Angie's List: Proper training can lead to happier, healthier pet

Bring out the best in your best friend

TAMPA - Up to 8 million pets are abandoned in U.S. shelters each year, according to the Humane Society. Many times, it's because owners are just too overwhelmed by bad behavior. Carol Lowe's golden retriever/border collie mix "Foxy" is a perfect example. "Foxy was a rescue," she said. "She came to me with a lot of behavior problems. Every trainer has taken Foxy to the next step to correct her behavior and aggression problems. Even though she looks more like a golden, her personality is more like a border collie. They tailored the training to that personality of a dog, and that's what has really helped so much."

Trainer Tiffany Lambert advices you to start as soon as possible. "It's really important to start addressing behavioral issues in dogs because you don't want it to become unmanageable and dangerous. It's really cute and fun when your ten pound puppy is nipping and biting and jumping, but when they become a 65 pound dog and it can be off putting." Lambert sees a wide range of bad behavior including barking, jumping, biting, house training and separation anxiety. "I'd say the most common would be probably jumping, but luckily an experienced trainer can help you work through any of those behavioral issues."

Common types of training:

  • Dog training styles range from reward-based to military-style approaches.
  • Training methods may focus on gestures, body language and voice tone, or may be reward-based, with treats or praise, or may include electronic collars or other correction tools.
  • Classes may be taught in groups or individual sessions, at a facility or the owner's home. Some offer "boarding training," in which a dog spends days or weeks at the facility, being trained, and the owner is later shown how to continue what was taught.
  • Puppies can enroll in training as soon as they've had their necessary vaccinations.

Angie's List founder, Angie Hicks, has used a trainer for her dog. "Training a dog takes both the commitment from you and your pet," she said. "We had a lab that was really hyper. She was a young puppy and it eventually required us to send her to training. They would run her on the treadmill and teach her obedience training, but it didn't stop with that. We had to learn all of those things as well and be great reinforcers once she was home."

For Carol and her best friend, professional training has mad all the difference. "Foxy is like a cured dog now. So, it's been really great."

Angie's List Tips: Hiring a dog trainer

  • States don't require that dog trainers be licensed.  Ask about the trainer's education, credentials and experience. Consider a trainer who's a member of a professional organization, such as the Association of Pet Dog Trainers or the Association of Canine Professionals.
  • Talk to your vet. Before hiring a trainer, consult with your veterinarian to rule out a physical cause for behavior issues. Make sure you hire a trainer who asks for your dog's health records, to reduce the chance of disease spreading.
  • Interview potential trainers. Ask for details about their training approach and techniques. Check into the differences in pace and expectations between individual and group instruction. Observe a class to make sure you agree with a trainer's approach before paying. Many trainers will offer a free evaluation.
  • Get details in writing. Costs vary widely, with hourly rates, as well as multi-class packages, available. You should have all details of the training in writing. Also, ask for a money-back guarantee.
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