When I mention that I'm a dog trainer, the response from many people is, "I bet you work with a lot of bad dogs."
Interestingly enough, no, I don't. Most of the dogs I work with are nice dogs who just need some help with manners. The idea that bad dogs are the only ones who need a dog trainer's help is a prevalent one and is untrue. A dog trainer can help most dogs and dog owners in a variety of ways.
Overwhelmed First Time Dog Owners
If you've never lived with a dog before, a dog trainer can teach you all about this new lifestyle. She can explain what's ahead of you, how to organize your life, what changes you'll need to make, and how to communicate with your new canine friend. It's particularly wise to find a trainer you like prior to running into problems; if you've already contacted a trainer, then when you're confused or overwhelmed you'll know who to call.
Reminders for Experienced Owners
Even experienced dog owners may need some help with a new dog. After all, each dog is an individual, with his own personality, and will be different from your previous dog. Bringing your new dog to a training class can help you bond with your new dog and open communication between the two of you.
Puppies Need Training
A dog trainer can be your partner in raising your new puppy. No, she isn't going to raise your puppy for you but she can talk you through housetraining problems, puppy biting, and help you teach your puppy basic obedience exercises. Many trainers also offer opportunities for puppy playtimes and socialization.
Teenagers can be Horrid
Many puppy owners are horrified when their previously lovely, cooperative puppy turns into a challenging, defiant teenager. Just as with human teenagers, the teenage stage in puppies is a transition stage between puppyhood and adulthood. Unfortunately, many canine teenagers can be awful. They may bark, escape from the yard, try to run away, ignore you, and discover a hundred other unwanted behaviors. A dog trainer can explain this stage of puppyhood and while doing so can prepare you for what's ahead of the two of you.
Prevent Problem Behaviors
It is much easier to prevent bad behaviors from happening than it is to change those bad habits later. Your dog trainer will teach you how to prevent those bad behaviors as well as how to teach good behaviors that your dog can do in place of those unwanted ones. For example, by teaching your dog to sit, quickly and reliably, you can ask your dog to do this rather than jumping up on you. The sit is an alternative behavior for jumping on people.
Changing Established Bad Behaviors
If your dog has already created some bad behaviors you dislike, call a dog trainer. Changing established habits is tough, as you know if you've changed a bad habit of your own. The trainer can help you identify when and where these actions happen, how to prevent them, and what to teach your dog to do instead.
You Have Goals for your Dog
If you added a dog to your family with the goal of becoming a therapy dog team, doing competitive dog sports, or show your dog in dog shows, a dog trainer can assist you in reaching those goals. Do some research ahead of time, however, and find a dog trainer who is knowledgeable in that area or sport.
Aggression is Bad News
If your dog is showing any aggression at all; no matter whether it's to you, your kids, guests, or to other dogs, you need help. Don't wait until your dog bites someone or causes a dog fight; instead, call for help as soon as you see any aggression. Growling at people, lunging at people or dogs, or any other signs of unhappiness, fearfulness, shyness, or protectiveness should raise a red flag for you. Explain what you've seen from your dog and let the trainer meet your dog. The dog trainer will explain normal behavior and any problems she may see. She may recommend some training or if the problem is outside her expertise, she may recommend that you call a behaviorist.
To find a trainer in your area, ask the owners of well-behaved dogs where they trained and whether they recommend the trainer. Talk to your veterinarian, too, as he'll see dogs who are well-behaved as well as horribly behaved. Then call and talk to the trainer. Ask to see one of the trainer's classes (without your dog of course) and see if this is something you'd be comfortable attending with your dog or puppy.