7 Reasons to Hire a Dog Trainer in a DIY World

Hound mix and Golden Retriever lazing on a couch

No one needs to teach us how to hold down couch cushions. They’re not going anywhere on our watch.

The Webster household is into DIY.

We rewired our house in Philadelphia without it becoming a home perm project. Our yard is filled with homemade agility equipment. I even cut my own hair for years.

So why would we work with a professional dog trainer? Why not just rely on the dozens of books on my shelf by Pat Miller, Suzanne Clothier, Patricia McConnell, and Ian Dunbar?

7 Reasons to Hire a Dog Trainer

1. We can’t see what a stranger can.

Do you ever find yourself puzzling over something just to have someone else come along and solve the riddle? Your dog trainer can see things about you and your dog that are hidden from you.

If you lean over every time you call your dog, you may not realize your body language is communicating something you don’t want it to.

But your trainer will.

2. Accountability.

Yeah, you can work with your dog every day on your own. But will you?


There’s nothing like having to show your progress to the trainer at the end of the week to get you scheduling those practice sessions.

3.  A trainer has seen it all.

How many dogs have you had? Four? Ten? One?

A professional dog trainer may have worked with hundreds of dogs. He’s not going to pass out when you tell him your dog eats poop… as it’s coming out of the cat.

4. A trainer reminds you to take your time.

Training goes slowly. You’ll make progress and you’ll have setbacks.

Your trainer will remind you of this. And encourage you to be calm and patient.

Why? Because she’s going home to her well-trained dogs and won’t be the one ordering Chinese carry out after your dog, during one of his setbacks, snags the chicken off the counter.

5. To gain access to the “tricks.”

You know how most people teach a dog to sit? They shout sit, sit, SIT! And don’t understand why the dog doesn’t do it.

You know how a trainer teaches a dog to sit? They move a really stinky treat up and over a dog’s nose until his balance shifts and he sits. Or they wait until the dog sits on his own, clicks to mark the behavior, and gives a treat. Or they… well, I’m not privy to all the secrets.

6. To learn more about how a dog thinks.

When our trainer suggested we get Honey to jump through the bicycle cart I wanted her to ride in, I didn’t get it.

But I get it now.

Not only did jumping through the cart teach Honey not to fear being trapped, it gave her something fun to do with the cart. And it’s absolutely impossible to be anything but happy when you’re jumping (unless the jump is out of an airplane after the movie villain took your parachute).

Don’t believe me? Try it. Jump or skip a few times while trying to scowl. I’ll wait.

See, you couldn’t do it, could you?

7. Your dog is worth a pro.

Hey, I think it’s great to train your dog yourself. It should be a part of your life together and will improve your bond day by day.

But isn’t your dog worth a few weeks or months learning how to unleash his full potential?

Golden Retriever with dog walk agility equipment

You don’t actually expect me to walk on that thing, do you? It doesn’t look safe. I’m fine here, thanks.

The Proof is In the Video

I have no video of Honey’s first training sessions. She was so frightened I didn’t want to increase her stress by introducing the camera.

She feared the Doggy Ride bike cart so much she once passed up a piece of salami because she’d have to put her head in past her comfort level. And we couldn’t get her to walk on a flat plywood board, much less walk up a moving ramp.

But I have some video now. Come back tomorrow for the debut of Something Wagging Productions starring Honey and co-starring Chérie.

You’ll laugh. You’ll cry (well, probably not). You’ll shout for joy!

Subscribe now to get an email reminder when the video is posted.

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  1. I am all about DIY, but our trainer saved us when Felix was a cowering, whining, fear biting “gotta protect my Mama” mess. I simply wasn’t equipped. Sometimes, even when I knew in my heart I was doing the right thing, having someone to say “YES!” gave me that confidence to train with certainty. (Here, in this moment, I just realized our Dog trainer trained me to. When I’d get the answer right she’d say “Yes!” just like she did for the dogs and pat me on the back. OMG!)

