"It's not medical, maybe it is behavioral."
You’ve just heard this from your vet, and you breathe a sigh of relief – for a moment. But now what? What is a behavior modification plan? And how do you find a competent professional who can help you to carry one out?
Weeding through what may seem like an endless sea of dog trainers can be a daunting task. But here are some steps that you can take to make the process a little easier!
Look for certifications.
Dog training is an unregulated profession. Which means that anyone can just up and decide to become a dog trainer with little or no experience. For this reason, credentials become very important when deciding if the dog trainer you are going to working with has the right experience for your individual situation.
The Certification Counsel for Professional Dog Trainers is currently the only independent certifying body for professional dog trainers that is not affiliated with any business or company. They test for knowledge, skills, and husbandry; and require trainers to earn continuing education units to keep their certification. If you are looking for a dog trainer who is serious about their profession, this is a good place to start.
Ask for an interview.
As a dog trainer, I form very close and intimate relationships with my clientele. In fact, I sometimes know when a couple is expecting, moving in together, or separating before their closest friends and family do! And since you are preparing to make a significant financial and emotional investment when training your dog, it is worth it to talk to a few different trainers to see who you have the best connection with. Search through websites that you like, inquire and set up interviews. If something that a trainer says rubs you the wrong way, keep looking!
There are many different methodologies of dog training, but many of the best trainers practice positive reinforcement-based techniques. Positive training involves the use of rewards and motivation to teach a dog to enjoy training instead of using coercion-based techniques – which can frighten a dog and possibly exacerbate their issues and anxieties.
When looking for a trainer, avoid trainers who throw around terms like dominance and pack leadership, or those who claim to have your dog trained in a very short amount of time. Know that a good trainer who understands behavioral theory will tell you that changing and modifying behavior can be challenging and very labor intensive. Pushing through a behavior problem too quickly can backfire in the form of increased anxieties or even aggression.
Training your dog will undoubtedly be a challenge, but if you've got the right trainer, it can be a rewarding experience. Do your homework in the beginning, and you will be sure to find a great trainer who works within your budget and with your personality!