Finding The Right Trainer for You
In the first 2 parts of this series, we discussed how to find an educated and experienced dog trainer. For the third and final installment of this series, let's discuss how to find an ethical dog trainer.
We have already covered how important education and experience are, but one could argue that neither of those really matters if the trainer you choose does not share your ethics and values when it comes to training and handling your dog. This is a very personal process and will differ for everyone, so for now I've decided to share some personal stories from my dog training journey.
As a young adult, I had a very large dog of a breed that some people believe needs a "heavy hand". Let's call her Sadie. I took Sadie to a trainer who insisted that she needed to wear a prong collar, even though I wasn't totally comfortable with it. Hearing the same message from the trainer, as well as Sadie's breeder and multiple pet store employees, I used the prong collar because I truly believed that I had to.
If I knew then what I know now, I would have stood up for myself and my dog and not used the prong collar. I would have stopped attending those classes immediately. Unfortunately, I didn't leave soon enough and the training we did caused issues I never would have expected as no one warned me of the risks involved. Eventually I decided to hire a different trainer, and it turned out she used positive reinforcement methods. I noticed improvements right away and was so happy to finally have progress with our training! Naively, I did go back to tell the previous trainer about my success with positive methods and using other tools as I thought they would share my excitement that they did not need to use the prong collar after all. It was then that I learned not all trainers share the same ethics and values.
In another instance, I had a dog (let's call him Fluffy) with separation anxiety. The first trainer told me to get a stronger crate, make loud noises when he barked, and over-exercise him on a treadmill to 'cure' the anxiety. Thankfully by this point I knew a bit more and trusted my gut that this didn't feel right. After consulting with another trainer, as well as a separation anxiety specialist, we came up with a plan that was much more comfortable (and kind) for both myself and Fluffy.
It's not easy to share these stories and admit mistakes I have made, but I do it so that others will know it's okay to trust your gut. It's okay to tell a trainer you are not comfortable with their suggestion. It's okay to choose a trainer who is a better fit for you.