  2. I don’t know what you are talking about, my dogs are perfect, I can clearly see that:))

    This is good. We are in the process of building a dog cart for the dogs to work on their draft work. Building the cart is the easy part. Training the dogs to be one with the cart is going to be the hard part. We already made our first mistake by trying it out with them before it was completely ready, we had to make sure the bars were at the correct height, but the bars were not cut back so they were coming right up alongside the dogs. (It’s hard to explain) Sherman did fine which was surprising but Leroy freaked a little. You could see it in his eyes. I have already been talking with a trainer about the process we are going to take with this whole new adventure!
    I can’t wait to see the video!

    • Our trainer is getting ready to teach his Great Pyrenees to pull a cart. I’ve already volunteered Honey to be a passenger when he needs one. :)

      Our best lesson about making Honey comfortable with riding a cart is to only change one thing at a time. Apparently you can’t go too slow.

      I look forward to some great cart pictures from you soon.

  3. Looking forward to seeing the videos!!!! excited ears*

  4. OH!! Did honey get into the cart??? I can’t wait to see!!

  5. Something Wagging Productions? I’m intrigued. :)

    • I’ve been plotting for over 20 years to find some way for my husband to use his Radio/TV/Film degree. I gave up when I realized he couldn’t program a VCR. But I think I’ve gotten him to feel the fever. I hope this is the first of many video projects. :)

  6. Pretty much all of the reasons you listed are why I decided to go back to school to Gretel. The most helpful thing to us was for the third party to observe what we are already doing and offer suggestions that will help us be more successful. Also, the trainer can see your dog better than you. For example, one of the first signals that your dog might react badly to another dog is a closed mouth or clinched jaw. Since Gretel is only a foot tall it is hard for me to see that. The trainer could see and let me know when she was doing it. That way I was able to better recognize what it looks like from above (other, associated signals she might be giving).

    • That’s such a good example. I didn’t recognize the degree of stress Honey was under when we first started our current training regimen. It’s really helpful to have an independent eye.

  7. I’m a big fan of DIY training, of course, but we have a trainer we work with on a semi-regular basis. She helps when we get in a rut, gives me tons of ideas on new approaches, and has a ton of ideas for fun tricks. Most importantly, though, she observes things that I’m doing that affect the dogs. I feel like having a trainer work with you is sort of like an athlete having a coach or a musician having a teacher.

  8. Great list! Even if you think you know what you’re doing, having a trainer can be helpful for all the reasons listed. In this DIY society, sometimes people aren’t really aware of when they need actual help, or they’re embarrassed to ask fo rit.

    • We have an awful lot of television that tells us we can do everything by ourselves. Maybe we can. But it won’t always be very good. :)

  9. Yay! I can’t wait to see Honey in real action!

    We have been training with our trainer pretty much non-stop since we began. I really like having the instruction as it gives me new things to work on all the time and provides a different perspective. In so many ways our dog trainer has also become a good friend. Though lately I have been contemplating taking a break from our structured classes and trying something a little different. We shall see.

    • I’ve enjoyed taking Honey to classes. But they’re sometimes a bit boring for her. She’s an easy, soft dog with a moderate energy level who wants to please. In other words, very easy to train. Which means we spend a bit of time sitting around while the class trainer is helping people with dogs who need a little more attention.

      I’ve found working one-on-one very interesting. And we go at a pace that works for us.

      Shiva is such a smart and quick dog I imagine it must be quite a challenge to keep her mind occupied in training.

  10. You made me laugh–my old girl Tashi once ate poop…as it was coming out of a goat! We called the goat Tashi’s little Pez dispenser.

    It’s absolutely true–when you are emotionally close to a situation you just can’t have a clear perspective on it…especially something as potentially upsetting as problem dog behaviors.

    Only thing I disagree with is the thing about dog trainers having well-trained dogs:)

  11. Dear Ms Pamela, my humans are too cheap to hire a private tootor for me. They did take me to skool one summer then they got lazy. I am home schooled. That is to say, I was home schooled since I am perfect and A Lady now.

    Does Honey or Cherie eat muffins as they’re being baked? How very awesome. ARGH YEK! I think The Typist is retching. That walkway looks mighty interesting. Are you training Honey to walk in a straight line? See, I never get to do fun stuff like that.

