you will greatly struggle down the road. If you have a trainer that does not compete with their dog and is training a family pet…than an amazing family pet is what you will wind up with. A trainer that also competes is going to start your dog down the right path for training at the competition level as you move forward.
If you are lucky enough to live near a training facility or club that offer classes in different sports…sign up. If you can get started in a sport with the help of an experienced trainer, that is the best way to go. However, if you are like me and live in an area where training facilities are hours away, do not give up. There is a way you can still move forward.
Once you have the groundwork in, find training DVDs to help get your start. Again, do your research and find a professional trainer that fits where you want to be. I love training DVDs as it opens the door to working with trainers from all over the world. The downfall is that you do not have that immediate critique that you have with in person training. So, I highly encourage and recommend that you look for and attend training seminars. Seminars allow you to fine tune and/or trouble shoot the training you have done at home. Also, go to trials and talk with other owners. You will be amazed how many of them will talk with you about training and competing. If there is one thing dog people like to talk about is their dogs. In doing this I have made some lifelong friends that I can meet up with or send videos to for feedback.
Here are links to just two of favorite trainers’ DVDs…
Susan Garrett https://dogsthat.com/shop/dvd/?_ga=2.163635133.385969512.1608004135-447489023.1608004135
Michael Ellis https://leerburg.com/ellisdvds.htm
Michael Ellis free online videos https://leerburg.com/flix/newestvideos.php