What Makes a Good Dog Trainer?
What makes for a good dog trainer? Love and affection for animals seems to be the most basic quality needed. Positive dog training and rewards-based training are always the best approaches.
Early dog trainers like Karen Pryor recognized that rewarding a four-legged pupil with a clicker sound to designate the animal has acted properly on the cue, and using a reward such as a dog treat worked very similarly to training a dolphin. Along with some verbal praise, positive dog training can work wonders.
“Practical Training” by Stephen Hammond (published in 1882) was among the early training guides that advocated such a method.
Methods for dog instruction became a bit more formalized and exacting in the early 20th century as the need for service dogs increased. Konrad Most’s “Training Dogs” (1910) reflected new discoveries in animal psychology at the time. Many of the book’s basic principles are still in use today, though some of the advice about using “compulsive inducements” (like switches and spiked collars) seem overly harsh and antiquated by modern standards.
Leading dog trainers like William R. Koehler have emphasized the need for standardized, reliable cues in dealing with dogs. Positive rewards combined with encouragement support the dog’s positive behavior – with rewards, not harshness.
Good dog trainers apply these methods with the individual capacities and temperaments of the dogs – and their owners – in mind. Every situation is different and some dogs simply learn faster than others. But start with the premise that every dog is a good dog.
5 Tips to Becoming a Good Dog Trainer
To become a good dog trainer, here are five dog-training tips from the pros:
- Approach each dog as an individual. Notice how the dog behaves – is he or she nervous, aggressive or shy? Don’t just rely on what the owner may tell you about their pet’s personalities. Give your full attention to the dog and judge for yourself.
- Group dog training classes are a great place to start. After adoption, we recommend signing up for a dog training class or classes in your local community. In dog training classes you will learn to read your dog’s behavior and the dog trainer will show you how to adapt your methods to the dog’s personality.
- Some dogs are eager to please; others more resistant. All dogs will respond to a positive rewarding tone and dog training treats like Pet Me Happy’s Artisan Dog Treats with real blueberry flavor. A great dog trainer understands that training needs to be consistent and caring – rather than a display of temper or frustration.
- As a pet owner looking to learn the ways of becoming a good dog trainer, remember that the Pet Parent is the one who will have to put your methods to use on a daily basis. And if you are the one with an unruly pet, that means YOU! Make sure your dog or the dog owner understands how to be consistent with the training cues, the excitement levels in their voice and the click-then-reward system. Together with the right type of dog treats, we can help you foster the bond of understanding between you and your dog or the owner and their pet.
- Practice is the best way a good dog trainer gets even better. There’s no substitute for gaining as much direct woof-time experience working with dogs as you can.
A good dog trainer isn’t a miracle-worker. A natural talent for communicating with canines is invaluable. But study, experience and creativity – along with a pocket of the right dog treats – can make all the difference as well.
Barry Alfonso has written songs recorded by Johnny Cash, Pam Tillis and Olivia Newton-John, contributed articles to Rolling Stone and the Los Angeles Times and earned a Grammy Award for music journalism. He is currently active as a personal historian, freelance author and faithful servant to his cat Clarence.