Beware of trainers who use this terminology or these tools
It is important to find trainers who understand how to work with fearful dogs. Anyone can call themselves a dog trainer, but it doesn’t mean that they have studied the current literature on dog learning and behavior. A bad trainer can make matters worse for you and your dog.
Beware the use of ‘dominance‘ to explain a dog’s inappropriate behavior. Dogs are social creatures who use cooperation far more often than competition or conflict to solve problems with people or other dogs. A trainer who talks about pack leadership, or being the alpha to your dog is not qualified to work with this at-risk and vulnerable population of dogs.
Trainers who recommend the use of a prong, choke or shock collar to get or stop your dog from doing something are not qualified to work with this at-risk and vulnerable population of dogs. Have a look at the following video produced by Jean Donaldson to lear more about making choices in an unregulated industry.
Questions to ask a trainer
How would you describe the type of training methods you teach?
You want to hear positive reinforcement, relationship based, reward based, clicker training, or force free somewhere in their answer. Unfortunately simply saying that they train this way does not necessarily mean they are qualified to work with very challenging dogs and behaviors but they are less likely to cause your dog’s behavior to become worse, as can happen if dogs are punished for their behavior.
Avoid Cesar Millan enthusiasts (most professional trainers and behaviorists know he’s not as wonderful as TV audiences believe he is) or self described dog whisperers. Balanced training usually means that the trainer uses a combination of both positive reinforcement and punishment (P+) during training. This can be confusing for many dogs and punishment (as most people know it) should be avoided when training fearful dogs.
Trainers who are graduates of the The Academy for Dog Trainers should have a good understanding of how to work with fear-based behaviors.