Normally, I hate tests! They stress me out, make me nervous and generally mess up what could be a great day! But I will make an exception, just for you!
Last week I was reading a blog by well-known Animal Behaviorist, Dr. Mary Burch. She is the Director of the AKC CGC program, and has been instrumental in improving the quality of training.
In her blog, as well as in her book, she offers advice on Choosing the Right Trainer.
I decided to put myself, and Partners Dog Training School, to the TEST!
TIP: I added some comments to educate you, and your friends in what else to look for; and what to ask!
Choosing the Right Trainer
1. How long have you been training dogs?
My answer: About thirty years.
Tip: Ask how much of that time was spent as a professional, full-time trainer, actually making a living from teaching dogs. In my case, 20 years.
2. What kinds of classes do you teach?
My answer: I teach obedience, protection, agility, dock diving, service dogs, detection dogs and search & rescue.
3. Have you put any titles on your own dogs?
Yes, French Ring Title, AKC Tracker Dog Title, Schutzhund title, Obedience title, Agility Title, AKC CGC titles.
Tip: Ask if the trainer actually trained the dog from scratch, or did they Title a dog that was purchased as an already Titled dog.
4. What dog sports do you participate in or have you participated in?
My answer: French Ring, Agility, Dock Diving, Herding, Obedience.
5. What is your basic philosophy of training?
My answer: I believe in positive reward based training, but with an element of minor compulsion training. By the way, some trainers believe in exclusively training using positive, and others use more compulsion, so this is a complex question. In addition, I will use different techniques on different dogs and in different situations. I almost always chat with clients prior to training, to ensure they are comfortable with my approach and reasoning.
Tip: Ask the trainer if you can observe them teaching a class, or teaching a lesson.
6. What kind of equipment will we be using in class (e.g., collars, etc).
My answer: We use all types of equipment, from collars to martingales. Generally we try to match the equipment to the situation, and in some cases, we also have to work with what we have.
7. Do you use food rewards? Corrections? If so, can you tell me about these.
My answer: Yes, we use food reward, mostly to build the behavior through motivated repetition. And yes, we do use limited (soft) corrections. As a specialist behavioral school, we are often the point of last resort, and this leads to us having to find solutions to very difficult answers. Many other trainers refer their failures to us, and we are proud of the fact that we succeed in most of these cases.
8. Are all sizes of dogs together?
My answer: No, we train like-with-like. And each dog has its own kennel, its own crate and its own training session. Dogs need to feel comfortable around other dogs.
9. Do you know your drop-out rate? How many students graduate from your classes?
My answer: Our drop out rate in the basic (level 1) classes is about 1.5 in 10. In the advanced classes, we have very few drop-outs, as these students have trained with us for a while, and are loyal and committed clients.
10. After the beginning class, do many students go on for additional training?
We are especially proud that more than half, roughly 6 in 10 students, advance on to other classes. Some of these are more advanced, and others are part of our sports program. We specifically developed our agility, dock diving and protection sports facilities to accommodate the needs of our students interested in further training for their families.
Tip: Ask trainers what investment they have in providing sports training for clients. Do they actually work out of a school? Or do they just use a public park?
I have one more TIP to add to this. Ask the trainer to connect on Facebook, and read through the posts. Remember, you are interviewing someone who will in effect be working for you, and its important to know them on a personal basis. My Facebook, as well as that of the school, is open for all to see.
In my next blog, I will look at the questions Dr. Burch asks when observing a class!