The title sounds pretty dire, doesn’t it? It seems counter-intuitive, considering that I sell online Training Guides and Courses to help you prepare your dog for your new baby, to help introduce them safely, and to generally improve the relationship between you and your dog. However, I have also done my share of time as a professional dog trainer, and I can tell you, 100%, that there may be a time when doing things yourself just is not going to get the job done. There are several circumstances which merit the help of an in-person professional, and both you and your dog will be thankful that you made the investment.
When you think about taking the time to train your dog, often the first thought on your mind is NOT “Let me spend $3,000 on a training package from one of the best trainers in the area.” It is rarely even, “Let me hire someone to come out to my house to train my dog,” though if it is, more power to you! No, usually the first thought when your dog needs a little bit of help in the manners department is, “Let’s do a little training with you. I can do it myself!” And for many, many people, it’s totally true!
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There are thousands of DIY youtube videos that will teach you how to train your dog, everything from tricks, to manners, to foundation exercises for various dog sports. There are countless books that explain training theory, and give specific, step by step instructions to training your dog. You can visit most pet stores (think Petsmart, Petco, and the like) and be pointed to a training class that the store offers. You can generally buy an online course in whatever type of training you’d like to do, and if you put in the time and effort, you will definitely see change!
Why You Might Need a Pro Trainer
However, sometimes the DIY option just isn’t a good one for you. It could be that you’ve already tried the above options (and then some!), and not seen the results that you need to make your relationship with your dog work. It could be that you and your dog have a toxic relationship (a lack of respect going both directions, general willful disobedience and a lack of interest in changing), and you need someone to pinpoint what is wrong.
Maybe you need some help setting healthy boundaries for your dog (if he’s running your life, this means you), or you need help finding ways to keep your dog’s brain busy and out of trouble. It could be that you’ve got a particularly difficult breed of dog, and you need some help finding ways to help him express his natural drives and energies in a positive, non-destructive way.
A DIY approach is usually not going to even touch on more in-depth behavior issues, such as aggression, reactivity to dogs or people, or fear and insecurity with your dog. In fact, many of us trainers seek the help of OTHER trainers when we, ourselves, get one of these dogs for the first time.
As a general rule, if you’re dealing with a behavior problem, and no matter what, you just cannot solve it, it’s time to drop the dough on a professional. Here’s why.
What a Professional Trainer does Differently
With most professional dog trainers, this is not just a job. It is a passion that they have turned into a vocation. It is something that they love doing, and they are continually expanding their knowledge base so that they can help more and more dogs and their families. This means that when you work with a professional trainer, you will be working with someone who loves and enjoys dogs, and is committed to seeing your specific dog succeed.
A professional dog trainer will offer you, your dog, and your family personal attention. You are not one of the millions of viewers of their video, you are not one of ten members of their group class. You are YOU, a specific and special case, and they will devote all of their knowledge and problem solving power to helping you and your dog find a balanced, healthy, and rewarding relationship. You will usually come away from working with a pro trainer with an individualized training plan designed specifically for your dog and your family. You will know that your trainer is devoted to your success and is personally invested in seeing you and your dog a happy pair.
So how do you find a great trainer, and not just someone who has had dogs a long time and thinks they have what it takes?
How to Find a Good Trainer
It can be a challenge to find the perfect trainer that meets your needs. The first rule of thumb for finding a good fit is to do your research. Understand what it means when a trainer says “Purely Positive,” as opposed to “A Balanced Approach,” as opposed to “Cognitive Training.” And, as you’re talking to various trainers, be sure to ask them to explain anything that they say that you don’t understand. They’ll be glad to fill you in!
Ask for recommendations in local and online communities. Chances are that someone in your area has had a trouble-maker dog themselves, and if they’ve had a good experience with someone they are MORE than happy to give you a recommendation! Places like Facebook Groups and Nextdoor are a great place to start.
Research local obedience clubs and ask for recommendations there. Many of the people involved in dog clubs either are professional trainers, or they know several excellent ones right off the top of their heads who would be happy to help you! Plus, getting involved with a dog club is a great way to keep up with your training once you’ve gotten the help of a professional.
Use Google, but be sure to speak to the actual trainer, either on the phone or in person, about your dog’s specific needs. You want to be sure that the style of training that the trainer is committed to is going to be a good fit for your dog.
While it is usually our inclination to want to handle a problem that should be as simple as training our dog ourselves, there may be a time when an online course, YouTube videos, or a box-store obedience class just won’t do the trick. When that happens, it’s time to find some professional help! Use the resources above and your own best judgement to find a professional trainer who has your best interests, and those of your pup, in mind!