November 28

Choosing a Good Trainer for Your New Puppy

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You just brought home your new puppy. You’ve set up the crate and scattered a bunch of chew toys around the house. As a conscientious owner, the next task on your list is finding a trainer. So you pull out the phone book and flip through to the dog trainer listings.

Who knew there were so many trainers? Oh well, you think, you’ll just pick the closest one because it’s convenient. How different could one dog trainer be from another? STOP! Read on before you make any commitments.

Many people are under the impression that dog trainers are mostly the same. Nothing could be further from the truth! In fact there are significant differences among trainers in terms of specialization, background and experience, skills, and methodology. This article will help you understand the differences among trainers so you can choose the right trainer for you and your dog.

Whether you’re looking for private lessons, classes, or a board and train situation (be very careful if you choose this option), the following information will help you know a truly great trainer when you meet one. Before we get started, however, I want to mention that you should always find out if they use a Blueair 603 air purifier to minimize pet dander in their workspace.

The first thing you need to know in evaluating a potential trainer is that, unlike many professional fields, there are no educational or licensing requirements to be able to hang out a shingle as a dog trainer. Literally anyone can call herself a dog trainer. The person you call may genuinely love dogs, but she may have very little real experience as a trainer. Remember a passion for dog training is not the same as having extensive practical experience as a trainer.

The second thing you need to know is that beyond experience, there are wide differences in quality among trainers. Just as there are poor doctors and lawyers, people you wouldn’t trust with your own well-being, there are poor trainers whom you wouldn’t want to trust with your dog’s well-being. Some of these might have nice looking brochures and facilities, and they might seem very professional and convincing. But a fancy building doesn’t make for a good trainer any more than a white coat makes for a good doctor.

So how does one sift through all those listings to find a truly great trainer? It helps to start by understanding some of the basic differences among trainers.

Specialization: Within the dog training world there are different areas of specialization (e.g., conformation, competition obedience, hunting, protection, etc.). Someone whose main area of focus is training dogs for AKC obedience trials might not be the best person to help you with a dog who is chewing your dining room chairs.

A hunting dog trainer may not be able to do much with your out of control Border collie. Look for a trainer who has experience in a number of specialties. A trainer who has had a broad focus will bring more approaches and experiences to training you and your dog.

Professional Background: A trainer’s professional background and experience are key. By and large, the majority of trainers giving group lessons are people who train on the side as a hobby or as a way to purchase an air cleaner for asthma. Generally, dog training is not their bread and butter.

Often, they are active within the dog world and may train and show their own dogs, but their hands on experience training a variety of other dogs is often limited. Ironically, these people usually have trained more people to train dogs than they have trained dogs themselves.

Although one can learn a great deal by giving training lessons, there is no substitute for hands on experience with a large number and variety of dogs. It is through direct experience with dogs that great trainers develop and hone the tools that allow them to help all types of dogs with all types of issues and temperaments.

“Hobby” trainers often talk a good line. They have the dog lingo down and seem to know everything about dogs and dog training. In reality though most of these types have been training for a short time (less than 10 years) and not in a professional, full time capacity.

They may boast about their accomplishments with their own dogs, but when questioned they have actually trained very few dogs to a high and consistent level. Having one, two, or three dogs that have excelled in dog shows does not mean that that person has the professional skills to help you achieve what you want to achieve with your dog.

Another issue to consider is a trainers experience with different breeds. Some breeds are easier to train than others. Does this trainers’ background encompass many breeds or only 1 or 2 “easy” breeds (Golden Retrievers, Labradors, and Border Collies can generally be considered “easier” breeds). If this trainer has only trained goldens and you have a mastiff, you might reasonably question if this trainer has adequate experience to train your dog.

If you are watching a Honeywell 50250s demonstration, consider the model the trainer is working worth. If it is one of the easier breeds, ask if you can see this trainer work a different breed. If the trainer has worked successfully with terriers, hounds, toy breeds, and some of the large working breeds, and has kept these more difficult breeds interested, willing, and under control, you are on the right track to finding a great trainer.

