What to Look for in a Trainer for Your Anxious Dog

Anyone who’s owned a dog knows one thing for certain: They are all individuals.

Because of backgrounds, genetics, and other unknown factors, two very similar-looking dogs can have two entirely different personalities. Along those same lines, you may also have a pet who is a little more anxious than the others.

He may find it harder to relax when everyone else is napping. Or maybe he doesn’t like being left alone. Perhaps he barks a lot at seemingly innocuous things—a piece of trash on the sidewalk for instance.

There are many reasons why a dog may be more on the anxious side; finding a qualified trainer may be the first step in helping your dog through his anxiety into a more calm and confident place.

Dog trainers vary widely in experience level and philosophy. If you have an anxious dog, not only do you want a certified professional dog trainer, but you’ll want to look for a few other specific qualities:

Experience

Look for a trainer who has experience dealing with anxiety issues. Even better, find one who has experience with the specific anxiety or anxieties of your pet if possible.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive training techniques are particularly important for dogs who are anxious. They’re already a little edgy, so punishment-based training is not the best route. Make sure the trainer uses only this type of training.

Relaxation Techniques

Your dog’s trainer should be a master researcher, constantly educating him or herself, and always on the lookout for new techniques to help your anxious dog. There are many relaxation techniques out there for anxious dogs—ask the trainer to tell you some of the ones he or she uses for anxious dogs.

Calm and Confident

Dogs can sense the vibe of those around them and can be impacted by it. Because of that, you want your trainer to be those things you are seeking in your dog (calm and confident). To get a sense of your trainer’s style and demeanor, ask to speak with past or current clients and/or ask to sit in on (without your dog) a class.

Holistic Approach

Because many things can impact your dog’s behavior—including diet—look for a trainer who understands the importance of feeding a higher quality diet, as well as the possible impact of environmental and other factors to the dog’s anxious behavior. In other words, the trainer should be looking at the whole dog in his environment in coming up with an individualized training program.

Good Chemistry

It’s important that everyone involved in the training gets along. The training itself shouldn’t be causing your dog anxiety because he doesn’t like the trainer. Or you shouldn’t be dreading each training session because you’re not fond of the trainer. There should be an easy flow of communication between you and the trainer, and your dog should eventually enjoy going to training because he gets a lot of treats and attention.

Stress-Free Environment

The location of the training also matters because certain situations can lead your dog to have more anxiety. A busy pet store may be too much for your dog at the beginning and not allow him to focus enough to start learning the relaxation techniques. Ideally the location is quiet and private enough (at least to start) to allow an anxiety-prone dog a place to relax.

Finding a good trainer is the first step in guiding your anxious dog down the road to less stress and more fun. Keep looking until you find the right match for you and your dog.

Meet the Author: Jessica Peralta

Jessica Peralta has been a journalist for more than 15 years and an animal lover all her life. She has had dogs, cats, birds, turtles, fish, frogs, and rabbits. Her current children are a German shepherd named Guinness and a black kitten named Riot (and he lives up to that name). It’s because of her love for animals that she focused her journalistic career to the world of holistic animal care and pet nutrition. In between keeping Riot and Guinness out of mischief, she’s constantly learning about all the ways she can make them healthier and happier.

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