What to Look for in a Puppy Trainer

Because there is no certification process that applies to the entire profession, the quality of puppy trainers varies dramatically. Choosing one that fits your personality and preference of methods is important for ensuring training success.

Choice of Methodology

No trainer will be exactly like another, even if they advertise the same methodology. However, you can usually determine which type of trainer you would like to choose based on the methods they advertise.

Traditional trainers often use punishment in their training. These trainers will usually recommend that you buy some type of collar, such as choke chain or prong collar, that will help you administer punishment. While some of these trainers have success, these methods are not recommended for puppies as they can scare them and damage their psyche.

Now, many trainers advertise themselves as positive reinforcement trainers. The degree to which they rely on positive training is quite variable as many "positive" trainers use punishments. Be sure to ask specific questions when choosing your trainer if you are opposed to punishments.

Positive trainers will also vary in how they use their motivators. Most trainers begin with treats, but toys and praise can also be used. Ask the trainer how they phase out the motivators so you can be sure you don't become reliant on tools.

Clicker trainers are another variation of the positive trainer. They use the clicker to mark desirable behaviors, usually eliminating the need for food lures, though they do reward after the click.

Puppy Trainer Certifications

Though trainers are not required to obtain certifications, many choose to do so. Though most trainers can be successful with puppies, you may want to find your trainer through sites that list only certified trainers.

Organizations such as the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers and National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors require their trainers to complete a certain amount of training hours and pass a dog training exam. They are also required to complete continuing education credits, keeping up-to-date on new training methods.

Choosing a trainer with set qualifications will help ensure you get a trainer that will be able to answer even your most difficult questions. However, trainers with less experience will often join other organizations, such as the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, that provide them with educational opportunities. These organizations are also a credible way to find a trainer.

Type of Training

There are a couple of great ways to train your puppy: puppy classes and private lessons. Puppy classes are designed for ages 6 to 14 weeks and often take place in a veterinarian office. These classes focus on a little basic training but mostly on socialization, which can help your puppy grow into a well-adjusted adult.

If your schedule doesn't allow for a weekly class, most trainers also offer private lessons during which they come to your house or invite you to their training facility. Private lessons tend to be more flexible and are designed to meet your specific goals. However, private lessons are usually more costly.

Try not to determine which trainer you choose based on cost. Many of the best trainers charge a higher price but get better results.

Be wary of any trainer that promises quick fixes or guarantees. You should also commit to training your dog in your home rather than sending him away. It's important that you build a relationship with your puppy and teach him your rules. A good trainer will teach you to teach your dog.