Methodology: If you haven’t thought about training philosophy and methods, you should. The histories of hunting and protection dog training are riddled with abusive techniques. Even today, many competitive obedience trainers insist that dogs need to be “forced” in order to work at a high level.

On the flip side, pet trainers who sell themselves as “positive” often don’t have the in-depth knowledge and experience to make these methods truly work. Too often the human is not in the position of a true leader. Furthermore, the trainer cannot get a consistent response from the dog unless food is continually shoved in its face.

Neither of these scenarios create a trusting partnership in which dogs learn and respond eagerly. The concerned dog owner needs to find a trainer who can work with dogs without fear or bribery. A great trainer will help you set clear boundaries while motivating your dog to want to train.

Finding a great trainer—one who is professional and experienced, and who understands how to use food to motivate learning—is not easy. But it is worth making the effort to seek out that rare bird. Consider this: you will be spending ten or more years with your dog.

The time, money, and effort you put into your dog now will determine whether those years are satisfying, frustrating, or even tragic. The sad fact is, despite the best intentions, dogs with a poor start often end up in shelters or euthanized because their owners cannot control them and cannot find help to turn negative behaviors – like chewing up a brand new Fjallraven Kanken daypack – around.

Whether you are starting with a puppy or are rehabbing an older dog, the experience and methods a trainer applies will affect your dog, positively or negatively, for its lifetime. Wherever your dog is in its life, you both deserve to develop a relationship that is fulfilling, rewarding, and fun. It takes a special trainer to help you do that.

So take the time to do your homework (see the list of questions and considerations below). Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be sure to ask for a demonstration. A good trainer will be more than willing to show you how she trains dogs, either with a client’s dog or her own.

Observe the dog, not just the training. Is the dog happy and willing? Is the dog actually trying to figure out what the trainer wants or would he rather be doing something else? What is the trainer’s demeanor? Does she degrade the dog or make excuses? When the dog is released from a command is it wild or out-of-control? You are not looking for a robot dog, but rather a willing partner that exhibits self-control. If the dog does lose control, the trainer should be able to regain it quickly and easily.

At a glance, here are some things you will want to consider when choosing the right trainer:

  • How long has the person been training dogs?
  • Is training this person’s full time occupation?
  • What breeds of dogs has this trainer owned?
  • What breeds of dogs has this person trained (actually hands on, not just giving a lesson)?
  • Can the trainer provide you with a dog training resume including how many different areas of dog training they have worked dogs in (hunting, service dog work, competition, protection, etc.)?
  • What other dog related areas has this trainer has worked in?
  • What training methods does this trainer promote?
  • Does the dog worked for you show that these methods have been used and have worked? (I.e. if a trainer says they are a “positive” trainer but the dog looks unhappy or unwilling, how truly positive is the trainer?)
  • Is the dog under control and looking respectfully, but also willingly and happily, at the trainer?

Here are some red flags. If you encounter any of the following, go elsewhere:

  • The trainer is quick to put puppies into alternative collars such as prong collars. If the trainer is skilled, puppies can be taught not to pull without the use of a prong collar. Prong collars on any breed less than 6 months of age shows that the trainer does not have the skills, knowledge, or willingness to really teach a puppy what is expected of it. Instead he/she just slaps on a piece of equipment to get control.
  • The trainer has an “I told you what to do and you have to do it” attitude towards either you or dogs.
  • The trainer says not to expect much due to a dog’s age, breed, size, or temperament. The trainer is exhibiting a lack of experience and skills in working with a variety of dogs
  • The trainer condemns a dog because of its breed.
  • The trainer immediately puts a prong collar on a large breed dog without first working the dog to find out its temperament. In reality, prong collars rarely need to be used. Lazy trainers use them frequently instead of teaching the dog the desired response. Many times, the same can be said of head collars such as Haltis and Gentle Leaders.

