How do I find the right trainer for me and my dog?

Choosing a dog trainer can be one of the most important decisions that you make in your dog’s life. The techniques that a trainer uses can make a lifelong impact on your dog. Therefore, it’s very important to choose your teacher wisely! Below are some guidelines that I hope you will find helpful. Remember, learning should be fun for both you and your dog!

Things to Consider

Reward-Based Training:

 There are numerous ways to train dogs. Each animal has their own way of learning and what motivates them. I prefer a choice/ reward, game-based teaching plan where the learner has the opportunity to get reinforced with food, toys, or play. Using things that motivate them rather than techniques that focus on using fear, intimidation, pain, or punishment, when the desired behavior isn’t achieved. Look for a trainer that uses only reward-based training and avoid any that advocate methods of physical force that can harm your pet such as hanging dogs by collars or hitting with their hands, feet, or leash jerks, that can do damage to your pet. We all learn much better when we are reinforced for good or desired choices.


Science and research indicate that dogs do not need to be physically punished to learn how we want them to behave and there are significant risks associated with using punishment (such as, inhibited learning and increasing fear that can escalate into aggressive behavior). Therefore, “trainers” that use choke chains, prong collars, shock collars and other methods of physical punishment as a training method, should be avoided at all costs. Even negative tones of voice, and harsh words, such as, “ah-ah” or “no!” will shatter a dog’s confidence and can teach them to avoid or be fearful (See the article on my website, “Dogs Don’t Understand Don’t!).

The use of punishment should not be used as a general approach. Use of punishment assumes that the animals always know exactly what humans expect from them and are willingly disobeying. The fact is animals don’t know how to do that. It’s not in their brain make-up. They are often “disobeying” because people have accidentally reinforced the wrong behaviors or have not communicated clearly (to the dog) the appropriate behaviors through clear teaching. No learner wants to be in a situation where they have to constantly be afraid of making a mistake.

Good Teacher

A good instructor should explain what behavior they are teaching, why it’s important and then demonstrate it. They should provide ample time to practice and assist students. They should be able to adapt their humane methods to the individual dog.

Continual Education:

Look for a trainer that’s certified and demonstrates continual self-education. A conscientious trainer will keep up-to-date with new training techniques, methods, and theories, and may attend workshops and conferences


A good trainer will be personable and respectful of both you and your dog. Additionally, avoid trainers that make you feel bad about the speed of progress that your dog is making.

Observe a Class:

Always ask to observe a class before attending. You need to make sure that the teaching style of the instructor will work with you and your dog. If the trainer doesn’t wish to have auditors, find another one that’s open to having you watch their methods with students. You can learn a lot by watching the other students with their dogs. Are they happy and having fun?

Do You Feel Comfortable?

Ultimately, you should feel comfortable doing whatever it is the trainer asks you to do to/with your dog.

There Are No Guarantees

Because of the variable and often unpredictable nature of behavior, a conscientious trainer cannot and will not guarantee the results of training. However, they should be willing to ensure satisfaction of their services.

Problem Behaviors

When it comes to problem behaviors, a good trainer should feel comfortable collaborating with your veterinarian and should know when to seek help from other professionals.

Reinforcement Builds Behavior:

No matter the behavior being demonstrated by the dog, good or bad, it will build when it’s reinforced, whether on purpose or inadvertently. A good trainer will show you how to build good reinforcers for the desired behaviors.

Your dog is doing the best it can with the education it’s been given, in the environment it’s been asked to perform. If your dog performs well at home but struggles elsewhere, a competent trainer will be able to shape a training plan for you and your dog so that you can be successful in other places.

Please leave me a comment at delany2000@gmail.com or visit my website: www.pawztivedawgs.com and let me know what you look for in a good dog trainer.

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