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North Hills Monthly

Choosing a Trainer for Your New Pet

Jul 30, 2019 09:46AM ● By North Hills Monthly magazine

By Veronica Rigatti, Canine Behavior Technician

Bringing home a new four-legged family member can be an exciting time, but it can also be stressful and confusing for your new pet. Imagine suddenly finding yourself in a foreign country where you do not speak the language or know the culture; this is often the feeling that an animal experiences when joining a new household. It is our job to compassionately teach them how to live in our homes.

There are sure to be challenges along the way. You may face difficulties with house training, destruction or behavior problems, just to name a few. When an issue arises, it’s important to remember that these behaviors are not problems to our new pet, they are problems to us.

When they are in a new or uncomfortable situation, animals simply do what helps them fulfill a need. If they need to go to the bathroom, they go. If they are bored, they can keep themselves entertained by chewing a throw pillow or going through the garbage. If they don’t like being confined to a crate, they may try to escape. Many of these problems can be resolved by managing the home environment, providing sufficient enrichment and exercise and giving them structure and routine in their lives. The best piece of advice for new pet parent is to find a good trainer. But where do you start?

At Animal Friends, we believe in positive reinforcement training. This is a science-based approach with proven results. We offer a wide variety of classes through Animal Friends University that you can attend with or without your pet. Tuition goes directly toward the care of our homeless residents and to support our lifesaving programs and services.

If private training sessions seem like a better fit for you and your pet or you’re looking for a specific type of class, be sure to do your research. Since the animal training industry is largely unregulated, just about anyone can refer to themselves as a trainer and charge money for their services. This can make it even more difficult to know that your trainer is qualified and will be doing what’s best for your pet.

When searching for a reliable trainer, research whether they are certified through a school or professional organization. While this is a good start, you should dig a little deeper to learn what training techniques they use or whether they have a philosophy statement. Although each certifying entity has its own set of standards and qualifications, not all of them require positive-based training methods.

Once you’ve selected a trainer, you should continue to keep a watchful eye on how your pet is responding to their methods. If you ever notice something that is making you or your pet uncomfortable, speak up! You are your pet’s voice and advocate and you have every right to seek another opinion.

By doing your research and finding a trainer you trust, you’ll be sure to get off on the right foot with your new pet. Training classes will not only teach your pet the skills they need to succeed, you may be surprised to find that you learn just as much (or more!) as they do. With the help of a qualified professional, you can learn to communicate with your pet, strengthen the bond you share and set them up for years of success!


A trainer has general education and certification, and the experience to teach basic manners and to work with common behavioral issues.

A behavior consultant/specialist has more advanced knowledge and certification, and has experience with difficult behavioral challenges such as anxiety, reactivity or aggression.

A behaviorist has an advanced degree that includes a Ph.D., and is most advanced in behavioral learning. He or she is often boarded through the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (ACVB) or has an Applied Animal Behavior Certification (CAAB).