I know that many of you are looking at the title of this post and are thinking “Wait a minute, we haven’t even found a dog yet and already you are talking about finding a trainer?”, and for many, that is exactly what I am suggesting.
Continuing with the theme of brutal honesty from the first article in this series, we need to be honest with ourselves about our skills and abilities when it comes to observing and handling dogs. If this is your first dog, or even your first shelter dog, then I highly recommend that you find a good trainer or behaviorist who does evaluations, to go with you to the shelter; and here’s why.
For the most part shelters are HIGHLY stressful and emotionally charged places. Two things I can promise you when you visit a shelter; it will be a noisy and confusing place, and your heartstrings will be tugged at.
While at the shelter you will be looking at many dogs, and all of them seem to be begging you to take them home. Will you be able to see past the pleading eyes and decipher the myriad signals that the dogs are giving? Can you tell a friendly tail wag from a more aggressive tail flag? Can you tell the difference between a dog that’s barring its teeth, and an appeasement smile given by many of the herding breeds? Will you be able to make an educated guess about the different breeds in a dog’s makeup that may give you some foresight into traits that might be present in it? Is the friendly dog jumping on you just excited and lacking self-control or is it height seeking for another reason? If you don’t feel comfortable answering these questions or you are unsure that will be able to, then why not tip scales in your (and the dogs) favor and bring a professional with you.
There are many articles and tools out there to help you find a trainer or behaviorist near you that do these kinds of evaluations and I will list some of them at the end of the article. A good trainer or behaviorist will ask many of the same kinds of questions that I asked in the first article. They will want to know about your lifestyle and your work schedule. They will want to know what kind of experiences you have had with dogs before. And they will want to know if you are able to commit to working with your dog to help resolve issues that may arise.
I know that it seems that I am asking you to do an awful lot even before you have the dog. But in my experience, the thought, effort, time, and planning you put in before you adopt a dog goes a long way to help get the best match for you and helps minimize any problems that may arise down the road.
You can find some detailed articles on finding a trainer here on our Training page. In addition, the following associations have search tools and are also a great place to start your search for a qualified trainer or behaviorist.
On Monday we will continue this series and talk about what to expect, and how to interact, with the dogs you will meet at the shelter.