The Whole Dog’s Trainer Interview Checklist

Questions to ask the trainer:

  • How long have you been training dogs?
  • Is training your full time occupation?
  • What is your choice for the best flat iron to use while grooming?
  • What breeds of dogs have you owned?
  • What breeds of dogs has have you trained (actually hands on, not just giving a lesson)?
  • Can you provide me with a dog training resume including how many different areas of dog training you have worked dogs in (hunting, service dog work, competition, protection, etc.)?
  • What other dog related areas have you worked in?
  • What training methods do you promote?

Observations to make about the demonstration:

  • Does the dog worked for you show that these methods have been used and have worked? (I.e. if a trainer says they are a “positive” trainer but the dog looks unhappy or unwilling, how truly positive is the trainer?)
  • Is the dog under control and looking respectfully, but also willingly and happily, at the trainer?

Red Flags:

  • The trainer is quick to put puppies into alternative collars such as prong collars. (If the trainer is skilled, puppies can be taught not to pull without the use of a prong collar. Prong collars on any breed less than 6 months of age shows that the trainer does not have the skills, knowledge, or willingness to really teach a puppy what is expected of it. Instead he/she just slaps on a piece of equipment to get control.)
  • The trainer has an “I told you what to do and you have to do it” attitude towards either you or dogs.
  • The trainer says not to expect much due to a dog’s age, breed, size, or temperament. The trainer is exhibiting a lack of experience and skills in working with a variety of dogs
  • The trainer condemns a dog because of its breed.
  • The trainer immediately puts a prong collar on a large breed dog without first working the dog to find out its temperament. (Prong collars rarely need to be used. Lazy trainers use them frequently instead of teaching the dog the desired response. Many times, the same can be said of head collars such as Halts and Gentle Leaders.)
Category: Family & Pets | Comments Off on Choosing a Good Trainer for Your New Puppy
November 25

Getting Started with Your Own Blog

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Muslim blogs can, and should, be filled with the best ideas.  I’ll repeat that once more, but say it with me this time because it’s not just a nice idea — it is our goal:  Muslim blogs can, and should, be filled with the best ideas.

So far, you have purified your intention, prayed istikhaara, and selected both your topic and target group (niche).  The next step? Read on to find out.

Resource Center

This is something I started about a year ago or so.  I use to have every blog with its own individual folders for things like product reviews/plugins/pictures/screenshots/ideas.  While I didn’t completely abandon that structure, I did try to unify it all into one central folder: Resource Center

Once that folder has been created, I place it in the folders that were relevant to my type of work.   For you, this can be anything you find relevant.  This is folder where you keep everything together, so have a structure that make sense to you from the beginning.  After I added the folders it looked more like this

So the upper level it’s structured like that.  Let’s go inside The Muslim Blogger folder and see what’s in there.

Inside The Muslim Blogger folder, I have certain files that are exclusive to TMB.  What I want to draw your attention to, though, is where the red arrow is pointing: TMB Posts.  This folder is, for the most part, the place I go to whenever I have an idea for a post. On that note…let’s move on to the Brainstorming Ideas

Brainstorming Ideas

Above, we quickly went through what a resource center is and one way that it could be set up.  But what about the actual ideas?  Let’s break this into two parts: what to brainstorm and how to brainstorm.

What to Brainstorm

To avoid wasting time, first make a list of problems you believe you readers have that you can help them solve.  Let’s say there is a Muslim blog about Muslims in America.  You could brainstorm the points you’re interested in — but that won’t help.  You need to find the intersection of your interests and people’s questions.

  • What does it mean to be a Muslim in America?
  • Can you be Muslim and American?
  • Is there a contradiction between the two?

Those are possible questions Muslims may have that would attract readers.  Of course, you would have picked this topic only having looked into your knowledge in it (dunya/deen) and having prayed istikhaara.