    Have a great weekend! Georgia X

    P.S. message from The Typist – I read your link. Wow! That boat gets VERY close to the whales. We’re not allowed to get so close to them here. What a great and brave thing they did though. Commercial fishing nets are the worst. Thank you so much for all your thoughts this week. I’ve really enjoyed your company. I hope Mike is surviving it okay! :) x

  12. Ooohhhh….looking forward to the video! :-)

    Toby’s another poop eater, cat’s rear, his rear, Leah’s rear, he’s not finicky. Speaking of Toby, he’s been to twelve trainers. I kid you not. I’ve taken my messed up mutt to a dozen trainers, and he’s still not trained. :-) I do believe in going to trainers though (obviously).

    P.S. The names on your book shelf sounds a lot like mine!

  13. Other than the usual puppy classes early on, I’ve always tried the DIY route with trainer. Since I’m not very good at it and pretty lazy, it’s not a great way to go! Luckily the dogs have mostly been ok, despite my limited attempts to ‘home school’ them. But I think I’m going to have to break down and get a trainer for Rita. She’s mostly really great, but she has some issues on-leash that need work. I need to start asking around and figure out who to hire. Thanks for the reminder that I need to get on it!

  14. I think you’re so right about another person being able to look at your situation and offer a solution! I think that’s something I’d pay for during a lot of my problems if I could. I’m awfully curious about seeing that video, too!

  15. I can’t wait to see the video!! I tried the stinky treat over the head, and waiting it out to get Kobe to sit . . no luck! If he was mine, I would definitely seek the help of a pro!! I’m so used to my golden/aussie “all I want to do is please you” dog!! Great post!

  16. I so need to work Justus with a trainer just because I am lazy! Surprise! I want him to be my great go-to dog who can do anything but it ain’t happening though he has a mighty sit if he hears a sqeaky. He walks pretty well on a leash, too, comes when called (sometimes) but I can’t let him off leash – yet. Long term goal.
    The others all learned to behave while I set up their dinner bowls – they talk but don’t fight; I then hand everything out and all know where they need to go.
    Heading to the video right now! Anticipation :).

  17. My dog is perfect we don’t need a trainer. Well except for when what little information I have isn’t working or my dog chooses her way is better than mine. We have perfect team work, my dog and me, I command she counter commands.. Seriously I am al for training my own dog but not above getting outside help and critiques.

  18. Even though I trained a lot of dogs at our shelter, when I first got Jasper I decided that attending a class was important because of the first reason you listed. They see things you don’t. My friend Kate was a great trainer and I would hire her again.

  19. I agree. It’s very important to have a dog trainer. We take our guide dog puppies to class pretty much every week from the time we bring them home at 7 weeks of age until they start guide dog college at 18 months.

    We also work with Stetson with a professional K9 Nosework instructor and having an instructor with you during our Nosework training sessions is absolutely invaluable. You really don’t know what you’re not seeing until you work with a professional dog trainer. We’re hoping to start Linus on Nosework training in a few weeks :)

  20. For me I need to see the visual. It is just how I learn, I can read it all I want but when someone SHOWS me how to shape my command, well that’s a horse of a different color! I don’t mind DIY projects, but there are certain things worth paying for, a good positive trainer (IMO) is one of them. :-)

  21. Totally agree that a GOOD trainer is definitely worth it. Gotta find a good one though, they’re too not all created equal.

  22. All very good reasons. A trainer’s biggest challenge is usually training the owners to train their own dogs. :)

  23. Excellent points all! Dog training theory has advanced so much in the last decade or so that even those who think they know how to train a dog can learn a great deal from a trainer. I especially like your first point: Short of video-taping yourself working with your dog, it’s impossible for us to be fully aware of our actions as well as our dog’s. Trainers not only see what we can’t but know what to look for. (I’ve often said that dog trainers are really people trainers…)

  24. This is such a great post. I may need to link to it/display some of it on my future dog-training business website. :-)


  1. […] 7 Reasons to Hire a Dog Trainer in a DIY World. Such a great explanation as to why a dog trainer is a great investment. We’ve only had two classes with our trainer, and I feel like we’re already reaping the benefits! An excellent post from Pamela. (Something Wagging This Way Comes) […]