I've never thought of myself as the "Best" dog trainer out there, or even maybe among the "Great" dog trainers, but when you think about what really decides the quality of trainer, you start asking some really interesting questions. For those of you out there who have a pet dog for whom you'd like to hire a professional trainer, how do you decide which dog trainer is better than others?
As I've transitioned from being active duty military to taking my Canine Training Profession seriously, I've uncovered some information that was extremely enlightening and shocking even to myself as a long-time canine training enthusiast.
You would think that if you find a "Certified" dog trainer, that you are in good hands, and that the trainer you are working with has to be licensed and verified through some sort of accreditation process to determine that they are, indeed, qualified to train dogs. However, after completing a grueling 12-week certification program, that cost over $12,000 to attend, where they only graduated just over half of the students that started the course, I learned that not many dog trainers take their careers nearly as seriously. And the truth is, they don't have to.
There is no legal requirement or license to become a dog trainer. You can even call yourself a certified dog trainer without necessarily having completed any type of formal certification process. But, let's say you found a dog trainer with some certificates from Canine Professional organizations. That must mean that they are definitely a good dog trainer, right? This is actually where I found some even more shocking information. Since there is no requirement for certification, there is also no governing regulations for the requirements needed to receive a certificate. Now, there are some shady online programs that you can sign up, watch a few videos, and they print you a certificate, but you would expect better from the canine professional organizations. You'd be surprised.
Having only recently started my own business, and learning about my competition, I thought it would benefit my business to be associated with some of the National Canine Professional associations. After applying for my membership, and paying a hefty fee, I began really looking into what that fee has just earned me. The organization offers Canine Training Certificates, and I thought that'd be another nice piece of paper to help assure my clients that I know what I am talking about (at least most of the time). But, since I'm standing up a new business, I wondered how I would have time for all of the requirements that the certification process would undoubtedly involve. I decided to check it out and would plan to maybe complete it once the business was up and running.
Believe it or not, the entire certification process is WRITTEN. Now, having completed highschool, four years of undergraduate work, and a Master's Degree, I could easily complete all of these written assigments in a day. The requirements include what types of forms we use as trainers, such as client intake forms, client hand-outs, and such. Now, you do need to include a couple case studies of dogs you've trained, but who's to say I don't make up a story about "Fido" who I trained to be a service dog and "Cujo" who I cured of his extreme aggression issues?
Now, the point I'm trying to make here is that just because someone tells you that they are a "certified" dog trainer, don't just settle for that at face value. Ask more questions!
What did your certification program include?
Where did you attend your certification program?
What specific areas of canine training did you get certified in?
Are you certified in canine training and behavior?
Was your certification completely online or in person?
Did you have hands-on portions of your certification program?
Now, in the end, the results speak for themselves. Someone may have never spent a single day learning how to train dogs from anyone besides their own experiences, and they may be the greatest dog trainer you have ever met! Others may have been training for years or even decades, but may never have developed their training techniques past what they started with.
Ultimately, when choosing a dog trainer, find someone who instills confidence, demonstrates that they know what they are doing, and can explain their techniques and why they work to you in a way you can easily understand. Albert Einstein once stated "If you can't explain it to a six-year-old, you don't understand it yourself" and dog training should be no exception. I would also recommend to see a demonstration. I've heard the excuse from so many dog trainers that once they are done training client dogs all day, they don't want to train their own dogs, and that's why their dogs are unreliable and don't respond to commands. But would you trust your child with someone who doesn't take care of their own children properly? So why would it be any different for your dog?
Find someone who takes their Canine Training Profession seriously. When you find someone who views this career as their skillcraft, you will know and be able to tell by the way they talk about it, the way they teach you the skills you will use to train your dog, and how much importance they place on training in everyday life.