I have been sitting on this post for awhile. Letting the thoughts on it percolate as it were. But I am getting more and more annoyed as time goes by. I keep reading on some blogs the opinion of how trainers aren't any good unless they compete with their dogs through to a certain level in AKC events. I find that simply insulting. To me it equates as you can't teach a drivers education class unless you race in the Daytona 500. Wha...??? Perhaps overly dramatic but you get my point.
I think it comes down to what your goals are with your dogs. When you are looking for a trainer you need to find one that is qualified in what you want to teach your dog to do. Do you need behavior help or training help? (there can be a difference) Do you want to compete in specific events with your dog? Do you just want to teach good manners? Do you want to socialize your dog?
I have competed a little in the obedience ring. We did ok but it wasn't something I found all that much fun to do with my dog. And to be honest competing gives me the willies. I'm not sure why as I am not a shy person and do not get stage fright. I also have at least one dog that would fly though easily if I was interested. I am considering trying more Rally O someday as it seems much more realistic and fun than AKC obedience. You get to talk to your dogs during the course which I like. (And I have stewarded at many AKC shows in obedience for the local kennel club I am a member of so yes I do know what I am talking about.)
To say I am not a qualified trainer because I do not compete or haven't finished a dog in a sport seems short sighted. You can come to my house and see how my dogs act. You can watch me in public walking my dogs, or see us hanging out in the local dog store. Judge me for how I work with my dogs or how I work with clients dogs. Judge me for how my dogs behave. Judge me for the results my clients get with their dogs or how effective I am in getting the information to them. Just please, judge me for what I do, not what I don't do.
I work hard to continue my education in training methods and learning as much about canine behavior as possible. I attend seminars, read and work with dogs constantly to keep my skills fresh. If I don't have an answer to a problem, I admit it and find one. If I can't help a client, I refer them to someone who I think can. If they have a puppy I refer them to puppy classes first so their puppy gets the BEST start possible. (my training cannot make up for missed puppy socialization) To me this isn't just a job and an income, it is about helping dogs, no matter how I need to help an owner accomplish that.
So the bottom line is that you, the owner, needs to assess what you want from your dog and find the trainer that can best do that for you. Looking at what titles they have earned in the ring may not always be the best way to chose a trainer. There are many more questions to ask. Find out the methods they use and how their dogs are as family dogs. If you don't know what something means ask for clarification. Ask what they do for fun with their dogs. Find out why they became a trainer in the first place. Do they have any behavior knowledge? Not all trainers do unfortunately. Ask where they got their training to become a trainer. Who did they study with? (google their mentors online if you don't recognise the names they give you) Some self taught trainers are excellent and some are clueless. Not all trainers are created equal. (just like every other profession we have our duds too)
Competing in the obedience ring means teaching a dog a set of skills in a specific setting. But life with a dog is so much more than a few skills in an obedience ring. Sure if I want to drive in the Daytona 500 I should find someone with that experience, that makes sense. But not all of us want to get behind that particular wheel. It certainly doesn't mean we aren't qualified to drive the car.
My point is to ask questions. Got answers you are happy with and find a trainer that understands what you want and can provide that. It is your life with your dog we are talking about after all, one that hopefully will last a very long time.
Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray for biscuits at my feet.