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Choosing the right trainer

September 26th 2016

Choosing the right trainer for you and your dog

The world of dog training is a passionate one. It is also an unregulated industry with very little control of the information that is shared. Sadly, anyone can say that they are a “dog trainer” without any formal training at all! Understanding what it means to be a Certified Professional Dog Trainer often gets buried under the good advertising of some of these other trainers. Reality TV also displays problem behaviours being fixed in less than an hour, start to finish, and some even guarantee 100% success rates. The definition of reality is - the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them (Oxford Dictionaries). Human perception plays into to this world of reality. The desire to understand what dogs and people really need takes a backseat to the ratings and the large amounts of revenue generated from these TV shows.

Dog training is a journey, not an end to a means. Meaning, dogs will continue to learn and want you to continue to be a good teacher and pet parent. Dogs are not out to try and dominate your world but instead want to be your friend and companion.

Building a positive bond between owner and dog is crucial to ensure a long lasting trusting relationship. The best type of training is one without physical force or manipulation, intimidation or coercion.

When considering training, private or group classes, asking the right questions about the training you will receive, the certifications of the trainers along with the philosophy they follow some of the most important things you can do for your dog. Good trainers will be honest in their answers and give you details and will invite you to watch classes before you get started.

Questions to ask when making your decision

Where did you learn how to work with dogs?

The answer that I would tell a client is: I started working with dogs when I adopted a dog from the pound and took him to classes. When I adopted my dog there was a list of places to choose from and I called the ones closest to my house. I asked if I could observe a class and they said yes. I went and observed and saw the passion in the trainer that was teaching, her gentle methods and the ways the dogs in the class responded to their owners. I was sold, so I signed up and took my own dog through and was amazed at the relationship I built with my little pound puppy though a mark and reward type training. Not once was I told I was doing things incorrectly but given advice on what they observed could help with my timing and delivery. Not once was I told to correct my dog with a forceful correction. I learned methods in a facility that gave my dog a choice and rewarded for those good choices through food rewards, praise, play and petting. The trainers that taught me were certified through a global governance of certification - The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and Karen Pryor Certified Training Partners.

What book(s) do you recommend

The books I recommend are by authors I greatly respect, Karen Pryor, Dr. Sophia Yin, Dr. Ian Dunbar, Jean Donaldson, Suzanne Clothier, James O’Heare, Patricia McConnell, Turid Rugas, just to name a few. These books are written to help you work with your dog by training him to do the things you want him to do instead of stopping or correcting behaviors you don’t like. Building relationships not breaking them down Kneeing a dog in the chest will stop him from jumping on you in that the moment but it also teaches him you are scary and to avoid your knee but chances are they will jump on others. Why not instead teach them to sit in all situations he is jumping?

What certifications do you hold?

I am a Certified dog trainer with the CPDT and KPA. To obtain your CPDT you must pass a comprehensive exam on learning theory (understanding the quadrants of operant conditioning and where they are applied to teaching classes) after you have completed a minimum 300 hours of dog training in a facility with CPDT Certification. To read more on the CPDT go to http://www.ccpdt.org/

KPA stand for Karen Pryor Academy. Karen Pryor brought mark and reward training to the dog training world from her experience as a marine mammal trainer. The course is 6 months of hands on training with exams and workshops in learning theory, behavior and reward based methods using a clicker. https://www.karenpryoracademy.com/ for more info

What is your training philosophy?

I am a reward based trainer who uses methods that cause no harm and without the use of physical corrections.

What kind of training equipment do you recommend?

Harness, rewards in conjunction with a mark and reward program

When I started working with Dr. Dekens, I noticed medical alongside behavioural issues when we examined dogs due to mishandling, with no blame to the owners, they were merely following instructions by trainers they trusted. I have seen more injuries to the trachea than I’d like to. This is mostly due to early on collar corrections (excessive force put upon a chain, martingale or prong collar) in an attempt to stop dogs from pulling. I have had owners tell me about their dog’s blood shot eyes which also goes hand in hand with a restriction of air to the brain due to collars being pulled up and held tight until the dog gives and sits. It is called the dog submitting, but that is not true. The dog does the only behavior it can in order to get away from the uncomfortable pressure around its’ neck. Short term results with long lasting possible health complications are never discussed in correction type training.

Red flags to look for when calling about training for your dog.

Telling you to dominate your dog or show it who the boss is. This is outdated and uneducated.

Claiming that they use a reward based program and they are treat free, this is a punishment based program.

Telling you that you failed your dog and it’s your fault that your dog acts like that – adds doubt and guilt and is manipulative.

Circling around your questions without giving you an exact answer “How will you help me fix “ABC” and the answer will be “we can fix that! Fill out and sign up for our program” without a real answer.

They claim to be a behaviourist. Animal behaviourists are required to complete a post-graduate education, receiving a Masters in Behavioural Science, or DVM or VMD degree with a behavioural residency.

Ask for proof - There are currently no Animal Behaviourist’s in Calgary. There are trainers that are Certified Behaviour Consultants, they will be listed on the CPDT site. Also reference the http://ppgworldservices.com/ and the http://iaabc.org/ for more behaviour experienced trainers

Claims to use a balanced approach – this means that they will teach you to physically punish your dog then reward it with food but this causes confusion, frustration and stress.

That you must buy special collars – correction collar – martingales (used as a method of correction instead of safety) choke chains, prong collars or electronic collars

100% guarantee in their methods - There are too many factors (owner compliance, genetics, past experiences) and situations involved to guarantee 100% results. This is unethical.

Getting a dog is as investment and doing your research is important to build a lifelong relationship with your companion.


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