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How to find the right dog trainer

Raising a dog to be a “good citizen” is something we strive for as pet parents. We want our puppies to grow up to be happy, healthy and well-behaved. When we walk down the street we want our dogs to walk calmly at our sides, not tug and drag us down the sidewalk and jump on passersby. To help us unlock our dog’s potential, we often seek the services of a professional dog trainer.

Finding a Dog Trainer

There are a plethora of dog training organizations, associations and groups. The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) is an independent certifying organization—offering trainer and behavioral courses, as well as continuing education. Also, the Association of Professional Dog Trainers—a paid membership organization—maintains a public directory of dog trainers.

According to Fetchfind’s Jaime Midgal (CPDT-KA), checking qualifications is important. “Most reputable dog trainers will have formal education and official certification. If you see CPDT-KA after their name, you know they’ve put in the hours to become a respected professional,” said Midgal.

What to Look for in a Dog Trainer

When looking for a dog trainer, seek one whose methods include positive reinforcement, not pain, fear or intimidation. Positive reinforcement methods have rapidly been gaining in popularity largely because pet parents have demanded it. 

Positive dog training expert Victoria Stilwell describes the “four pillars of positive training” as using positive reinforcement—praise, treats and other rewards; avoiding physical punishment, intimidation or fear; understanding misconceptions surrounding dominance theory; and having a trainer who understands the canine experience surrounding the training.

Here are some additional things to consider when evaluating dog trainers:

  • Do they use positive training and reinforcement methods?
  • Is the trainer asking questions to gain a complete understanding of the behaviors of your dog?
  • Can the trainer provide positive references from past and current clients? Do they have positive online reviews?
  • Does the trainer have credentials—education or certifications—and a proven track record of success?
  • Do you have rapport with the trainer? Do you feel comfortable taking instruction from them?
  • Does your dog exhibit defensive or frightened behavior with the trainer?

What Should you Ask a Potential Dog Trainer?

Larry Kay, award-winning author of the dog training best seller, Training The Best Dog Ever! says, “When looking for a trainer, find out the class structure, cost and what you need to bring. Ideally, the class should cover all the basic cues: sit, down, come/recall, stay, off, leash walking and socialization.”

Here are some additional things to ask when evaluating dog trainers:

  • How many dogs have you trained?
  • How long have you been training?
  • Can I speak with current clients?
  • What do you do to correct behavior?
  • What happens during your class sessions?
  • How many dogs could potentially be in the class?
  • Do you use rewards for good behavior? If so, what kind?
  • Do you assist in training the household?
  • Do you have adequate liability insurance?  

Fostering a Good Training Experience

Finding the right dog trainer is a personal decision based on research, experience and communication—and it starts with determining the qualities that are most important to you and your dog. Ask friends and family who they used to train their dogs; and ask your veterinarian for recommendations.

Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words MatterMy Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.

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