You've done your research, made lots of calls, and picked a dog trainer. Good for you! It can be so hard navigating this strange world of dog training, and finding a dog trainer you really trust and you believe will do right by you and your dog is no easy feat.
Before you dive in, there are some things you should know that will help you in your relationship with your dog trainer moving forward. I asked some of my colleagues what the #1 thing they wished their clients knew before beginning dog training, and I gathered their responses for you.
1. We don't have any magic wands.
I heard this from multiple sources. Sophia from Denver mentioned that good dog training takes time. While many techniques can be effective immediately, others require some patience and troubleshooting to reach success. Sophia's example was potty training- it takes management, customization, and lifestyle changes to solve potty issues if they've been going on for awhile. It often won't be a glamorous fix, but it CAN be solved with maneuvering, troubleshooting, and commitment.
2. If you chose us, trust us.
Once you've gone through a rigorous process to choose your dog trainer, commit yourself to trusting the dog trainer you've chosen. Follow their instructions to a T. A common pain point for dog trainers is clients who blow off recommendations that seem innocuous- for example, a trainer may recommend a particular kind of treat for your dog right from the get-go. We are professionals and there is a reason for everything we do! While you don't need to know the ins and outs of why we do all of the things we do, you can trust that there is a reason. The little instructions you don't follow add up to less-than-perfect success, and in the end, usually the dog trainer takes the blame.
We know our particular techniques work. How? We do have clients that follow our instructions by the book, and they are successful. Otherwise, we wouldn't continue to do what we are doing. While a good trainer will always cater to your lifestyle, personality, and your dog, there are some things that are universal.
3. Be prepared to put in some work.
Even if you send your dog off to bootcamp or board-and-train, you will need to put in some effort to train your own dog and create a relationship with them. So many times we hear, "Oh, Fido is only perfect when the dog trainer's around." If you carefully examine that statement, you can see why. We only see your dog once per week (in privates or group classes) or for two weeks at a time (in board-and-trains), and during that period of time, we are utterly consistent and clear in our boundaries, rewards, and communication. The dog knows what is and isn't expected of them. What we're trying to do is show you how to do the same! The goal is for you to take what you've learned, buckle down, and recreate that environment when we're not there. We understand it is difficult (we have dogs and are human, too!), but a good dog trainer can really help you with the homework they provide.
So do your homework :)
4. For behavioral issues, it is not always rainbows and sunshine.
If your dog struggles with reactivity, aggression, or anxiety, please don't expect dog training to be a walk in the park. You and your dog will experience stress and learn how to work through it. There will be times where you and your dog trainer need to troubleshoot techniques, take steps forward or backwards, and re-evaluate. Without stress or discomfort, nobody grows, wouldn't you agree? Be prepared to go through these things, and commit yourself to the process. Even if your dog trainer only uses treats, there will be setbacks. These things aren't always linear.
5. Be weary of Google!
While the Age of Information is upon us, and you can dig through and find some good dog training advice (like our blog, haha!), there is also some really bad or ineffective advice online. While I would never discourage clients from researching and asking questions, occasionally it can impede progress if too much googling goes on between sessions. Our request: google all you want, but run things by us first! If your dog trainer is any good, they already have extremely well-formulated opinions on techniques, tools, and why they choose to use or not use them. Googling dog training is like googling a cough: everything you read will tell you you're abusing your dog or you are definitely going to die a thousand deaths very soon.
We hope that helps you as you prepare to enter the world of dog training! Thank you to our dog trainer contributors at Pavlov Dog Training and Communicate With Your Dog.