Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Certified Trainer Rings in on Rescue Dogs

Some people have reservations about adopting a dog because they are concerned it might be un-trainable or won't bond with them. Today I caught up with a highly experienced dog trainer out of Central Ohio to go beyond these myths. Guy Kantak, "The K9 Guy," is a Certified Professional Trainer (CPT) and a member of both the National K-9 Dog Trainers Association and International Association of Canine Professionals. Here's what he has to say:

HTB: Guy, I know you've got some adopted dogs of your own. When you got your first dogs, what drove you to adopt instead of buy?

GK: Both my wife and I have a long history of adoptees in our families, my parents had a rescue dog in our home before I was born. We've had such great experiences with rescues, and are so overwhelmed by the number of great dogs needing homes, that we are very committed to supporting and adopting from shelters.

HTB: Some people are hesitant to adopt dogs because they think adopted dogs will be more difficult to train. What is your experience?

GK: As a professional trainer I have a deep appreciation that every dog is unique. Some dogs can be more difficult to train than others, but it is not dependent on whether the dog is from a rescue or from a breeder. Individual personalities are a much more critical factor here! My own preference is to adopt a 6-12 month old dog with a developed personality that I can assess to be certain he will fit in well in our home. You can watch one of my adopted dogs doing some training work on my website. Everything you see him doing on that page he learned in less than six weeks.

HTB: People also sometimes believe that adopting older dogs is a bad idea because they won't bond with you as much. Please share your thoughts on that.

GK: Dogs never forget people they've met, but they are very adaptable creatures who will form new ties if their environment changes. I've worked with older dogs, that for various reasons have had to go into new living environments. They all adjust and bond with their new family. Older dogs are often more calm, already house trained, and less easily distracted which can hasten any training the new owner desires.

HTB: Why is it important for someone who has adopted a dog to hire a trainer? I've heard people say, "I don't want to hire a trainer because my dog won't even listen to me. How is he going to listen to someone else?" What do you say to people with concerns like this.

GK: A good trainer will work with more dogs each week than most people will live with during their lifetime. If a dog is not "listening" to an owner, it's because it doesn't care to listen or is confused. In either case, working with a certified professional trainer can help an owner develop effective communication with their dog while helping the dog to understand its role in the home. This makes everyone (dog and owner) much happier! Because dogs are not people and they do not think as we do, hiring a trainer is no different than taking a course to learn a foreign language.

HTB: For anyone with a rescued dog who is looking for a trainer, how do they evaluate which trainer to use? What should they look for?

GK: That's a great question.... My recommendation would be to either call or meet with prospective trainers and interview them. Some questions to consider would include:

Are they certified? By what agency?
What are their professional affiliations and background?
Is the trainer easy to talk with and easy to understand?
Can the trainer demonstrate a dog they have trained, especially one from a rescue?
What methods do they use? Trainers experienced using multiple training methods ( vs. only one method) will be able to provide more options to owners in reaching their desired goals.
How many dogs do they work with annually, and what is their experience pertinent to your desired goals.
You should also inquire about fees, and ask for some measure of client satisfaction.

I'm affiliated with the National K9 Dog Trainer's Association and the International Association of Canine Professionals. Both have websites with trainer locators where owners can find a local trainer by inputting their zip code:


I would recommend those web pages as a good starting point in finding a local trainer.

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