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PICKING A PRO - PART 2 Try before you buy

Spend some time with a pro before you decide to hire him as your trainer. If you are looking for a pro to perform the basics on your dog, your dog will be with the pro for three to six months. If you are looking for a pro to continue your dog’s training throughout its competitive life, your dog will be with the pro for many years. In either case, your decision about the right pro for you and your dog is one that should not be taken lightly.

Many people decide after one visit - if that - to a pro that this is where their dog should be. To me, this is utter nonsense.

I would want to visit the pro at least two or three times before I decided to send my dog to that pro. I would visit the pro during the week - when most of the clients are absent. That visit would tell me how the pro interacts with the dogs. I would also want to visit the pro on a weekend - when most of the clients are present. That visit would tell me how the pro interacts with the clients.

I would want to be sure that I felt comfortable with the pro’s use of force in training. I am a strong advocate for e-collar use. I happen to believe that the “Amish” method of training - that is, training without an e-collar, is quaint, romantic, and ultimately ineffective for training a dog to be competitive at the highest level of field trials. So, if I were in the market for a new pro (and I am not), my search would be limited to those pros in my geographic area who use the collar.

However, not all collar trainers are alike. So I would want to spend some time with each to learn more about their philosophy of training. If you are a new comer, it is unlikely that you will grasp all of the nuances of training. However, I believe the pro should be responsive to your concerns and be able to give you an understandable explanation for the pro’s training method.

While you are with the pro, consider the following:

a) How do the dogs as a group look? It is unfair to judge a pro’s performance by her best dog, worst dog, oldest dog, or youngest dog. Rather, look at the dogs as a whole. As a group, do the dogs jump out of the truck with excitement? Do they come to the line with the trainer with head up, tail wagging, and a bounce in their gait - or do they walk sullenly to the line?

b) How do the dogs as a group perform out in the field? Again, adjusting for age and experience, how are the dogs as a group performing?

c) Does the trainer treat all of the dogs the same? Or does the trainer vary her approach for different dogs? I prefer a pro who adjusts her program for the dog, not a pro who adjusts the dog for her program.

d) How does the trainer behave when the dogs are doing poorly? It is easy to be calm and well mannered when the dogs are doing well. The real test is how the pro behaves when the dogs are a mess. I look for a pro whose demeanor remains steady no matter how poorly the dogs perform.

e) How does the pro treat her hired help?

f) How does the pro treat her clients?

Ask yourself also what you think of the pro’s clients. You will find that a family of sorts forms around a pro. An established trainer is likely to have a core group of long term clients (if he or she does not, you need to ask why). If you decide to hire a pro, and you decide to train on a regular basis, this core group will become your recreational family. If you find that you don’t like the feel of the group, it is time to step back for a moment.

Does the pro train you, too?

At the end of the day, you will be out in the field with your dog ... and without your pro. This is true, whether you are engaged in hunting, hunt tests, or field trials. And, at some point in time, you are going to need to step in and take control of your finely trained animal. But, all that training is useless if you don’t know how to direct your dog. This is where your training is essential. A good pro is going to invest as my time in her clients as her dogs. Because the pro knows that just as her dogs reflect on her, so do her clients. Look for a pro that works hard at training her clients to handle and train the dogs in her absence.

Seek Passion

Field Trials are driven by passion. Danny Farmer has a saying “No one can talk a person into field trials ... and once they’re hooked, no one can talk a person out of them, either.” The field trial bug is a passion; there is no rational explanation for it.

I think the same thing is true for dog training. A good dog trainer is out before the sun is up in the sky, airing dogs, cleaning kennels, and feeding dogs. She is out in the field by 8 or 9 in the morning and remains there until 5 or 6 in the evening. She remains in the field - on days where most of us would prefer to remain on the couch, nice and comfortable. When she returns to the kennels, the dogs must be aired and fed. Late at night, the pro must return to the kennels to air the dogs once more.

This is a hard life. What we pay for a pro’s services hardly account for the effort the pro puts into her work.

The pro you want is one who is excited about her job, despite its hardships. I would not hire a pro who did not have a burning passion to train dogs.

Repeat business

As I grew closer to making a decision about a pro, I would want to speak with previous customers. In the dog training business, as in every other business, the presence of repeat customers tells you a great deal. Were the pro’s clients happy with the finished product? Would the pro’s clients return to the pro in the future when another dog needed training? How satisfied are the pro’s present clients with the services they are receiving?


I believe that most people put far too little effort into deciding who should train their dogs - less time than most people invest in picking the dog at the outset. To me, this is foolishness. If you want a good pro, you need to invest some time and effort into finding that pro. So go out and find yourself a good pro.

Wow – I wish I saw this a year ago.

The whole part of “look at who the core people are that surround the trainer would have lent me some insight and I would have said to myself – “look on”.

Great article Ted and I have printed it out for my lovely wife who is against me sending our prized little female away ever again…....
David Van Wickler (Email) - 30 04 05 - 13:25


Good luck! It’s a big decision and one worth taking some time to consider carefully.

Ted (Email) - 30 04 05 - 13:34

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