How do I find a good obedience instructor?

Obedience is an uncertified sport and anyone can call themselves a trainer.

Here are our ground rules:

Obedience is about developing a relationship of understanding between you and your dog.

Training is about the dog listening to your consistent commands with follow-through.
There is some truth to the hierarchy, alpha dog theory, but that is not the complete basis of training. You are a TEAM, NOT A DICTATORSHIP!!!

Food is a good motivator and can help greatly with training, especially when you are trying to override major distractions, however many trainers depend too heavily on it. Our theory, give cookies and liver treats, spoil our babies, but when it comes to training have your dog work for the treat, but do not have to have the treat to make your dog work.

Make sure your trainer stresses positive reinforcement, and if you ever feel uncomfortable, LEAVE.

Trainers are not necessarily professional or knowledgeable of behavior, even if they have impressive titles on their dogs or say that they are involved with certain impressive groups. Follow through on references and certifications and club affiliations if you are unsure.

Trainers can do great damage if you don't get the right one, treat this as if you were hiring a nanny for your children.

Written February 2007 by Elizabeth Riddle, President of the Central IL GSD Rescue.