Nowadays, the dog is an integral part of our lives. He accompanies us on vacations, in the car, in the street, lives daily in the family. All this is only possible if the dog has reference points, respects a hierarchy which, far from being overwhelming for him, reassures him. All owners aspire to have a calm, obedient, gentle and fearless dog, who knows how to respond to his name and how to walk. But this is not innate: you have to work on it, and because it is not always easy, professionals are there to help you.
The different actors of canine education
Canine educators are professionals in dog education. This profession used to be largely unregulated. In recent years, there has been a Brevet Professionnel d’Educateur Canin, which is the only state diploma recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture. For more information on this training, you can refer to the article “the main animal professions”. As this diploma is recent, it is still common to meet many canine educators from private training courses, sometimes of unequal duration and quality. The canine educators give private lessons, at your home or in public places (most often natural spaces). If they have a plot of land, they also offer group lessons. If they perceive a real behavioral problem in your dog, they may refer you to a behavioral veterinarian.
Dog training instructors
Dog education instructors are amateurs, often passionate, but without a diploma in dog education. Dog education instructors work in the canine clubs of the Société Centrale Canine, which are associations. They have generally followed a preliminary training of a few days given by their club. The canine clubs provide group lessons on their grounds, often with restricted opening hours. Their prices are often attractive. Other disciplines may be available such as agility or other dog sports. Clubs frequently organize competitions to reward the most obedient dogs.
The behaviorist veterinarian
The behaviourist veterinarian intervenes in case of behavioural disorders (hyperactivity, phobias, aggressiveness, destruction of objects, inability to stay alone…). At the end of a specialized consultation, they make a diagnosis and propose a treatment. They are the only ones authorized to prescribe medication such as antidepressants to help the dog get better, but they also offer play therapy, or exercises to be done with your dog to help him heal.
NB: In all cases, as part of the rabies control plan, a dog that has bitten a person must be reported as soon as possible and undergo three evaluation sessions with a veterinarian.
What is the purpose of a dog trainer?
Everyone has their own opinion on how to train a dog. Many owners educate their animals themselves, and with success. However, in certain circumstances it is necessary to call upon an outside person, with new eyes and techniques. This is the case if your new dog is not at all the same temperament as the previous ones and communication is difficult to establish this time.
On the other hand, it may be preferable to call on an educator if you have just acquired your first dog, are unsure of yourself or don’t know how to go about it. Using an educator often allows you to progress much more quickly than when you work alone.
The educator is there to help you communicate, establish a hierarchy and rules that will allow you to live in harmony with your dog, and allow him to be at ease and at his place in the street, in society. It thus helps to avoid the appearance of behavioural disorders. You will work together on simple commands (sit, lie down…), recall, walking on a leash, walking without a leash, getting along with other dogs….
Some educators also offer other services, such as training for hunting. Others are qualified to provide the training necessary to own a category dog. Finally, you should know that the educator can also intervene upstream to help you choose your dog.
Progress is rapid during individual classes: the educator is entirely dedicated to you. If he intervenes at home, he will help you in everyday situations, in the dog’s usual environment. Lessons in the street or in open spaces such as parks or woods can be dangerous at first and must be given in very specific contexts.
It is a good idea to alternate these classes with group classes, which will help your dog to socialize. It is important that your dog knows how to behave properly in the presence of other dogs, and that he remains attentive to your requests without getting too distracted. This also allows you to meet other dog owners and exchange experiences. Working in several different locations enriches and diversifies the lessons, and prevents your dog from associating work with a given terrain.
Dog training is accessible to all dogs, puppies and adults alike. Some educators offer classes exclusively for puppies, commonly called “puppy schools”, which begin at about two months of age.
Several lessons are often necessary. It can sometimes be interesting to spread them out over the course of the year. The number of lessons needed and their frequency depends a lot on your progress, and should be discussed with the educator, usually after an initial evaluation session. Payment is usually made in packages of 5 or 10 lessons.
How to choose it?
Do not hesitate to ask questions about the training received by the dog trainer, and about his experience. Word-of-mouth can also be a good way to evaluate customer satisfaction.
It is very important that you and your dog feel comfortable in the presence of the dog trainer. You should be able to ask any questions that come to mind without difficulty. In addition, there are many different methods of dog training. Each educator has his own way of functioning, and you must be in adequacy with his methods. If the educator offers group sessions, ask to attend once or twice. This will allow you to learn how a classic session works and how the educator operates.
Be aware that methods based on positive reinforcement (i.e. rewarding the dog after it has done what is expected of it, with a treat, a caress or the sound of a clicker) give much better results than those based on sanctions or punishments (choke collars or anti-barkings…). Learning is faster with playful exercises. The classic methods are, among others, the clicker method, the natural method, the traditional method…. However, a good educator does not generally propose a single method. He adapts to your dog’s temperament, but also to yours, to optimize your progress.
Indeed, during a training session, you and your dog work as a couple, and progress together. It is therefore important that a good flow of current is passed within the trio of handler-dog-educator. During a session, the educator must give you exercises to do. He does not give the dog instructions himself, nor does he work directly with the dog; the objective is that you yourself manage to make the dog obey you. Asking for proof of the vaccination of dogs participating in group classes is a sign of seriousness, as it is a place where contagious diseases can be transmitted.
It can also be useful to find out about insurance: a professional educator has more responsibilities than an amateur instructor. He or she may be held responsible for incidents that occur during a group session, for example.