Dog Care 101 Tip #198: How To Choose A Dog Trainer

January is National Train Your Dog Month and one way to have the best-behaved dog on the block is to find a great dog trainer! is here to give you some tips and tricks to find the best trainer out there.  

Don’t be overwhelmed by the number of dog trainers you find in the phone book or online. Go to happy customers that you know will give you an honest opinion: your friends and family. Even ask your favorite animal shelter or vet whom they would recommend.

Qualifications & References
It’s obviously important that your dog trainer be experienced and competent. Most likely a trainer will have multiple sets of initials after their name. But what do they even mean? A quick check on Association of Pet Dog Trainers can tell you the trainer’s qualifications by the initials after their name. Since there is no required certification or licensing for a dog trainer, it’s even more important to know what formal knowledge a dog trainer possesses. Also directly ask the trainer how long they’ve been training and ask for references. Any legitimate dog trainer will have no issue putting you in touch with their past clients. You can also double check if a trainer is truly a part of a professional organization by checking the entity’s website.

Not all trainers will use the same methods to train your four-legged best friend. Research Dominance, Positive, Balanced and Specialized training methods and know which method your trainer could use. If you’re ever uncomfortable with a trainer’s method, find another trainer. Every trainer is different and so is every dog.

Private vs. Group Lessons
Once you know what kind of training methods you’re comfortable with, decide whether you want to have in-home, private lessons or group lessons. Positives for in-home sessions are training where your dog will spend the most time and having the undivided attention of the trainer. However, these lessons usually carry a high, per-hour charge. Group lessons are great because your dog receives much needed socialization from other dogs and people while becoming a well-behaved dog and they cost less.


Kinds of Classes
Basic obedience training is a standard class, but a trainer can be used for advanced obedience, therapy, confirmation, agility, sporting and even search and rescue.

Observe & Interview
When you’ve narrowed your list of trainers, ask to observe a training session. This will give you lots of great information about how training will go. You’ll see how your dog communicates with not only the dogs, but the owners and families involved. Is the trainer giving individual attention in a group setting? What is the class size? Is praise given frequently? Are people enjoying themselves? This observation time will help you see any red flags. If a trainer doesn’t allow you to observe, that is a major red flag.

Also ask the trainer directly:

  • Where and how did you learn to work with dogs?
  • What certificates do you hold?
  • How many dogs have graduated your class?
  • What is your training philosophy?
  • What reading materials do you suggest?
  • What references can you give me?

It’s understandable that you have to consider cost. As mentioned before, private lessons are usually on an hourly basis while group session are usually priced based on several weeks of lessons. Local animal shelters will sometimes subsidize the cost of classes if you’ve adopted from their shelter.

Ultimately, go with your instincts.
Choosing a dog trainer that feels right and makes you and your dog the most comfortable is as simple as doing a little research. However all the research in the world won’t be enough if you don’t feel comfortable.

When you have chosen a trainer, before you go:

  • Have your vet okay that your dog is healthy, up to date on shots and parasite-free.
  • Don’t feed your dog a large meal before class. Many trainers rely on the use of training treats to persuade or reward dogs.
  • Be prepared with equipment or paperwork per your trainer’s request.
  • Practice with your dog in between lessons.

What’s the best advice you can give someone looking for a dog trainer? Share your advice in the comments below!

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