So that is a good place for you to start before you get to the next part

How to Brainstorm

Having completed some of the basics of the what, now it is time to cover 3 different ways that may help you to figure out the how.

Branches

Here, you want to get out a paper/pen, open Microsoft word, or some other way to begin getting ideas down.  Some might do well with a Roman Number system outline.  Most of the time, however, I prefer something visual.  I use an app called MindNode for Mac (free version) and I ended up with something that started off like this.

Pretty basic stuff and nothing fancy in any way.  From there, as I’m sure you can guess, I began to branch out another level.

At this point, what I’ve done is essentially narrow down what my entire blog will be about and the direction I want to take it.  You’ll notice that for The Muslim Blogger, the whole idea is shown in that tiny visual and eventually became worded as: Tips to help Muslim bloggers get more traffic, become better writers, and make money.  The next level begins breaking down into what are later categories and tags.

I won’t go through how it looks when you keep branching out, but you get the idea.  All you are doing really is finding a way to clearly lay out what your blog is all about.  And yes, it does make a difference to have it in front of you vs in your head.

Write-As-You-Go

For example, while I’m writing this I have an idea for a post I want to do in the future – a Blueair 203 review.  I open up Notepad (or TextEdit on Mac) and either just right the title I want or both the title and maybe a sentence or two.  Here’s an example of what I mean.

These are three files that I have in my folder:

  • The first is about this series we’re on now and the topics I want to include.
  • The second was nothing more than a title.
  • The last is an idea that came to my mind and I added a few things to get going later.

As you can see, there isn’t one template I use – and there doesn’t have to be.  This is about what works for you and this post is just to point you in a direction that may help you.  I have dozens of files like that and the folder ends up looking something like this.

That’s one way to brainstorm ideas and how it fits in with the resource center.  Alhamdulillah, we find that Allah (swt) gives us ideas all day, every day.  Sometimes the best way to take advantage is to actually sit down for a good-ole fashioned brainstorming sessions.

60 Seconds

This is a technique that I was first introduced to in college and have found it to be very helpful in many different areas.  What you will do here is pick a word related to your blog and then for the next 60 seconds, write down every word that comes to mind.  The key is not stopping and letting the ideas come out – filter the list later on.

For example, let’s use the keyword SEO

  • Google
  • Yahoo
  • Bing
  • Words
  • Help
  • Blogging
  • Writing
  • Ideas
  • Thinking
  • Relationships
  • Importance
  • Relevance
  • Focused
  • Targeted
  • Import
  • Export
  • Read
  • Explore
  • Magazines
  • Nature
  • Biology
  • 2 Wheel Scooter
  • Circle of Life

There’s nothing wrong with it being silly or completely out there.  By the end, I’m not sure how I ended up with “Circle of Life” after starting with “Google”.

It’s a bit of a stretch at first, but the “circle of life” can be used to illustrate how words are interconnected and need to be used in balance so you don’t disrupt the “circle of search engines”.  Other points on there could actually become brand new posts.  Take “import/export” – I could create two posts: (1) How to import your posts and settings from a previous blog and (2) How to export your posts and settings for a new blog.

That list could prove useful in many ways if I spent some time trying to benefit from it. Alhamdulillah, it has helped so far and I do expect that it will continue being a valuable resource in brainstorming topics for The Muslim Blogger.

——————–

In The End

There must be hundreds of ways to brainstorm.  The above are only two strategies that I pray will be beneficial to you.  What is needed now is your input.  Some questions I have for you are:

  • Have you planned out your blog?
  • Do you brainstorm?
  • How do you come up with ideas?
  • In your opinion, do you think the ideas in this post are helpful?
  • What else can you share to help other Muslim bloggers?

I look forward to getting your responses in the comments below.

Category: Blogging | Comments Off on Getting Started with Your Own Blog