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Modified from an article published by American Humane Association, contributed to them by:

Suzanne Hetts, Ph. D. Suzanne Hetts, Ph.D. & Daniel Q. Estep, Ph.D., Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists, Animal Behavior Associates, Inc.; (303)932-9095, 4994 S. Independence Way, Littleton, CO 80123

Finding & Working With Obedience Trainers

  • Look for trainers who rely on teaching methods that use positive reinforcement for the right response rather than punishing the wrong one.
  • Observe an obedience class without your dog. Are the dogs and people having a good time? Talk with a few participants and see if they are comfortable with the trainer's methods. If someone won't let you sit in, don't enroll.
  • Don't allow trainers to work your dog unless they tell you first exactly what they plan to do.
  • Don't be afraid to tell a trainer to stop if s/he is doing something to your dog you don't like.
  • If a trainer tells you to do something that you don't feel good about, don't do it! Don't be intimidated, bullied or shamed into doing something that you believe is not in your dog's best interest.
  • Avoid trainers who offer guarantees about results. That trainer is either ignoring or doesn't understand the complexity of animal behavior.
  • Avoid trainers who object to using food as a training reward. Food is an acceptable positive reinforcement training tool.
  • Avoid trainers who use ONLY choke chains. Head collars are humane alternatives to choke chains and pinch collars.
  • Look for trainers who treat both people and dogs with respect, rather than an "I'm the boss" attitude.

Finding & Working With Behavior Consultants

  • Look for academic training in the science of animal behavior as well as "hands on" experience.
  • Certification tells you the individual has met the requirements for education, experience, and professional ethics.
  • Look for people who recognize the importance of you working through the problem with your pet rather than sending it somewhere to be "fixed" by a trainer.
  • Membership in a professional organization suggests communication with colleagues and a means to keep current on new information.
  • Ask for professional references such as former clients, colleagues, and/or veterinarians who refer cases.
  • A knowledge of positive reinforcement methods, how to use food appropriately, and humane products such as headcollars is a must.
  • Do you like the way the individual treats you, or is s/he abrupt and abrasive.
  • Avoid people who guarantee problem resolution. Animals are complex. No one knows everything there is to know about them.
  • Avoid "quick fixes". This approach does not do justice to you, your pet, or the problem.
  • Beware of people who suggest the use of drugs as the first or only solution for a problem. Drug therapy is best used as part of a complete plan. (Only veterinarians can prescribe drugs).
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