What is your typical process for working with a new customer?
We start with an extra long session; often up to an hour and a half. We use this time to listen carefully to the client, evaluate the dog's temperament and learning style and begin a few exercies. We write up the evaluation and training plan. This serves as a guide to training for the client and as our promise to produce the results we outline.
What education and/or training do you have that relates to your work?
Michael founded Prescott K9 Academy in 1991 with a psychology degree in Animal Learning and Motivation, and a Master Trainer Certificate from one of the few schools offering accredited master-level programs for professionals. Deborah began her apprenticeship with Michael in 1997 and worked exclusively as a support trainer for more than a decade before achieving the level of experience and skill required to accurately evaluate dogs and design training programs herself. We enjoy reading the latest research on canine behavior and learning and spending time with other accomplished trainers.
What types of customers have you worked with?
We really don't have a "common type" of job. At any given time we have trainers counseling puppy owners on housebreaking, socialization and character development, while others teach basic obedience or develop working dogs for service work, therapy-dog work or family protection. Like any trainer, each of our associates has particular strengths that we match with our clients needs. We do get excited about puppy work and feel that it's often the key to success. This may be why we have a reputation for producing happy, easy to live with companion dogs.
What advice would you give a customer looking to hire a provider in your area of work?
Look for meaningful credentials: certifications that go beyond a weekend workshop. Ask for references. Listen carefully to find out if the trainer has an agenda of their own for every dog or if they are hearing you and your dog speak about your individual needs. Ask to observe the trainer at private lesson or to see a current or recent Board & Train dog perform obedience.
For services that extend beyond a single lesson/consult the following should be obtained:
1. a written evaluation clearly describing your goals, your dogs temperament and the general approach to training.
2. a written training plan that takes your dog from evaluation to completion
What questions should customers think through before talking to professionals about their project?
Companion dogs, as opposed to working dogs (competition, service, herding, etc.) have less objective performance criteria. They don't "fail" in the same way a working dog might. As a result, many companion dog trainers are not focused on reaching goals or predicting results for their clients. They tend to promise everything and let the chips fall where they may. There's no reason this should be. The trainer should help the owner frame their goals with a clear road map to success and reassessments of progress along the way. In addition, It should be understood that trainers are not licensed professionals; they do not have to adhere to minimal standards of achievement, ethics or performance and no continuing education is required. It is up to the client to be diligent in researching the trainers credentials and demanding professional service.