Not to say I have not broke this rule IF the trainer comes super-highly recommended from someone I completely trust in their ability to handle and knowledge of their own dog, but generally speaking, I think it is an A+ practice to "interview" or observe the person you are thinking of hiring to entrust with your dog.
Right now, for example, I am looking for a trainer/trainers to work with me and my dogs in several different capacities, including PSA (Protection Sports) and competition obedience.
NOW, this is where many people will say the classic, "Aren't you a trainer??" The answer is obvious: yes, I am. The reasons I like to work with other. (good) trainers, in a nutshell, include but are not limited to the following:
> I love the experience of being the student. It is super helpful as a trainer to experience training from the student perspective, and also, I just loved being the pupil! It is awesome to just be in a class, and for the hour, it's all about me and my dog, without having to have eyes all over the place, regulating a class :)
> You can always learn from another trainer, no matter what. As a trainer, you can't be an expert in every facet of dog training; you just can't. There is competitive obedience (and even there, there's UKC, AKC, CDSP, etc.), rally, agility, dockdogs, protection sports (PSA, Shutzhund, French ring, etc.), lure-coursing, K9s, military war dogs, nosework, behavior modification (dog-aggression, human-aggression, excessive fear, etc.), canine freestyle, conformation, flyball, disc dog, herding, hunting dogs, doggie drill teams... you see where I'm going with this. I think a trainer should, throughout their career, stay humble enough to know that there is always more to learn, and training with someone whose expertise lies in a different facet or method is always a great way to expand your own knowledge. That is one more reason why I continue to train under other trainers.
> I take group classes with my boyz for the same reasons I recommend them to certain clients: the dog is learning and working amid distractions, for socialization (remember that dogs do not need to be playing to be socializing), proofing the skills you already have, and also... for the fun of it! :)
> When you have a multi-dog household, the one on one time with each dog is invaluable. They need time with you, and they need time away from each other! I love working with my dogs - all very different - one-on-one under instruction from a great trainer, because as always, as an observer, they see things I don't see, and the feedback can be SO helpful in improving my dogs as well as my skills as a trainer.
I am sure I could add to that, but for now, that should answer the "but aren't you a trainer? Why would you pay for training?" question.
That being said, the original reason I decided to put "pen to paper" on this subject was because I thought it might be helpful for those seeking a professional dog trainer to see the questions a professional dog trainer would ask while interviewing a potential professional dog trainer! :)
1) How long have you been professionally training?
2) What area(s) do you specialize in?
3) What kind(s) of dogs do you personally own? Do you compete in any canine sports? At what level?
4) What schooling and/or certifications do you have?
5) What methods/equipment do you employ?
6) Do you have any apprehension about certain breeds?
Now, first and foremost, there is not necessarily a "right" answer for any of these questions, i.e. just because someone doesn't compete in obedience doesn't mean they can't train pet obedience; because a trainer doesn't have initials after their name does not mean they aren't qualified, etc. ***Note*** There is no regulation/requirement in any U.S. state at this time regarding dog training, meaning anyone can go home, claim to be a professional and start charging people for "training." Hence, be mindful, be careful and do your research!
It is fair to say that you can find the answers to most of these questions regarding any given trainer that's been in the business for a while without actually "interviewing" them, but it won't give you the best idea of that trainer's personality or demeanor. Don't be afraid to send an email or place a phone call to find a trainer you really click with. Any good trainer will welcome questions and appreciate your commitment!
That, and "mad skills!" is what I will be looking for from the next new trainer I work with!