Finding the Right Trainer
Dog training is often a do-it-yourself career. No special licensing or certification is required before a person can claim to be a dog trainer, although some trainers attend dog-training schools or obtain a university degree in behavioral psychology or ethology (the study of animal behavior). No matter what their educational background, or lack thereof, the most successful trainers have excellent communication skills; a thorough understanding of learning theory and training techniques; and a deep knowledge of breed characteristics, general dog behavior and physiology, and human nature. Why human nature? When all is said and done, the trainer's real job is to teach you how to teach your dog.
A good dog-training program has well-organized classes, helpful instructors, small class sizes, and provides written information for study at home.
To find a trainer, start by contacting one of the professional dog-training organizations. A trainer who belongs to one of these organizations has an interest in continuing education, staying informed about advances in behavioral knowledge, and learning from others in the field. Professional organizations in the dog-training field are American
Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP), and the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (NADOI). See Appendix A for contact information.
The right trainer can make all the difference in your pug's performance.
Meeting the Trainer
You should be able to find at least two or three trainers in your area that belong to one or more of the above organizations. Call each trainer to see if you can attend a class as an observer. This allows you to make sure you'll be comfortable with the trainer's teaching style.
Talking to the trainer should give you a good idea of her experience and background. Ideally, she'll have had some experience with pugs or, at the least, with other toy breeds. Here are some questions to ask:
How long have you been training dogs?
Do you belong to any professional organizations?
How did you learn to train dogs?
How many pugs have you trained?
What training techniques do you find work best with pugs?
What will my pug and I learn in this class?
Can my children attend class too?
Observing a Class
It's easy to tell when you're dealing with an experienced trainer. He goes through a number of steps to ensure that everyone, human and canine, understands what's being taught and how to do it.
A good trainer explains and demonstrates each behavior before teaching it, usually using his own dog. Then he explains and demonstrates how to teach the behavior, providing written materials if necessary. He allows time during class for everyone to practice and spends time with students to work on specific problems. Last but not least, he treats people and dogs with respect and courtesy.
Never allow anyone, and certainly not a trainer, to mistreat your dog. Hitting, hanging, kicking, or shocking are all unacceptable under any circumstances. No training method should ever be harmful to the dog!
Pay attention to whether people and dogs are having fun in the class. Your pug is not going to do well in a boot-camp atmosphere. Choose a class where the trainer uses positive, humane training techniques such as clickers, praise, and food rewards.
It's important to choose a class where your training needs and goals will be met. Ask the people attending the class if they're satisfied with the progress they've made. A six- to eight-week class should give you basic skills to work competently with your dog at home.
If your pug is a family dog, everyone will need to know how to train him. Note whether the class permits children. Well-behaved children of appropriate age (six years or older) should be welcome. Good trainers encourage the entire family to participate.
Once you find the right trainer, sign up for the next class. Your pug is smart (smart enough to make you think he can't learn anything), and he can begin learning as soon as you bring him home.