What to look for in a trainer

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Remember that all trainers are not created equal and following some simple advice can help save you from an expensive mistake and your dog from harm.

 

We get a huge amount of inquiries from people looking for a dog trainer each week, not just in Central Florida but all over the States. Many have already had a bad experience with trainers who have taken them for large sums of money with no results only to find out afterwards that the trainer wasn’t what he or she appeared to be.

A call from a lady this week (September 2016) who employed a franchise company in Central Florida to help with a 10lb deaf dog who was also blind in one eye prompted this page. The lady paid $1500.00 for 2 weeks “Board and train” for the dog that was returned to her in a shock collar with a broken spirit. I cannot begin to imagine the fear this dog went through for 14 days at the hands of inexperienced franchisees, away from its family and unable to see, hear or understand what was happening.

Horror stories of unqualified, inexperienced trainers doing more harm than good or achieving nothing at great expense are common place as this is an industry that is NOT REGULATED.

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Let’s briefly start with what you DON’T NEED

  1. Multiple lessons for behavioral issues, (any more than 3 and you are being ripped off!)
  2. A company that uses ONLY shock collars (They will also call them “Communication collars, buzz collars, e collars, invisible leashes … don’t be fooled they are all shock collars and if that’s the only method they have then they lack real experience and ability)
  3. Board and Train – where you send your dog away to a “trainer” for training. Dogs need to be trained in the environment where the issues exist NOT some other environment away from you where they are out of your sight and not showing their true behavior. NEVER let someone train your dog out of your sight!
  4. DONT EVER pay up front, pay afterwards when you are happy.
  5. You don’t need obedience lessons for behavioral issues, you are wasting your time and money
  6. You don’t need to buy the “trainer’s recommended food.
  7. You don’t need a trainer who is not properly registered as a business with SUNBIZ (in Florida, check your own State’s version). If they can’t be bothered to follow the law and stay properly registered what does that really say about them? It’s quick and easy to check. For Florida http://www.sunbiz.org and search the name to check they are ACTIVE not INACTIVE (which means they have not kept up their registration and are operating outside of the business law)

Below you will find “Ten commandments” that will help you to decide on the right trainer for you and to ensure you don’t fall victim to unscrupulous or under qualified self proclaimed “dog trainers”

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  1. A personal recommendation from a friend who has actually had a good experience with a trainer is a good start, but don’t stop there, do your own research.
  2. Recommendations from Veterinarians can be a good source BUT remember they may just be giving out cards that have been left in their office by “trainers.” Veterinarians are busy people and only the very best actually check out trainers properly as they realize their good name is going out with that trainer. Again do some extra checks. Some Veterinary surgeries even receive gratuities from more expensive “trainers” in return for referrals.
  3. Letters after the names of trainers are largely meaningless. They are associations that require payment for membership and with a few exceptions do no real checks on the trainers they accept. Check to see the membership requirements for associations (many of them you could join yourself!) I know that even one of the most well known organizations accepted a trainer as an assessor despite blatant and verifiable falsifications on an application! Don’t be blinded by letters!
  4. A Veterinarian behaviorist is still just a trainer and should be judged on their training skills NOT their DVM qualification. There are good ones and bad ones, do your research first!
  5. Beware of any trainer whose bio starts with “X has always loved dogs….” this can often mean there is very little else that qualifies them. I have always loved electricity – it doesn’t make me an electrician!
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for phone numbers of past clients who are willing to support trainers claims and verify value for money and good service.
  7. Check out reviews from several different websites but remember that only a very few actually verify the validity of reviewers and many trainers will submit their own reviews under different names or get their friends to submit reviews. Personal reviews are far more reliable.
  8. Check that your trainer has a professional website, Check they are properly insured (don’t be afraid to ask for verification), Check they are registered as a company with the relevant Government authority (Here in Florida check sunbiz.com). What does it say about a trainer who doesn’t even stay legal with authorities? Check the trainer has no criminal record (who are your REALLY letting into your home?) Is your trainer Police checked? Ask for a Physical copies Police checks and insurance certificates – Your safety and the safety of your family is the most important thing here and you are letting someone into your home and into your lives – make sure you know who they REALLY are.
  9. Look for REAL experience (I find former Police or Military K9 handlers whose lives have depended on their ability to train and read their dog are a good place to start). Are you being sold a “Package” of multiple lessons? Why? Granted not all trainers are experienced or skilled enough to fix your problems in one or two sessions but I can teach a dog to find bombs in 8 weeks what on earth are trainers going to do with your dog in 10 weeks? Multiple sessions are sometimes merely a way of “milking” you for money, it is a common and “cute” practice to give you just enough but not too much so you need to keep the sessions going. Get an idea up front as to how many sessions you are likely to need and if the trainer is not focusing on the ACTUAL problem ask why? If your problem is the dog is barking at your front door, why are you walking around the streets? (And don’t accept that “obedience” training is necessary for behavioral training – it isn’t, leadership is)
  10. ASK whether the trainer is going to use a shock collar on your dog, some franchises depend SOLELY on shock collars as it is the only method they have and I have known shock collars used on puppies of 16 weeks! Remember that many franchise owners will have had around 2 weeks training but will claim the experience and success of the franchise as a whole! Be VERY careful about sending your dog away for training, personally I would never allow my dog to be trained out of my sight unless it was absolutely necessary and I was 100% happy with the trainer after all checks had been done and I had several personal recommendations from happy clients.

There are a lot of very good trainers out there but there are a lot of under qualified pretenders with their eyes on your hard earned money. A high price is not an indication of quality when it comes to dog training, some of us believe that keeping training affordable for people is more important as more dogs get to keep their homes.

NEVER let a trainer berate or blame you and never let them guilt you into expensive training. Remember a “free assessment” is an excuse to get into your home for face to face hard sell and I would NEVER ask for or expect any payment up front, so my advice is pay after you receive the service and never before.

If you have had training and your dog still has the problems immediately after training it is not your fault, your dog is NOT dumb and you ARE NOT a failure, follow the 10 commandments above and find a trainer that can really help you!

Finally, if you can get an appointment in the next few days …. ask yourself why the trainer is so free?!

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