When to Consult a Dog Training Pro: Reaching Out for Help
Going Beyond “Do It Yourself” Training
Information about training dogs is readily available. It is easy for pet owners to find videos, books, websites, blogs and podcasts. But what if “do it yourself” training is not enough? How do you know when to seek professional assistance from a dog trainer or an animal behaviorist? Follow these guidelines to determine when to consult a pro and the type of support you and your buddy need.
When to Seek Training Help
Having a training coach can be helpful and enjoyable. There are also times when professional help is necessary. Seek the guidance of a professional when:
1. There are safety concerns. Behaviors are displayed that make you feel that your dog, people or other companion animals are not safe.
2. Behavior negatively impacts your lifestyle. Behaviors occur that interfere with your intended lifestyle with your dog.
3. Advanced training is desired. You want to achieve an advanced level of training for sport or competition.
4. Sudden behavior changes occur. If your dog suddenly develops a behavior issue, consult your veterinarian to rule out any medical cause (such as a painful condition).
Types of Professionals
There are two main types of training professionals—dog trainers and animal behaviorists. Many dog trainers can be considered experts in dealing with a range of training or behavior issues. However, this expertise does not qualify them as behaviorists. There are differences between the two.
1. Dog trainers. The field of dog training is open to anyone with interest. Although many certifying programs in dog training exist, certification is not necessary to serve clients. There are no requirements of education, licensing or certification to be a professional dog trainer.
2. Animal behaviorists. A behaviorist is either a veterinarian with an extended degree in animal behavior, or a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB) with a degree in animal behavior without being a veterinarian. A veterinarian behaviorist can prescribe medications for behavioral problems. A CAAB cannot prescribe medication.
Seek the advice of an animal behaviorist if:
- Extreme training or behavior issues are not responding to the guidance of a professional trainer.
- A veterinarian or trainer recommends medication for your dog for a behavior issue.
Choosing a Professional
It is important to make an informed decision when selecting a professional dog trainer or animal behaviorist. Recommendations are a great place to start. This is especially true if you can see the “before” and “after” effects of a dog that has been professionally trained. A dog’s behavior should improve so that both the owner and the animal are happier and enjoying a better quality of life together.
Types of Training Classes
Professional dog trainers may conduct private lessons or group classes. Some offer more intensive instruction while a dog boards at a training facility. There are benefits to each type of training.
1. Private training sessions are tailored for each family and situation. The instruction may take place at a training facility, in your home or at a community location. Private lessons are beneficial for:
- People who prefer individualized support
- Behavior issues that are specific to certain environments or situations (such as when jogging with your dog)
- Addressing more serious behavior issues such as aggression
2. Group training sessions are used for basic obedience classes, problem solving, trick training and sport or competition classes. Group sessions are especially beneficial for:
- Training your dog when he is distracted. Behaviors are taught and practiced in a controlled environment with typically lots going on.
- A transition for owners who have enjoyed training their dogs on their own at home, but find that the training doesn’t “stick” when anywhere else.
3. Board and train is intensive training with defined goals, objectives and time frames. It may be for basic obedience, problem solving, sport or competition, or for any type of customized training. Board and train is best suited for:
- Situations when consistency in training at home is challenging due to work or travel schedules
- Behavioral issues that need immediate intervention by a professional
- Times when a high level of training expertise is required before a dog is expected to interact with the family appropriately
Aggressive Behavior Needs Professional Help
Aggression by itself can be normal behavior and a natural way for dogs to show they feel threatened. However, aggression is troublesome to live with at best and dangerous at worst. Consulting a professional about aggressive behavior is the best course of action. A dog trainer may recommend intervention by a behaviorist or a veterinarian. The professional should be able to:
- Assess the situation
- Recommend steps to manage or remedy the behavior
Results of Successful Training
The outcome of training should be measureable and positive for you and your dog. Many people achieve excellent results from training resources available on the Internet or in bookstores. Others relish the opportunity to work with a professional dog trainer–just as we enjoy coaching in many aspects of our lives. Some pet owners seek professional expertise to remedy or improve a specific behavior. Regardless of the method, successful training results in well-mannered dogs and creates stronger bonds between owners and pets.