Training your dog is a necessity, though it can definitely test your patience and your dog’s resolve at times. If you are at your wits end with trying to get your dog to sit and stay, you may have to enlist the help of a dog trainer. There are thousands of them out there, so it’s important to choose the right one. 

Dog training is an unregulated industry so don’t make this decision lightly. Do your research before trusting any trainer with your furry family member. Go beyond trusting referrals and reviews, sit in on classes, and do your research to its fullest. We at Doggy Brace know how big of a decision this is and we wanted to give you our advice so you can choose a trainer both you and your dog love. 

What Type of Training Do You Need? 

If your dog needs help with the basics, then you’ll have no trouble finding a trainer to help. However, if they need more specialized training, then you’ll need a more specialized trainer. Therefore figuring out what type of training your dog needs should be the first step. 

First-time dog owners will likely need more hands-on training experience too. After all, dog trainers don’t just train dogs, they train you as well. That’s because proper dog training isn’t about “fixing” bad behaviors, it’s about teaching you and your dog how to respond to negative stimuli, to listen to each other, and to generally be better companions. 

That’s why we recommend you look for a trainer who provides more than just the basic training techniques. The more you understand your dog’s world and their actions, the better equipped you are to meet their needs.

Training lessons should also include information about dog behavior, dog communication, how dogs learn, the importance of socializing and advice on grooming and handling.

Find Matching Philosophy and Ethics

Not every dog trainer trains the same way and not every owner will be comfortable with all of their methods. Some trainers may use tools that you don’t agree with, such as choke chains or shock collars to get their attention — we don’t mean collars that “shock” the dog when they’re bad, but ones that give them a little notification, such as a vibration, that tells the dog “hey, attention now.” 

This is why some dog trainers call themselves force-free or humane dog trainers, to distinguish themselves from people who use aversive techniques such as electric shock, prong collars, leash ‘corrections’, ‘alpha rolls’ or the like. 

Look for a trainer who uses positive reinforcement training. They reward the dog for appropriate behavior and teach alternative behaviors in place of inappropriate ones, instead of punishing them for acting out. 

Look for Credentials 

There is no government regulated licensing process for dog trainers, however that doesn’t mean a trainer shouldn’t have credentials. Trainers can be educated through schooling, apprenticeships, and their own experience.  Certification with an organization like the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers is not mandatory for trainers, but it shows dedication.

Another elite credential is the Certificate in Training and Counseling. The CTC is an advanced, two-year program from the Academy for Dog Trainers, which covers both dog training and behaviour. The Academy is known as “the Harvard of Dog Training” and is run by world-renowned dog trainer Jean Donaldson. 

The CTC has Different Certifications 

Not all CTC certifications are the same. 

KPA CTP means that someone has taken the six-month Karen Pryor Academy Dog Trainer Professional program

VSA-CDT means that someone has graduated from the six-month Victoria Stilwell Academy Dog Training program. VSPDT means that someone is a licensed Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainer. To be accepted, trainers must have an education and at least two years experience, and be admitted through the process.

PMCT means that someone has taken the Pat Miller Certified Trainer course through Peaceable Paws. You can find a list of Pat Miller certified trainers, Peaceable Paws affiliates, and Academy graduates via Peaceable Paws.

How Do They Communicate with Your Dog AND You? 

Remember, the trained needs to work with both of you, so find one that communicates the way you both like. 

For your dog, do they use a baby voice or do they address them as if they were an adult? If they use a baby voice, find another trainer. Chances are, your dog associates this higher tone with praise and playtime, not with serious training. If they hear this, your dog won’t take their role as seriously as they should. On the flip side, if the trainer is too serious all the time, then your dog won’t be able to separate positive reinforcement from training. 

For you, find a trainer that stops to explain what they are doing, answers questions, and seeks buy-in from you. The trainer should listen to the pet parent’s goals and needs. They should never make a person feel bad or uneducated for asking about training methods or alternative solutions. They also shouldn’t dominate the training session — you are the alpha dog, not them. Your dog will need to see you as the alpha during training to ensure they listen to you, not just the trainer. 

Finally, make sure they speak to both of you with respect. The last thing you want are the words “bad dog” to come out of your trainer’s mouth, or for them to bad-mouth you as an owner. 

Beyond that, it’s all about their personality. Once you find one you like, stick with them and follow through with the training. Your dog will thank you for it!