Not everyone needs to hire a dog trainer for private lessons, but more and more dog owners are finding themselves needing a little extra help outside of the basic puppy classes offered at most chain pet supply stores. Professional dog trainers are a rare breed – they love dogs and have spent years perfecting their craft and learning everything they can about dogs and their behavior, but they also find themselves as social butterflies who want to help people. By training dogs, we can improve the lives of animals and humans. It might seem like our jobs are easy, but that’s very far from the truth. In fact, there are quite a few things dog owners do that drive us absolutely crazy.
#1 – Expecting Miracles
Professionals are very good at what they do and they might be able to make things look easy. However, it’s taken a lot of hard work for your dog trainer to get where he or she is today. Most of them have worked with hundreds to thousands of different dogs, so they’ve put their dedicated hours in. But just because they’re good at what they do doesn’t mean they can get a dog fully trained in the next 5 minutes. Even the easiest task takes time and effort. Dogs are living beings that think and feel all on their own. It takes more than one 30-minute to 1-hour lesson for a dog of any age to learn something new, even if it’s just to sit still. Don’t expect to have your dog spend one lesson or one week with a trainer and come back a fully trained, perfectly mannered pet. Dog trainers are here to guide you through a lifelong process, as training never really ends. Yes, as professionals we’re likely a little bit better at training your dog than you, but that doesn’t mean we just click our heels and create the perfect canine citizen overnight.
#2 – Asking Google or Facebook for Advice
There are one thousand different ways to train a dog and professional trainers have a hard enough time agreeing which methods work best for them. But what’s even worse is that, with the age of the Internet, everyone thinks they are a dog trainer. Let’s be honest, just because you’ve owned a dog or five in your life does not make you a professional dog trainer. It doesn’t make anyone else on the Internet a professional dog trainer either. Trainers need to work with dogs and their owners in person to get the most accurate evaluation and provide the best service to their clients. So skip the Internet questions outside of looking for referrals, and hire your trainer. Stick with that trainer through and through, unless it’s just not working out. But decide it isn’t working after a few solid sessions, not just because they are offering advice you don’t necessarily want to hear. Listen to your trainer, heed their advice exactly as they give it, and follow through until the end – then decide a different trainer or method is best for you.
#3 – Absence
Absence doesn’t mean missing a lesson here or there. Life happens and people get busy. That’s fine, we don’t mind that. What we do mind, though, is you not being there for the lesson. A dog learns best with one person training it. We can’t have you handling the dog for one lesson, your spouse there the next, a child the third and an assistant for the fourth. We also don’t typically want to go there and train the dog while you talk on the phone, try to wrangle your human children or cook dinner. As trainers, we can train the dogs no problem. What we need to do more is train you. At the end of the lesson, we go home. It’s up to you to keep up what you’ve learned and practice with your pooch. If you’re not mentally or physically present, we can’t do that – and the dog never gets trained.
#4 – Not Practicing
Practice makes perfect in almost everything, including dog training. Even the best dog trainers practice with their dogs. Training is a lifelong commitment (just like the dog is). Puppies need to learn to be crate trained and housebroken, they need basic manners. Newly adopted dogs might need the same. But refreshing your training for the life of the dog will benefit you both. Dogs are smart opportunists, and even the best trained pooch might steal a steak off the dinner table here and there. They make mistakes just like people do! So remember that you need to practice with your dog. The once a week or less sessions you have with your trainer are not the only times your dog needs training. You need to practice what we’ve taught you both throughout the week so that we can progress onto the more difficult commands.
#5 – Complaining About Cost
If dog trainers ever work for free, it’s typically behind the scenes for rescues and shelters. This is because dog trainers do love dogs, and we when we work with rescues and shelters we are often fixing minor behaviors that deem these dogs unadoptable. We’re able to be a part of the process to help get them into loving, forever homes. But we can’t train every dog for free. We have to make a living too, and most professional dog trainers don’t have any job except for the dog training. We need to pay the mortgage on the house we board dogs in, the food we feed them and the car we used to drive to your home, just to name a few bills. No, it isn’t cheap. But it takes a lot of time and we’re providing a very specific service. We’re improving the lives of the dogs we train, the people that own them and everyone else that interacts with that dog. Our job is to help people be happy with their dogs so they don’t relinquish them to shelters, keep guests and strangers safe from inappropriate behavior, and make dog ownership one of the most incredible things in your life. We take each dog to heart, we think hard about what’s best for that owner and individual dog and we come up with a plan and get to work. All dogs are different, and they need different types of training and techniques to get the desired results. They aren’t robots – they are thinking, feeling creatures that don’t speak our language. It’s our job to take the time to communicate with them and make life better for everyone.