When you bring a new dog home it can be a time of great confusion, nervousness and anxiety. We all want the best for our dogs and we all want our dogs to fit in to our lives. When you feel anxious about your new dog it leaves you vulnerable to other peoples opinions and advice. Sometimes you can get so much of this well meaning advice that it just leaves you utterly confused. This is perfectly normal especially when you have little support.
The best way to navigate through the mass of confusion is to first find a dog trainer that you trust and feel comfortable with. Ask friends where they had their dog trained, and what their thoughts of the service were. Call the service/club, the trainer should spend time with you on the phone answering your questions and listening to your needs. You should also be able to visit the service/club and see the training in action. Talk to the clients/members about their thoughts. You should be looking for happy dogs, supported people and interested, passionate trainers.
Once you have found a service/club, your trainer should spend time getting to know you, your dog, your family, and your needs. Your trainer should love dogs, but they must be passionate about helping people. If the trainer asks you to do something you don’t feel comfortable with, it should be ok. So many people find a dog trainer and follow what they say even when they feel it is not right for them. Perhaps your trainer can work around the issue, if not, you may need to find someone else. Don’t ignore your ‘gut feeling’, it’s there for a reason, listen to it.
Even when you have a great trainer, there may be things that they suggest that you do not feel happy with. A great example of this is; do you allow your dog on the furniture with you? Some trainers give a blanket ‘no way, ever’ response. But, what happens if you want your dog on the couch or bed with you? What if that is time you both really enjoy? This is where a flexible trainer would give you guidelines such as, ‘only allowed on the furniture with your permission’. Or, ‘not allowed on furniture until other behavioural problems are sorted out’. Also, do your own research, your trainer should also be able to recommend alternative sources of information, books, websites, blogs etc…
As a preference you should choose private lessons initially then move to group classes. Private lessons allow the trainer to tailor an approach to dog training that is right for you and your lifestyle. You are the expert on your life and believe it or not, you know your dog better anyone. The more relevant the information your dog trainer gives you, the more likely you are to practice and be successful, also ensuring a better outcome in group classes.
If you are taking your dog to a service/club don’t assume that the trainer can ‘fix’ your dog. It is your trainers’ job to work with you, to help you, help your dog. They should be giving you the tools that you can take home and practice. In this process you should be feeling empowered and confident, your trainer should be giving you lots of positive reinforcement and specific praise. You should come away feeling happy and good about the session.
A good trainer should also be able to demonstrate exercises with your dog (unless your dog is very anxious around new people) off lead. A dog trainer that can work with dogs’ off lead will tend to have a good grasp of positive reinforcement, timing, and shaping your dogs’ behaviour to the desired goal.
You should be able to have the life with your dog that you want, with the flexibility and support of your trainer. After all, what I see as a problem dog behaviour in my life, may not be an issue in your life.