Welcome to the L.A. Dog Trainers main trainer page. From here you can find a dog trainer who services your area. Below is important information about finding a dog trainer to serve you best; what to look for and questions to ask prospective trainers, whether you find them on this site or someplace else.
Be aware that although many other dog trainers call themselves "dog behaviorists" they are not. A behaviorist is a Veterinarian with a specialty in animal behavior who has completed a residency program and exam though the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. A behaviorist can also be a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist who is certified through the Animal Behavior Society. There are less than a handful of Certified Behaviorists in Southern California. Please visit any of these websites for more information on what qualifies someone to be a dog behaviorist or to locate an animal behaviorist near you: International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants or Animal Behavior Society.
Some who claim to be dog behaviorists have taken different courses through online colleges, but those colleges may not be accredited. That doesn't mean that they don't know dog behavior, it's just something for you to be aware of. Though many dog trainers deal with dog behavior, and may do it very well, they most likely are NOT a behaviorist. Many people consider it unethical for a dog trainer to call themselves a behaviorist when they are not. Also, most dogs with problems do not need a "Certified Behaviorist" to help them.
Is the trainer "certified"?
Certified at what and by whom? There is, at the moment, only one certification process which is done by an independent organization. That is the CCPDT, or Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
. It is an organization which has no affiliation to any dog training programs. This is important because when people go through a chain store training program, or attend a school to become a dog trainer, they pay their money and the school "certifies" them. A truer test of their skills and knowledge would be if they attended the school, then were able to pass a test by an independent organization such as the CCPDT. The test currently given by the CCPDT is only a written test. It doesn't test handling skills or one's ability to read a dog's body language or even train a dog to sit, but it is a very good start. And they have plans for testing hands on skills in the future.
That being said, it is possible to be a very good trainer without being certified by the CCPDT. There are many, many trainers who have been training for years, have kept up with current training techniques, and continue their education in the science of dog training and behavior, but just aren't CCPDT certified. And there's nothing wrong with that.
How long have you been training?
This is sort of a trick question. Just because someone has been training for 25+ years doesn't mean they have kept current with their knowledge. They may still be doing the same techniques they learned almost 30 years ago and haven't changed a thing. The science of dog training and behavior has evolved a lot in the last 20 years, so if they haven't changed with it and are stuck in the stone age with their techniques you should look for someone else. A better question might be "What kind of continuing education do you do and how often?". Or, "when did you last attended a dog training or behavior seminar?", or even "what was the last dog training book you read?".
Do you have a dog of your own?
The obvious preferred answer to this is a resounding YES! How can a dog trainer teach you to deal with the logistics of living with and having a relationship with a dog when they themselves don't have one? If they don't, why not? And, when was the last time they had a dog? If it was sometime in the last year that's one thing, but if it's been more than that you have to wonder how current their skills are.
If your dog has a behavior problem, has the trainer dealt with this issue before? What was the outcome?
If a trainer has been training for more than even a few years they have probably seen it all to some extent. The ideal answer to this question is "of course I've seen it and it all turned out great". Unfortunately, the outcome of a behavior protocol depends on the dog owner's commitment and ability to stick with the training. So, the answer to this question could be quite varied. Hopefully the trainer has seen more than one case such as yours and the majority of them have had good results. But if it's a tough behavior problem that is going to take a lot of work on your part, it means that would be the same for other people the trainer has worked with. So don't be too quick not
to hire a trainer if they say one case didn't turn out well. The owner may not have been as dedicated to fixing the problem as you will be.
What training methods do you use?
Ideally the answer to this is positive reinforcement, maybe with some negative punishment (we know, big words). Nothing with leash corrections or harsh alpha roll type stuff. If you are not sure what an alpha roll
is or why it is bad, read the position statements of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior
. If the trainer throws around the words "alpha" or "dominance" a lot you and your dog should run the other direction.
Do you have protocols for specific issues and how flexible are those protocols?
Most trainers have a basic protocol on how they deal with specific behavior issues. However, those protocols should be able to be adjusted for each individual dog and household situation. It shouldn't be an all or none situation. So, if they recommend something that won't work for you then by all means speak up! You are paying for their knowledge and expertise, but if you can't use it then it is worthless to you. But they won't know that if you don't tell them. Hopefully they will be creative enough to modify the protocol so you can use it.
** When training your dog keep sessions short and fun! If you are having fun your dog will too. Plus, the dog will retain the training better when the sessions are short.
** Don't always use the same rewards; mix it up! You can use treats, toys, getting to go for a walk or ride in the car, and even being allowed on the couch can be a big reward. Use whatever the dog wants, don't give it away for free.