Considerations for hiring a dog trainer for your retriever
If you have a retriever that you want trained for hunting or competing, you may be considering hiring a professional trainer. The first question many people ask is ‘How much does dog training cost?’
While cost is an important consideration, one that we will address here, it should not be the only one. There are many components that should be factored into the discussion.
How much does dog training cost?
Hiring a professional retriever trainer can cost anywhere from $500 to $1000+ per month. Good hunting and/or competition training programs often last 3-6 months or longer. So, training is a significant investment. In addition to training costs, you may have to pay for the cost of live birds used to train your dog. Some trainers even charge for things like dog food and administering medications, so check the fine print.
But great dog training, like anything, cannot be defined solely by price. There are people who will train your dog for little money, but they may be heavy handed and will break your dogs spirit, or they may be training 30-60 dogs each day, so each dog is getting very little time and energy each day. That is why we urge you to look at more than just price when selecting a professional dog trainer for your hunting or competition dog.
Ask these questions when hiring a professional dog trainer for your retriever
Here are some questions to ask when picking a professional dog trainer for your retriever.
How much time is your dog being trained?
When choosing a dog trainer, it is important to consider how much time your dog will actually be trained. This is a lot like considering the teacher-to-student ratio at a school. Less students per class is usually better because each student gets more time with the instructor. This is the same with dog training.
Here at Otter Tail Kennels, we train a maximum of eight client dogs. This is not always easy because we have to turn away a lot of dogs. But we want each dog to get lots of individual attention and we do not want to have to rush through training to make sure we get done each day.
We train each dog twice a day and we don’t limit the training to specific amount of time. Instead, we work on teaching concepts. We plan what concept we want the dog to learn in each session and work with the dog until they understand the concept, no matter how long it takes.
Who is actually training your dog?
What you might not know is that when you hire a professional dog trainer, that may not be the person who is actually doing the training on your dog. Many kennels employ assistant trainers. If your dog gets assigned to an assistant, the professional you hired may never actually touch your dog. This may turn out fine. But assistants are often people learning to train. And in this case your dog may be the test subject for someone with little actual training experience.
Otter Tail Kennels does not employ any assistants. My husband and I are the only trainers. We have over 30 years of experience training retrievers for hunting and hunt tests, and we treat each dog like it is our own.
What methods of training does the trainer use?
There are many different methods of dog training and they are not all equal. We have trained dogs that came to us after the owner pulled them from another professional trainer. Some of those dogs arrive very skittish, scared and broken. It often takes us weeks or months to build those dogs back up to happy, energetic, fun loving dogs.
At Otter Tail Kennels, we pride ourselves on producing happy dogs that love to work. We teach your dog with firm and consistent expectations, but we work to build each dog’s enthusiasm and foster their innate love to retrieve. The result is obedient dogs that work because they love to work.
Is your dog trainer using live and dead birds?
Believe it or not, there are dog training kennels out there that train hunting dogs using only dummies or dead fowl trainers. While these items have a place in retriever training, if you want an excellent and reliable gun dog, it is vital that your trainer is also using real, live ducks and/or pheasants for training.
Learn more in Why do I need to use birds to train my retriever?
Birds are used for the majority of marks done here at Otter Tail Kennels. Our dogs are comfortable picking up dead birds and chasing down live ones. They know what to expect in the field and are well prepared for it.
Is the dog trainer a specialist?
If your dog is a retriever and you are looking for training for hunting and/or hunt tests, I encourage you to select a trainer that specializes in that area. Some dog trainers train all breeds. This makes training tricky because not all breeds learn the same. Also, when it comes to hunting, different breeds have different skill sets. Pointers hunt different than flushers and so on.
Look for a kennel that trains only your specific breed or type of dog. Trainers who consider themselves a jack-of-all-trades are, as the saying goes, a master of none. Otter Tail Kennels specializes in training retriever breeds only.
Does the dog trainer have a proven track record/referrals?
The best way to learn about any professional trainer is to talk to past clients. Ask for referrals and then do the work, give them a call. This will give you instant insight about the trainer and the final product they turn out. In addition, you could look Google reviews.
If you plan to compete your retriever, you should consider the trainer’s record in competition. Do their dogs earn ribbons when competing in hunt tests or trials? Do they progress and advance through the tests?
Another great way to learn about a professional trainer is to watch them train. We invite any interested client to come watch us train.
We regularly provide referrals to potential clients. Our past clients love to talk about their experience with us and the successes of their retrievers both at home and in the field.
Does the dog trainers provide ongoing support?
This may be the most important consideration of all because the training does not end when you take your retriever home.
Does the trainer provide training for you, the owner? What if you get home and start having problems with your dog?
This is real life. Dogs are dogs, they are not machines. They are not going to be perfect every day for the rest of their lives. So, ongoing support is not only important, it is essential. And not just for you, but for your entire family.
This is where Otter Tail Kennels really shines. Included in your training costs is what we call a transition. During the transition, we spend several hours teaching you and your family what your retriever has learned and how to maintain that training. We let you get hands on and work with your dog, and we help you work through the questions and issues you may be having. Then, when you take the dog home, you have complete access to us for any questions or concerns that arise. No problem is too small.
Final thoughts on how much hunting dog training cost
Dog or retriever training is an investment in your dog. And while price might play a role in the decision, there are many other equally important considerations that need to be accounted for. It is only when all these considerations are factored in that you can measure the true worth of the service.
One last thought, many of you consider your dogs to be a part of your family. And indeed, they are. Having your retriever professionally trained can make that relationship even stronger because a well-trained retriever is a blessing to any home.
If you really want your retriever to grow and progress in his/her hunting this year but doing the training yourself sounds overwhelming or maybe your schedule is just too busy to get it done, I am here to help! You can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or just give me a call (651-303-6459). I would be happy to discuss your goals for your retriever and tell you about the programs I offer.
Until next time happy retrieving.