Finding the right dog trainer is hard. There are several different philosophies and types of classes, plus the information is distributed across many sites. So which one is best for you and your puppy? In this guide, we’ll review the types of classes and training philosophies to get you started.
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The same way you want to make sure your vet shares your beliefs on treating your dog, you want a trainer who will train your dog with the methodologies you want. Dog training is a highly unregulated field so there’s many certifications available for trainers that are then “certified”. Each training school teaches a different philosophy. These are the main four schools of thought:
Positive reinforcement relies on the idea that dogs will learn good behavior when they are rewarded for it with treats or praise. Undesired behavior is not punished, it’s simply not acknowledged by the trainer. There is no punishment in the form of a harsh reprimand or physical force. Clicker training would be categorized under positive reinforcement as well, as the click becomes the dog’s “reward” over time.
Under this philosophy, the trainer uses a stimulus to discourage your dog from continuing an undesired behavior. The stimulus can be a loud noise (like shaking coins inside a can), but not physical punishment.
This philosophy is sometimes called mirror training, and it relies on your dog observing you (or another human) and essentially copying your behavior. The trainer will have a human act out the desired behavior and praise them for completing the task. The dog will observe the task and reward and learn to do the same in order to get the same reward.
This philosophy relies on pack mentality to create dominance over the dog. While some well-regarded trainers swear by it, such as Cesar Milan, many claim it is a very antiquated method. Trainers create the dominance over the dog in different ways, but common methods include tightening their collars when an undesired behavior is shown or alpha rolling your dog, which is when you or the trainer pins the dog on their side until they are forced to submit.
Training is expensive so you want to find a trainer that is within your budget. When deciding your budget, you should assume you’ll need around 5 sessions. Some trainers offer value packages for puppy parents that purchase more than one class and they are usually much cheaper when purchased this way.
There are a few different types of classes that are available for puppy training. Puppy kindergarten works well for basic obedience, but if you’re trying to correct a bad behavior such as aggressiveness, private lessons or train and board will likely be more effective.
If you’re looking for help with at-home behaviors like potty training, it is helpful to have an at-home trainer that can see your setup and make corrections as needed. Otherwise, obedience training at a facility works really well too and can be a way to socialize your puppy with other puppies.