I no longer offer private training, as I've chosen to focus 100% on group training classes. If you would like to be referred to another qualified trainer, please use the "contact us" page to email a brief description of your dog's behaviour that you need help with, and also let me know where you live.
Please be aware that the dog training industry is unregulated. This means that anyone can call themselves a trainer, behaviourist, dog behaviour consultant - anything really, and they don't require any qualifications, education, ability or knowledge. When looking for a trainer, these are some things to ask:
- What qualifications and education do you have in dog training and behaviour? In Australia I'm aware of Certificate III and Certificate IV courses. My qualification is Cert IV in Dog Behavioural Training, but that title has changed several times since I got it in 2001. Vets can gain additional qualifications in behaviour, and Behaviour Vets are the ones you need to see if your dog has a serious behaviour issue, as there may well be an underlying medical cause that only a Vet can diagnose. If a trainer says they have qualifications, please check they are valid and actually exist (I shouldn't need to warn people about this, but apparently I do)!
- How many years experience do you have? You'd think that a trainer with 30 years experience would be better one with 10 years experience. But you actually need to find out if that trainer has 30 years "worth" of experience or 1 year of experience 30 times over. Ask what they are doing differently now compared to a year ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago. Dog training is no different to anything else; things change and trainers need to continually update their skills by attending conferences, workshops, on-line courses. reading etc. If the trainer thinks they know it all and don't need to keep updated, walk away!
- What training methods and equipment do you use and recommend? I use reward-based training, which focuses on teaching the dog what we want them to do and rewarding them for it. I use mainly food for training, but it can be toys, pats, verbal praise; equipment includes collars, leads and harnesses. If you want to use dog-friendly methods, this is what you need to be looking for. There are trainers who use aversive training methods (may be referred to as "balanced trainers"), who focus on correcting the dog for making a mistake. Training equipment can include electric shock collars, prong collars, check chains, throwing things at dogs, confinement; I could go on. Don't be afraid to ask the questions - PLEASE - specifically ask if any of those are used.
- How can you tell if a dog is becoming stressed during training? An ability to read and correctly interpret a dog's body language is vital. It tells us how the dog is feeling and tells us what they will do next. If a trainer can't read a dog's body language, they should not be training dogs. Dogs tell us they are uneasy by licking their lips, yawning, sniffing the ground, turning their head away, panting, scratching, shaking off, ears back (and much more). I've seen "before and after" videos on social media where the dog is very obviously stressed by the experience, but the trainer is oblivious to this and is claiming to have fixed the dog in one session. They often say the dog is calm when in fact the dog has has shut down. Remember if it sounds too good to be true .. it probably is!
- Do you guarantee results? If they answer "yes" please walk away. A guarantee of satisfaction is fine, but not results. A trainer cannot guarantee the future behaviour of another living creature, we can't do that with humans let alone another species. Guarantees and quick fixes usually mean one thing - the trainer will suppress the dog's behaviour using aversive training methods; the dog is stopped from communicating with us, which gives the illusion the problem is fixed. Luckily the unskilled trainers appear to be the most generous in sharing what they do and how they do it, so they are easily identified!