MAYbe it's time to get help from a Dog Trainer or seek the advice from a Behavior Consultant?
But how do you know? And how do you find one that can actually help you out?
This is going to be the last of my MAYbe posts for this monthly series. Like usual, I didn't get to all the blogs I wanted to write but I've tried to hit on the most important ones. If you have a MAYbe type question feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com for help.
How do you know that it's time to seek the help of a Dog Trainer or Behavior Consultant?
Here are a few common issues that frequently indicate that you might need some help from a dog professional:
- Your dog has a habit that drives you crazy! (This could be jumping, barking, nipping...anything really, but it's driving you crazy!)
- Your dog has had a sudden personality change such as becoming fearful, more hyper, more tired, or not wanting to do previously loved activities.
- Your dog seems to be needing something and you can't figure out what it is. (This can often drive you crazy as they may seem to need more...exercise, food, etc.)
- Your dog is hurting you or other people or themselves! (Safety is always a huge concern.)
- You wonder if your dog can learn to do a specific behavior but you don't know where to start.
There are many more reasons why you may want help from a dog professional, but if you as the dog owner or handler are getting frustrated, feeling overwhelmed or confused, or struggling to "find time" to train your dog, you probably need some help.
Do you need a Dog Trainer or Behavior Consult?
This is challenging because many times in the dog professional world, these to skills overlap. So I thought I'd tell you a bit about the differences between the 2 professions.
A Dog Trainer (DT) is going to help you learn training techniques, management skills, and general life skills that will improve your teamwork and family skills. While a DT may rely on lots of basic training tips that work for most dogs, they should also be able to think out of the box to help you brain storm a training plan to get from where you are now to where you want to be. This often makes a DT the first line of support when you start to see problems in your communication skills between you and your dog.
A Behavior Consultant has typically spent a great deal of time learning about WHY dogs do certain behaviors. While a BC generally has the skills to help you figure out the best training technique to use to teach your dog specific behaviors, they are going to look at the bigger picture. WHY is your dog digging holes in the yard? WHY is your dog barking at every moving thing? WHY is your dog chewing the furniture? When it's important to look past that behavior that might be driving you crazy to find a way to help you and your dog be more of a team, you may want a BC.
Your dog might seem to be struggling with fearfulness, obsessive behaviors, resource guarding, separation anxiety, or other common problems that a DT & BC can help with. The DT would focus on how you can train your dog to do better or more appropriate behaviors in place of lashing out or problematic behaviors. And the BC would focus on why your dog is struggling to help you find solutions that can help you both understand each other more effectively. Both the DT and the BC often work together to help the dog handler address the issue. Sometimes the BC is also a DT and you can get the help you are after with the support of one person. However sometimes it takes a team of dog professionals to help with specific needs.
I happen to be a force free DT as well as a certified BC so I look at the big picture of how my clients communicate their desires with their dog by supporting their dog's individual needs and coaching the handler and dog down the path to becoming the team they both desire to be. I work with dog professionals from all around the world so if there happens to be a problem that is above my level of training, I have other professionals that I can reach out to for additional support. Once we understand how our dogs are communicating with us naturally, we can begin to develop the two way conversation between handler and dog to develop a relationship based on trust and support.
You know you need help, but how do you get it?
There are tons of great resources for how to chose a dog trainer, so I'm going to touch on a few things that are most important to me.
- Look for a DT/BC who shares your ethics and beliefs when it comes to animal care. There is a big divide among trainers of those who train with a dominance based, "My dog should do what their told!" & those who train with an animal centered approach, "My dog and I are a team, but we need to learn more together!" Then there are some professionals that are somewhere in the middle between those 2 approaches. Deciding what is important to you or where you are on this scale is the first step in finding help. Then look for a trainer that has the same ethics and beliefs that you have.
- Look for someone that teaches in a way that is easy for you to understand. Especially with the issues revolving around Covid, DT's have been forced into seeking alternative training outlets and now most will offer in-person & virtual services. All people have a learning preference or style of learning that they are more comfortable with. Some people would rather read books and print materials, while others want to see the skills in action. Some people learn better in a group setting where they can share ideas with others who are working on the same skills, yet others prefer to work independently. With all these options, dog owners can really play to their own strengths by finding a DT who teaches with the best learning style for the dog owner.
- Look for someone that you can talk to easily and develop a connection with. A good DT/BC doesn't just want to push you through classes, but actually wants to help you and your dog be successful. The best way to ensure success with clients is to connect with them on a personal level. This makes #3 one the most important things to do when searching for a dog professional. You should be totally comfortable discussing anything and everything dog related with your DT. And if you are a Service Dog Handler, you may also need to be comfortable discussing your medical issues with your DT so they can better assist you. If you can't be open and honest with your DT, it's going to impact your ability to make progress as a team. Like all relationships, this doesn't happen overnight but you should never be afraid to ask your DT questions about what you are supposed to be doing or why you should be doing it.
While I'm an awesome DT/BC, if I do say so myself, I know that my training style is not perfect for all clients. I work closely with other dog professionals around the world so if I can't help you with your struggles I can likely point you to someone who can.
Here is a list of Services
I provide. If you'd like to schedule a free phone/zoom consult you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or text me at 906-399-0548. The first thing I will likely want to schedule is a Meet & Greet either in-person or virtually where I will evaluate your teamwork skills, your dog's behavior, and look for areas that are most important to address first. This first session typically costs $30 for puppies under 6 months of age and $50 for dogs over 6 months and will come with a written training plan. At this point we can decide if your team would best be served with the online classrooms, 1-on-1 sessions, or mini-group sessions.
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