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Choosing the right support from a Dog Trainer

I was asked this week what do I look for in a trainer, after telling a client that I seek training and learning skills from colleagues. Training is very different to qualified behaviourist support. For behaviourists, I recommend looking for a professional at APBC, ICAN and ABTC. Trainers teach new skills, can demonstrate an understanding of learning theory, training mechanics, and management. Behaviourists work closely with vets identifying the function of behaviour.

Firstly, I have written about reward based training before, so I want this post to be different. For me, I look for a professional who is qualified or with dog sport credentials, assessed by an appropriate organisation, transparent CPD, a website, reviews, but equally important evidence of training. Are there videos showing the trainer working with their dogs or teaching clients?

I have lived with various dog breeds, but for 10 years I have chosen to live with sled dogs, so often I share videos and photos enjoying sled sports and canicross, which I do with my dogs. Professionally, I generally share videos whereby I am teaching foundations of behaviours, the first steps to shaping new behaviour. This is to demonstrate training skills to pet dog owners with my own dogs. You can visit my Facebook, Instagram and TikTok pages to view my videos.

Recently, I have begun planning a different breed to join me, and have been very lucky to have had some great advice from fellow professionals, whom I can't thank enough. This is how I answered my clients question. I went to professionals who can demonstrate their knowledge and skills.

Later on this year, I have some mini improvers workshops planned over 6 weeks, looking at key skills that people can individually book or all 6. These sessions will offer affordability and be flexible. This will then give owners an opportunity to pick specific workshop sessions for certain focused skills, plus suit different budgets. All workshops will come with handouts to follow and practice. Working with a local trainer or behaviourist can be really beneficial for you and your dog, especially 1-2-1 support.

For owners that maybe require support but have worries about the affordability, I recommend the following:

Blue Cross offers well priced remote behaviour and training support.

Sarah Whitehead, a well-known clinical behaviourist, has some great free webinars.

Books to set a puppy owner up:

Steve Mann from the IMDT's great guide on puppy training. This book covers the IMDT puppy course.

Victoria Stillwell's puppy book.

Life Skills for Puppies by Helen Zulch and Daniel Mills.

[Image shows Suzy, a dog trainer, demonstrating in an indoor class how you can shape behaviour. She is holding a clicker and wearing a treat bag to deliver food rewards. In front of Suzy is an upside down chair. Her husky dog has one paw on the chair. This is to demonstrate how to shape a target on a novel object. Shaping is way of teaching, for example; types of trick training to assistance dog work.]


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