How to Choose a Qualified Dog Trainer

As dog lovers we should check out who is teaching our dogs just as a parent would check out who is teaching their children. Dogs and puppies need to be taught manners and boundary lines just as children do. A well-behaved child is a joy to be around, and so is a well-behaved dog. Here are a few words of advice on choosing a great dog trainer.

One note to remember about dog trainers: they are not regulated through any agency, therefore you must be very careful in your choice. A person could be a painter, secretary or plumber one week, and a dog trainer the next. Do your research and check references carefully.

The title “certified trainer is not very meaningful unless the trainer is certified through a dog training organization which either 1) trains dogs for service work, 2) gives a credit equivalent to a college degree, or 3) is a Pet Dog Training organization like APDT or IACP. But there are also many good dog trainers that were self-taught. The best ones and those on the right track have gone on to further their knowledge by attending seminars, lectures and continuing education classes. Find out what education a trainer has and check records.

Many companies offer on-line certifications; this consists only of a short, written course, which, for a fee, they will send you a certification. This type of certification is actually meaningless. Dog trainers must be taught by an instructor that has years of practical and behavioral experience, preferably with a reputable school or service organization which teaches dogs to provide service for impaired individuals; this allows the trainer to understand behavioral and environmental problems along with learning obedience training.

The best way to find find a dog trainer that is trust worthy and has vast experience with dogs is through your veterinarian. Most vets have used or use a trainer and have most probably gone to one of their training classes. Veterinary referrals are very important because the vet has already had some form of feed back on the trainer and that is why they are recommending the trainer to you.

There are many behavior disorders that stem from medical problems. A competent dog trainer knows to rule out medical causes first and then distinguish between environmental problems and behavior problems, such as barking, chewing and digging. A quality trainer will have breed knowledge in order to explain to the owner why their dog might exhibit certain behaviors that have been bred into them for hundreds of years - for example: why a Border Collie might constantly nip your children, or why a Jack Russell might seem to be digging a hole to China.

Basic questions to ask when choosing a trainer:

  1. Ask for their educational background: schools, names and phone numbers and check these records.
  2. Dog trainers should provide at the very least 4 veterinary references including phone numbers and locations.
  3. Qualified trainers should be a member of a reputable pet professional organization such as the Association of Pet Dog Trainers or the International Association of Canine Professionals.
  4. Ask if you can watch the instructor teach a class. Ask the students in the class their opinion the trainer. Ask if the exercises are easy to follow, and what is expected from the dog every week.
  5. Ask what a trainer does to continue their education.
  6. Ask if any physical punishment is used. What kind of collars do they train with?
  7. How many years of dog training do they have as a professional (not as a hobby trainer or sport trainer)?
  8. What experience does the trainer have with fearful dogs, rescue dogs, high-anxiety dogs, aggressive dogs, dogs with excessive energy and dogs with obsessive compulsive disorders?
  9. Are they strictly obedience trainers or do they have behavioral experience? This is all inter-related when it comes to dog training. The trainer should have experience in both behavioral and obedience modification.
  10. What type of certification do they have? Where did they get it? Can you check the records of their certification?
  11. What is their success rate with aggressive dogs?
  12. Do they cure a dog of aggression? If they say yes, be wary. Aggression can be managed but until the dog can speak and say, " Hey I am cured" you can never be totally sure. Experienced trainers know that aggression is a on going work in progress and that aggression is manageable and not cured.

You can also read Susie's article on Dogs with Leash Aggression, Barrier Frustration and Crate Aggression.