In many ways, dog training goals – whether you are an owner or a trainer – can be much the same. We all want a well-behaved, well-mannered, happy, balanced, somewhat obedient dog.

We don’t want a robot, but certainly want a dog that fits in with our family and lifestyle. Whether you have a puppy or a new older dog, training begins the same way: Meeting with a trainer to set up a plan.

During the meeting, you should discuss current behavior concerns and what lies ahead in terms of what an owner can expect of a dog in relation to the dog’s history and age. You will probably discuss training styles, as they do differ. Setting up a daily routine once training begins is critical so that the entire family can work with the dog.

It is hoped that everyone will enjoy the training time, as it is also bonding time. Training sets the tone for your family relationship and we learn how the dog interacts differently with each family member.

Lots of dog owners will use resources from the internet in order to train the basics or to address early behavior concerns. For serious issues, it is still best to consult a trainer. The internet has many different approaches, but how do you know what is correct for you?

A one-on-one visit with a trainer is a much better way to begin – then you can use the internet to supplement, only if you trust the site and know how to discern the good from the bad.

There are so many theories and ways to train, how will you know which is best for your dog and family? If you keep moving from one to the other, then your dog training will lack the most important aspect – consistency.

Often trainers get a call once behavior issues have already imprinted themselves and now the owner has to unwind them. Truly it is so much easier to preempt these scenarios at the beginning of dog ownership by preparing them as to what to expect and therefore how to address.

Even an initial consult is helpful if you are embarking on your own training. One of the biggest issues a trainer faces if the owner has started “internet training” is that the order of what you should train, based upon age or history, has not been addressed properly. Therefore the training information is actually not appropriate for the specific dog.

Dog training is much like child training, in that a child goes to elementary school before middle school. Age plays an important element in what you train your dog and when.

Personally, I am primarily a positive reinforcement trainer but that doesn’t always suit every dog. If the training style isn’t suitable, a flexible trainer should refer you to someone more appropriate.

By the way, trainers are not always right! We are imperfect people just like you. But we honestly try to do the best for your dog. If in doubt, start with a consult or interview several trainers before you embark on your program. This will be important for your entire life with your dog.

Abby Bird is owner of Alphadog Training Academy.