Is your dog a good canine citizen? This can mean anything from not barking at the mailman to not tugging you when you go for a walk to being friendly with other dogs when you greet them out on the street. As a pet parent, it is your responsibility to assure your dog receives the training necessary to assure he will be a good canine citizen. After all, you don’t want that tiny puppy to grow into a big dog you simply cannot handle or control because he didn’t receive proper training. Rescues often receive dogs at this stage: proper training was not provided, allowing their destructive behavior to intensify.
We’re not saying you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, because you can, but starting your pup off on the right foot to being a great member of your family will lead to more happily-ever-afters for you and your dog.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Lynda Lobo, CPDT-KA of FetchFind, to gain insight into what a dog trainer does and how a pet benefits from well-rounded training.
Q: What got you interested in becoming a dog trainer, and can you explain to our readers what the designations after your name represent?
A: I’ve always been in a career that has involved pets. I started out in the grooming setting—then daycare, dog walking, retail management. I found training gave me the most satisfaction: I liked seeing the difference in how the dogs behaved from day-to-day and how their owners appreciated it.
I searched for programs to become a dog trainer and found FetchFind. I went through a training academy and other training programs, worked as an assistant trainer, and eventually earned my certification.
The certification (CPDT-KA) stands for Certified Professional Dog Trainer–Knowledge Assessed. [The KA indicates training requirements and an examination have been completed.] There are also requirements on continuing education credits to keep up your certification.
Q:Because the dog training industry is so unregulated, how can a pet parent assure the trainer they are hiring is a “good one”?
A:You should look for a dog trainer that has a certification in training: It’s the only professional designation in this unregulated industry. Trainings and designations are something we, at FetchFind, are looking to change. We want pet parents to know they are working with trained professionals.
It’s up to the pet owner to find the best dog trainer to work with for their pet. Before you hire a trainer, ask, “What methods do you use to train dogs?” Some trainers will say they use positive reinforcement some will say they are balanced trainers which means they could use positive reinforcement or they may use prong collars.
Look on Yelp or their Facebook page to see what kind of reviews they receive and what kind of training methods they talk about. Look at the photos of the dogs they’re training: Does the dog look stressed? Those photos are a great indicator of how the dog is feeling during training sessions.
Q:What is your advice to new pet parents on training?
A:Training your dog should start as soon as you get her. If you get a puppy, don’t wait too long to start training because socialization is crucial to a puppy. Basic obedience is a great way to start out training a puppy, but you need to manage expectations because a puppy won’t be able to work as long or as hard and won’t have the focus of an older dog.
If you’ve adopted an older dog who may have been surrendered because he had “problems,” working with a trainer who is a problem solver is critical. We piece together what’s going on, and work on a plan to help the owner reach training goals—whether it’s stopping a nuisance behavior like barking or chewing or on basic obedience.
Q:Why is training important, regardless of the size of your dog?
A:It’s my job to help the pet parent learn to live better and more cooperatively with their dog. I do training focused on the relationship and bond between the two. A dog trainer could certainly take your dog to his or her training facility and bring it back to you, “trained,” but dogs need to be trained with the people with whom they live. Consistency is key to a well-trained dog, and the pet parent needs to know how to work with their dog–large or small–once the trainer has gone for the day.
Many times, the dog trainer “trains” the owner. Dogs learn in a context-specific way. This means if you train the dog to sit in one room and only one person works with him, he won’t have the context to “sit” when he’s outside and with a different person. Dogs need to learn the same commands in different settings and with different people.
Big dogs and little dogs need training. When we look at dogs, it’s the larger dogs whose issues are more visible, but we do a disservice to small dogs by not training them. People think that aggressive or nuisance behavior in a small dog is “cute,” but it’s a big deal if a bigger dog is aggressive or exhibiting nuisance behaviors.
Q:Summer festival season is coming up; how can I train my dog to behave there or in any crowd of people and dogs?
A:Barking, lunging and pulling on the leash are signs your dog is being reactive to a situation and these are common. Most pet parents want their dogs to be social and friendly. What we want to do is reward good behavior and redirect your dog’s attention if he is doing something you don’t want.
If your dog is barking or lunging at another dog, you need to simply turn around and walk the other way. You don’t want to punish that behavior because when you do, you are reinforcing in the dog’s mind that the person or other dog is scary: As a result, your dog will feel he was right in lunging because he needs to keep them away.
Working with your dog in a controlled setting and working on good behaviors are necessary before you expose him to crowds and other dogs.
Q:I imagine working with dogs all day is the best way for a dog lover to spend the day, right?
A:When you’re a dog trainer, you’re working with people most of your day. The dog trainer needs to work with the pet parent to teach them how to continue with the lessons when they go home by understanding the personality of the pet parent. Unless you’re working in a shelter, being a dog trainer means you’re working with people.
Q:What’s the most rewarding part of your career?
A:Being a problem solver: Putting together the pieces of the puzzle to help people reach training goals with their pets. It’s a great feeling to see the gears turning in the dog’s head when they finally get it. It’s amazing, and I love seeing people who are happy and proud of their dogs. If I can help them to be proud and happy, that is an awesome feeling.
Q:What’s the most challenging part of your dog training career?
A:I enjoy a challenge, but there are times it’s difficult when people don’t understand they need to be involved in the training of their dogs. I can’t “fix” their dog if the pet parent isn’t going to follow through on training once I leave. Dog training requires the pet parent to commit to working with their dog between sessions.
Q:What kind of hours do dog trainers keep?
A:The hours you work as a dog trainer depend on whether you’re running your own business, working in a training facility or if you offer private lessons. The hours vary, but I find I have a lot of flexibility.
Q:So, tell our readers about your pets?
A:I have two dogs and a cat. Surf is a Doberman-Lab mix; Ryan (a female) is an Akita-Shepherd mix. They are 55 and 70 pounds, respectively.
A lot of trainers brag about how good their dogs are, but I prefer to relate to people that my dogs aren’t perfect. I am not a drill sergeant with my dogs, but they are well-trained. I believe that dogs and people need to live together peacefully and that’s how it is with my dogs. I don’t need them to be perfect, but I do work with them because they enjoy it.
Our pet dogs were bred to do “something,” whether it’s herding or hunting or digging out rats or pulling a cart. For the most part the only job they have right now is to be a pet. When we give them mental stimulation it’s rewarding for them. Give them an outlet for their energy and let them earn rewards–dogs like earning rewards.
Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words Matter, My Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.