I had spent quite a bit of time looking for a good trainer. A good resource for finding trainers near you is the Association for Pet Dog Trainers (APDT). I sat in on puppy classes of three different trainers and met with a total of four trainers in person before deciding on one. The prices of these four trainers ranged ranged from $20/class to $38/class. Although it is time consuming, I highly recommend sitting in on classes when you choose a trainer. Every trainer is different, and you should find someone who matches your own training philosophy, learning style, and dog.
I selected Heather O'Neill of Pet Solutions Unlimited for the following reasons:
- She was confident, and in turn, I had confidence in her.
- There were two trainers at the class I sat in on - herself and an additional trainer. This proved to be very useful when one dog needed help on 'down,' which all the other dogs had already mastered. The additional trainer was able to help that dog separately, while the rest of the class continued. I had not seen multiple trainers at any of the other classes I sat in on.
- She offered information on dog training that was new to me. As someone who avidly reads about dog training from online sources and books, I did not want to pay a trainer to tell me what I already know.
Manage and Replace
When people get a puppy, they achieve desirable behavior by managing the dog's environment. For instance, I put Loki in his exercise pen so that he will not pee or poop in the apartment. If a puppy likes to chew on shoes, the owner might stow away all shoes in a closet. If a dog steals socks from an open laundry basket (as Loki used to do), the owner might buy a hamper with a lid. These are all examples of managing the environment. By not letting Loki go anywhere except for his exercise pen and outside, he never has the chance to pee on the carpet. So I achieve the desirable behavior of no accidents by constant management.
Managing the environment works, but it requires a lot of effort and attention. Furthermore, the puppy never gets the chance to learn otherwise. If Loki is never allowed to roam freely, he doesn't have the opportunity to learn not to pee or poop on the carpet. Similarly, a dog who likes to chew on shoes, doesn't get the chance to learn not to do that if the shoes are never out. And for a dog who likes to steal socks from the laundry basket, he doesn't get the chance to learn not to do that if you have now purchased a hamper with a lid.
The advantages of teaching replaced behaviors are obvious -- the human doesn't have to work so hard managing the dog. I don't have to keep an eye on Loki all the time to make sure that he doesn't pee on the carpet. I can keep my open laundry basket and know that Loki won't steal socks. I can put my new shoe purchase on the floor without fear of them becoming a chew toy.
Managing the environment does not teach the dog, while replacing the behavior does. Managing the environment only avoids bad habits, while replacing the behavior creates good ones. The transition period between managing and replacing is gradual and takes baby steps, but it is definitely a goal to work towards. Honestly, I had always figured that I would have to manage the environment for the rest of Loki's life, but now I see that I don't have to.