Choosing a Trainer
Dog training in Canada is not a regulated profession. That means that anyone can put up a sign and call themselves a dog trainer. Our members believe that more is required than that!
CAPDT Members have all committed to abide by our comprehensive Code of Ethics and Bylaws – a Code that includes a commitment to humane training and protections for you as the client (more on how CAPDT members train positively and humanely is below). Imagine going to a family doctor or veterinarian who never kept up to date on the latest medical developments that would impact the care of your family and dog. You wouldn’t.
Our members believe in taking annual continuing professional development so they bring the best to you — and are required to report to us each year on how they have upgraded their skills.
Our ‘Find a Trainer’ link is a great place to start your search (if the screen looks a bit funny and doesn’t have a search bar , you may need to hit reload once). Note that CAPDT does not endorses any of these trainers specifically. You still need to do your homework on those in the list and the guide below guides you through that process.
We also invite you to take a $95 Associate Membership to CAPDT as an Associate Member. This membership provides you with free webinars, lists of video examples of how to train specific behaviours, training theory, discounts on equipment and more – including a train-at-home curriculum for your puppy and family manners training for a young dog and more.
GUIDE TO FINDING A DOG TRAINER:
When you are thinking about a trainer, you may also want to consider what type of trainer you need, for example:
Example One: You want puppy socialization or obedience classes, or obedience training for public access to make sure your puppy, dog or service-dog-in-training knows the basics (sit, down, stay, come, etc.) or you want to get into a dog sport like dock diving – look for a dog trainer in ourdirectory.
Example Two: You have a dog who is fearful (runs and hides when new people come or charges them barking), has bitten or has separation anxiety. Check out our member dog trainers who are behaviour consulting specialists. Your specialist may also recommend calling in a veterinarian or veterinarian behaviour specialist to help with medication and management.
Example Three: You are looking for a a dog trainer whose specialty is service dog training to teach specific tasks – from diabetic alerts, medications reminders, preventing a child on the autism spectrum from bolting, hearing ear dogs and more. Look in our directory (under development) for a service dog training professional.
We encourage you to have a list of questions ready when you contact the trainers so you can compare. A professional should be prepared to answer all your questions. On our “Training Articles” page you will find the answers we suggest — we hope the trainer you are consider has similar answers! Aside from the regular considerations of price, class options, etc.; try asking if you can observe a class. A confident professional will not object. They may have expectations about your level of participation during the class (i.e. an observer should not consume class time that other participants have paid for).
Ask yourself the following questions when you observe a class:
- Did the trainer explain the exercises in a clear and easily understood manner?
- Did the participants look like they were having fun? (You may not think this is important but when the class is enjoyable you’ll be more willing to attend.)
- How did the dogs seem to enjoy the class? Was the trainer concerned about the dog’s enjoyment?
- Did the trainer take the time to help students who were struggling with an exercise?
- Was equipment aversive to the dog selected without considering reward-based methods?
After observing a class, ask the trainer questions about what you observed. A couple of thoughtful questions can be all the difference in finding the right trainer for you!
Another great question for the trainer is how do they educate themselves about dog behaviour and health on an ongoing basis.
One of the most critical observations you can make is the ability to talk to the trainer. Do you feel comfortable approaching the trainer and asking questions? It’s important to feel like you can ask questions. Like any other professional in your life – you must be prepared to have a working relationship with this person. Many dog owners attend more than one class so long-term fit is important.
How our CAPDT Members Train
Our CAPDT Members are committed to taking continuing education each year and following the Humane Hierarchy and Least Intrusive Minimally Aversive (LIMA) Principles. The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association suggests choosing reward-based methods and avoiding associating yourself and behaviours with things the dog finds unpleasant – see more here. Following these principles and the CVMA guidelines means that members do not use positive punishment (adding things dog’s want to avoid in order to decrease behaviour) as a starting point in any training plan. This means, for example, puppies are taught to sit for the first time by using positive reinforcement and not because they receive a positively punishing yank on a choke chain if they don’t.
Generally, CAPDT members believe in humane, effective and evidence-based training. This approach is similar to that described by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB) whose veterinarians that specialize in animal behaviour advocate for making sure dogs are able to learn (are well and have good exercise, nutrition, sleep and water) and teaching dogs through the reinforcement of desired behaviours and the removal of reinforcement for undesired behaviours. We work hard to avoid training methods that cause short or long lasting pain, discomfort or fear. These training methods can be dangerous to people as well as animals and can pose a threat to a dog’s health and welfare by inhibiting learning, increasing behaviours related to fear and distress, causing direct injury and harming the relationship between human and dog.
Like the ACVB veterinary behaviour experts, CAPDT trainers tend to avoid the term “dominance” when describing dog behaviour. In the past, based on a tendency to exhibit certain aggressive or assertive behaviours, dogs have been labelled “dominant”. In fact, these applications of the dominance concept developed from an interpretation of wolf behaviour that was later found flawed and subsequently revised. Dominance status is specific to a relationship, and it may be attained without any aggression through social negotiation. Dogs frequently exhibit mixed signals including postures of fear, suggesting inner conflict about an aggressive encounter. A dog’s aggression toward a person is unlikely to be motivated by an attempt to establish dominance. Other causes, such as fear and conflict, are far more likely. Based on this current knowledge, CAPDT trainers do not tend to consider dominance to be a common cause of dog aggression directed toward people. Applying this misinterpretation of dominance to the diagnosis and management of human-directed aggression can be both counterproductive and harmful.
We hope these are great reasons to choose CAPDT Member Trainers!
Wags and good luck with your search!