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There are many types of dog training, and it's important to know which is the best for you and your pup. When you first bring a dog home, you should be thinking about choosing a dog trainer who will help guide you and your pup into years of positive behavior and happy times. Dogs are trained so that they behave both in and out of the home. Training also sets up a foundation of trust and respect between the person and their dog. But, how do you know who is best suited for the job, and even more importantly, what specific style of dog training will work best for you and your furry friend?
Do the Research
The first step in choosing a dog trainer and lesson styles is to understand all the options available to you. When lessons come to mind, most people often think of group classes, but individualized training is also an option for your dog. The main difference is that group classes also help your dog with socialization, while the one-on-one sessions focus directly on your pet. Both types of dog training teach foundations, such as the basic commands like sit, stay, and heel. Your dog is learning how to be handled, follow instructions, and flex his memory muscles. Another basic training program you might consider when you first bring him home is potty training, especially if you're having trouble with one too many accidents in your home.
After your dog graduates from the basic commands, there are many other training classes he can take. For example, he can learn how to participate in dog sports and agility training. Other options include training to become a therapy dog or working on honing his best manners to become a show dog. There are also more in-depth training courses geared toward socialization if your pooch needs a little help learning how to relate to his furry peers.
Then, once you've identified the various options you have for dog training, the next step is using your dog's and your own personality to guide your search for trainers who can help you turn a playful puppy into a terrific, trained dog.
Know Your Dog's Personality
Being aware of your dogs behavior traits and overall personality will help you decide what methods you'll use during the training process. For example, a very timid, excitable, or anxious dog might have an issue learning in a busy group course. This doesn't mean you should keep him away from groups. In fact, all puppies should be socialized and have the opportunity to make friends with other dogs. In this case, you might want to hire a trainer for some individual classes first before introducing learning as a group activity.
It's also important to know what motivates your pup. Is he a snacker that would do anything for treats? Great. Keep a stash with you and use them to reward consistent positive behavior. Some dogs don't need food as rewards. They'd be just as happy if you shower them with attention instead. Finally, other dogs take training just as seriously as you do. They're going to work hard with or without treats or praise. They've got a job to do. It's best to know how your dog will act before starting any training.
Know Your Training Personality
Understanding how your dog will best react to training is the most important factor for deciding what types of dog training you'll enroll him in, but don't forget to factor your own personality into the decision, as well. What are you comfortable with and what makes you uncomfortable? It's best to know this before hiring a trainer, because you need to be consistent with the training and practice schedule for optimal success. Are you prepared to turn over control to someone else who will be guiding you and your pet? Or would you rather have a more hands-on approach? Before hiring anyone or choosing what type of class you will attend, be clear on what type of training you're comfortable with. Dogs are very good at picking up on subtle queues to how their owner is feeling, so if you feel apprehensive, it might cause your dog to be anxious too. When you're comfortable, there is a greater chance your dog will be too.
Get to Know the Trainers
You wouldn't drop your human children off at a day care without getting to know the teachers, would you? The same goes for hiring dog trainers. Before booking classes at a local pet store or hiring someone to come into your home, make a long list of potential trainers. Look for testimonials on their websites or social media. Do their previous clients seem happy with the experience? Even more important, are the trainers on your list certified? Anyone can claim to be a dog trainer, but you want to invest your money and time with someone who has gone through a certification process.
Don't forget to ask trainers what types of motivation they'll use to keep your dog on task. Some may prefer clicker training, while others use treats as part of their lessons. Talk to them about the types of skills they can help you teach such as leash training, fetch, speak, etc. Also, if you have multiple people in the household, speak to the trainer to ask them if they would be okay with you involving a spouse, roommate or children in the training. The more people your dog is used to taking commands from will help him better acclimate to listening to different people in the house.
If you're having trouble finding a dog trainer in your area, consult with your veterinarian. They may be able to recommend skilled and qualified trainers that other pet parents have raved about. Your vet may also be able to offer a few tips for teaching your dog as you wait for the lessons to begin. A groomer or friends who have dogs of their own may also be able to recommend someone they enjoyed working with in the past.
For more information on puppy training, please take a look at our comprehensive puppy training basics article.
Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform—and even transform—its intended audience. Her writing can be found all over the internet and in print, and includes interviews, ghostwriting, blog posts, and creative nonfiction. Erin is a geek for SEO and all things social media. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. Reach out to her on Twitter @ReinventingErin or learn more about her at http://erinollila.com.