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November 2023 - How to find a Good Dog Trainer

Updated: May 21

Dog Training Tip

This is a reprint from the November 2023 newsletter.

How to find a Good Dog Trainer

A question I am asked often is how to find a good dog trainer. This is a great question because the dog training industry is not regulated. Anyone can call themself a dog trainer, so BUYER BEWARE!

Here are some things to know about dog training:

Training methods proven to help dogs learn without causing unwanted side effects, such as fear and behavior issues, are reward based training methods, also called positive reinforcement training.

Training methods that use aversive tools or aversive methods, alpha theory, and/or dominance theory have been proven to cause fear and behavior issues in dogs. Very serious behavior issues, such as severe aggression, can result from using these aversive tools and methods and are highly discouraged by the experts in animal behavior and dog training.

How to choose a good dog trainer:

  1. Ask them what training methods they use. If they say they use positive reinforcement, reward based, force-free training methods, these are good signs. If they use words such as "alpha", "dominance", and/or "submission", I suggest you walk away.

  2. Ask them what training tools they use. If they say they use a leash and harness, a leash and a flat collar, food, and/or toys, these are all good training tools. If they say they use e-collars, choke chains, prong collars, slip leads, bark collars, water sprays, penny jars, etc., WALK AWAY. These are all aversive tools and a red flag that the trainer is not properly educated in dog training or dog behavior.

  3. Ask them how they learned to train dogs. If they say things like "I've been around dogs my whole life", or "by watching TV", or "by watching youtube videos", etc., then WALK AWAY!

  4. Ask them what their qualifications are - how did they learn to be a dog trainer? Now this one is tricky, because there are organizations that give 'certifications', but since the industry is not regulated, anyone can give a certification and it may be meaningless. There are some very reliable organizations such as the Karen Pryer Academy (KPA) and the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), so you would need to evaluate this on a case by case basis by researching the organization to see what training methods they agree with and how they actually certify their members. Also, if a dog trainer tells you they carry a certification, I HIGHLY recommend you verify the trainer actually has this certification. I have encountered trainers who have told me they held specific and very sought after certifications, however when I contacted the agencies they said they were certified through I found out the trainer had never been certified through the organization. It is easy enough to go to the website of the organization and do a search for the trainer. If they are not found on the website, you can call or email the organization to verify.

  5. Check references. Ask to speak to other clients of the trainer to find out how the training sessions are conducted and how well the trainer was able to help them.

  6. Ask to observe a training class or session. This is a great way to observe the trainer in action and decide if you feel comfortable with them. While observing, if you see any of the dogs being trained wearing any of the aversive training tools mentioned above, or if you witness the trainer using any type of force on the dog, these are all red flags. If you see only positive reinforcement, reward based methods being used, this is a good sign that the trainer understands how a dog learns.

  7. One last thing, the trainer needs to be easy to communicate with. They need to be able to explain things in simple and understandable terms without using excessive industry lingo that may not be understandable to the lay person. They should be humble because nobody knows everything and once someone decides they are "the expert", that is when they stop learning. The most highly qualified dog trainers will tell you that they are still, and always will be, learning. They also need to respect that you are the person who lives with the dog and knows the dog the best, so they should be responsive to what you are telling them you are observing when at home with your dog and help you to navigate these things.

Choosing the right trainer is very important. It can mean the difference between having a dog with lifelong behavior issues if the wrong trainer is chosen, or, if the right trainer is chosen, having a dog who will be comfortable and confident living in a human world, and who you will have a wonderful and rewarding relationship with for the dogs entire life. So take the time and make the effort to choose well! You'll be glad you did.

Here is a link to a great article which gives additional information on choosing a dog trainer:

But what do you do if you haven't found a good dog trainer?

Here is some Good News!

You can easily learn to be your dogs trainer!

I want to share with you a fantastic online resource for puppy/dog training — Many of the educational courses are completely free, so please check out Guide to Getting a Dog, the Behavior Problems Crash Course and Quick Tips & Free Downloads where you'll be able to download Dr. Dunbar’s two free eBooks – BEFORE You Get Your Puppy and AFTER You Get Your Puppy, as well as many other wonderful resources, all completely free.

Should you want more in-depth information, the Top Dog Academy subscription is simply the best deal in dog training education, comprising hundreds of hours of videos and podcasts, three eBooks, and many downloadable resources that provide detailed instructions for preventing or resolving most common behavior problems and for training puppies and adolescent/adult dogs, so that your dog engages, pays attention and listens to you, even when off-leash, at a distance and distracted.

The Top Dog Academy is an unbeatable value at just $20.00 a month, but I have EVEN BETTER NEWS for you! If you use this link:

you can try it out for the first month for FREE! (it will automatically renew at the regular price of $20 USD a month when the trial ends, but you can cancel at that point if you like). There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee and you may easily cancel your subscription at any time. Since it's FREE for the first month, why not give it a try! You can always cancel it before the renewal and at least you will have gained a month of great information to help you train your dog!

Please share this information with your family and friends so they too can become their dogs trainer!

If you would like to support Buddy's Dream and our mission:

You can feel good knowing that every cent of your purchase goes directly to pay Buddy's rehabilitation expenses.

If you don't want to make a purchase but still would like to help, you can make a donation here. Any amount helps!

Note and disclaimer: All information in the blog posts on this site is my opinion based on my own experience rehabilitating an aggressive dog. I am not a professional behaviorist or otherwise involved in the Veterinary profession. If you are dealing with an aggressive dog, I recommend you seek the advice of a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist.

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