I didn’t start volunteering at the Kentucky Humane Society (KHS) until I was 16, and back then their behavior program was smaller, so we went to a different trainer. At 13 I had never read a book on dog training or heard of positive reinforcement training. What I did know is that I loved my dog, and I wasn’t comfortable treating her the way the trainer that mom chose treated her. So a few weeks of training later we were invited not to come back. My mom joked that I failed training class, not the dog.
I suspect that I’m not the only one who has had limited knowledge about training practices before choosing a trainer. Someone recommends a trainer, we trust the person who made the recommendation, and we go without really knowing what we are getting ourselves into. Fortunately, I am much more educated now. Allow me to share with you some of what I’ve learned.
The Humane Society of the United States* recommends you look for a dog trainer who:
- Uses humane training techniques that encourage appropriate behavior through such positive reinforcement as food, attention, play, or praise.
- Ignores undesirable responses or withholds rewards until the dog behaves appropriately.
- Does not yell, choke, shake the scruff, tug on the leash, force the dog onto his back, or other actions that frighten or inflict pain.
The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB)** recommends trainers who use methods that allow animals to work for things such as food, play or affection that motivates them instead of techniques that focus on fear, pain or punishing unwanted behaviors. Specifically,
- Look for a trainer who uses primarily or only reward-based training with treats, toys, and play.
- Avoid any trainer who advocates methods of physical force that can harm your pet such as hanging dogs by their collars or hitting them with their hands, feet or leashes.
Below are good questions to ask a trainer, as recommended from The Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT)***:
- What method of training do you use?
- What equipment do you use?
- What are your credentials and do you have any certifications?
I also learned a lot from my own experience with my Schnauzer. We spent the whole summer together playing and learning. I would give her treats and love and we developed a strong bond. By the end of the summer not only did she know the names of all of her toys and could bring me whichever I asked for, she loved and trusted me.
Learn from my experience and listen to the experts so that you and your dog have a not only a positive training experience, but a strong bond as well.
Kentucky Humane Society Behavior Training Classes
The Kentucky Humane Society's behavior trainers have been educated in positive reinforcement training and ONLY use dog- and human-friendly techniques. To learn more about KHS behavior classes, click here or call 502-253-2883.
Please note that the Kentucky Humane Society is not affiliated with The Humane Society of the United Sates or the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior, and the organizations' inclusion here does not represent an endorsement.