Choosing A Dog Trainer

Sometimes, we just need a little help with our dogs. Maybe your puppy is full of boundless energy that you want to channel into something productive. Maybe you’re worried about leash reactivity, separation anxiety, or boredom. Whatever the reason, hiring a dog trainer is a great way to develop your relationship with your dog, and improve whatever undesirable habits that they might have.

How To Choose A Dog Trainer

There are literally hundreds of dog trainers for hire in major cities like Portland. So, how do you wade through those choices and find the best person to help you and your furry best friend? Here are some things to consider:

  • Does the dog trainer use negative or positive reinforcement? The prevailing view is that positive-only reinforcement is best for your dog. 
  • Does the dog trainer use treats, a clicker, or both? If your dog is trained exclusively on treats, your dog may not want to perform without them. That could get expensive. 
  • Is your dog trainer certified? There’s no state-licensing bureau for dog trainers, but they can still pay for training from other professionals. CPDT certification is perhaps the most well known program out there. 
  • Where will you work together? Dog trainers will often have a preference for working in your home, in a public space, or in their own training facility. 
  • How long will they work with you? Some dog trainers will do a single session or set of sessions with no plan to follow up; others will provide a behavior-guarantee and offer retraining or supplements as needed. 
  • How much will it cost? Dog trainers vary wildly in price, so you’ll need to find one in your budget.

What Do I Need To Train My Dog Successfully?

After you choose a dog trainer, you may need to buy supplies to help them work. Your trainer may request that you buy training treats, and a harness. They may also want you to have your own treat pouch and clicker for follow up sessions with just you and your dog.  Your trainer should be able to tell you what you need before your book your first session.

What If I Can’t Afford Any Of The Dog Trainers In My Area?

Although dog trainers may seem to be full of mystery and magic, the truth is that dog training is something that nearly anyone can do with a little bit of patience. There are a wide variety of resources available to help you train your dog -- on YouTube, in books, and even in Facebook groups and dog training forums. 

The basic process of any dog training session is this: 

  1. Get your dog in a distraction free space and get them to pay attention to you. A few treats usually help.
  2. Start trying to get your dog to display the behavior you want. For a “sit”, many trainers have luck with guiding the dog’s nose upwards/backwards with a treat. Once their butt touches the ground, give them a treat. If you’re clicker training -- be sure to click first, and then reward.
  3. Repeat the process a few times.
  4. Keep your training session on a single behavior to 5-10 minutes so they don’t get bored or frustrated. Reward them at the end of your session with extra love, some toys, or more treats. 
  5. Repeat several times a week. 

You could also consider a hybrid approach: consulting with a dog trainer for a limited amount of sessions, and then doing a lot of follow up at home with your pet to get the desired behaviors in place. It’s work, but the rewards are well worth the effort.