Selecting a Field Trainer
by Kathryn Newman
Many retriever owners seek out the help of a professional trainer to improve their success. If you are new to the world of field training, here are a few helpful hints in locating a professional field dog trainer.
- Identify your goals. Did you purchase your pup for purely hunting purposes or are you planning on participating in Hunt Tests or Field Trials? Professional trainers tend to specialize in specific areas of field training and you should base your selection on your long-term training goals. There are Gun Dog trainers who rarely participate in hunt tests or field trial competitions, but instead, focus their efforts on training dogs to be good hunting companions. Likewise, there are trainers whose primary focus is preparing their clients’ dogs for competition. And, there exists field trainers that specialize in pointers rather than flushers or retrievers. For example, a trainer who specializes in Pointing dogs may not have the experience and knowledge to build a quality foundation for running blinds. By identifying your long term goals you will be able to select the field trainer that will get you started properly and provide the proper foundation to support your objectives.
- Seek out recommendations from others who have used the professional trainer you are considering. Dog training is a service based business driven by personal referrals. By talking with other clients you will get a feel for what to expect during the training process, whether they were pleased with the service provided and if they would use the same professional trainer in the future.
- Do your homework. If you plan on competing in Hunt Tests or Field Trials and are considering a specific professional trainer, analyze his or her competition record. Consider both their success (or failure) rate with their personal dogs and client dogs. Clearly you want to select a trainer that is successful in their specific area of competition with both personal and client dogs.
- Go for Experience. Quality trainers with lengthy experience may be more expensive but it is worth it in the long run. Some trainers turn professional after training a few, personally owned, dogs. Instead, look for someone that has lengthy professional experience so he or she has a wealth of information and experience to draw upon when working with your dog.
- Seek out a professional trainer who has demonstrated success with many breeds. This indicates that the trainer treats each dog as an individual and is willing to modify his or her training program to meet the individual personality of each dog in training. More specifically, look for a trainer who has successfully trained Goldens. Whether your goals are for a hunting companion or are competition related you want to make sure that the trainer you select enjoys working with Goldens.
- Communication is key. Many people who work with animals are not necessarily people persons. However, as your dog’s owner, you need to have good lines of communication with your trainer. If you are unable to communicate effectively with your trainer, your dog’s performance will suffer. If you plan on leaving your dog with the trainer for in-kennel training, inquire as to when is the best time to call, schedule training sessions and billing procedures.
Expect no less in terms of quality and responsiveness of service from your professional trainer than you would have your doctor, veterinarian or dry cleaning service. Remember, you’re the client.
- Tour the facility and observe several training sessions. Is the kennel environment clean? Do the dogs in training appear to be well cared for? Is the staff situation stable or is there frequent turnover? Are the training techniques fair, effective and age appropriate? The answers to these questions will provide valuable information in your decision making process.