Q: How can I find a trainer in my area who uses the positive, nonviolent training methods that you teach?
A: You can find a local trainer by going to the web sites of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (www.apdt.com) and the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (www.nadoi.org). Referrals from friends can also be a good source.
But no matter how you find the trainer and what anyone says about their methods, don’t assume that they use only positive methods. Check the trainer out by asking a few questions:
- What training methods do you use? Do you use physical corrections at all?
- Do you use choke collars, pin a dog to the ground or shake a dog as part of the training process?
- How would you deal with problems like mine? Mention barking, jumping, inappropriate chewing, or whatever.
Trainers who use a combination of negative and positive methods are sometimes referred to as traditional or “balance trainers.” Traditional training uses physical punishment as well as rewards to shape behavior. Praise, petting and life rewards (getting to chase a ball, go for a ride, tug a toy, etc.) are employed by many of these trainers, but choke, prong or shock collars are also frequently used and methods can include jerking the dog, pinning him to the ground and “scruff shakes.” Traditional trainers represent the vast majority of trainers in the world today.
Another category of trainers are those who use severely abusive methods. These methods can include hitting (including the use of fists, newspapers, rubber hoses), kicking, extreme shocking, biting (both by the trainer and/or another dog), hanging the dog or holding him underwater until unconscious, and ear pinching. Many people, desperate to change their dog’s behavior, feel that negative training is the only way to get him to obey. It is not. Through positive, nonviolent training you can achieve everything you want.
As you interview the trainer and get responses to the questions above, remember that words such as “positive” and “reward-based” don’t necessarily mean that aversive methods aren’t used.
If you hire a trainer and then find that you don’t agree with the methods he or she is using, you and your dog can leave at any time. With that in mind, ask about fees and policies.
And even if you like the individual’s training methods, there’s also the issue of chemistry. If you don’t hit it off with a trainer, your dog probably won’t respond to him or her either.