Merck Manual

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Guidelines for Selecting a Dog Trainer

Guidelines for Selecting a Dog Trainer

  • Look for trainers who use positive reinforcement for good behavior rather than punishment for unacceptable behavior.

  • Observe an obedience class without your pet. Are the dogs and people having a good time? Talk with some of the participants after the class. If someone will not let you sit in on a class, do not enroll.

  • Do not allow trainers to work with your dog unless they tell you beforehand exactly what they plan to do.

  • Do not be afraid to tell a trainer to stop if she or he does something (or tells you to do something) to your dog that you do not feel comfortable with.

  • Avoid trainers who offer guarantees. Such trainers are either ignoring or do not understand the complexities of animal behavior.

  • Avoid trainers who object to using food as a training reward. Food is one of the best ways to motivate a dog.

  • Avoid trainers who insist on using a choke chain. Head collars are humane alternatives to choke chains and pinch collars.

  • If you believe your dog has been subjected to cruel treatment by a trainer, get the names and phone numbers of witnesses. Take your dog to your veterinarian immediately for a complete physical examination. Tell them that the results of the examination may be used as evidence in a court case so that your veterinarian will document the procedures with that in mind.