How to Find the Best Dog Trainer

Finding a dog trainer can be a daunting task.

It’s an unregulated field, so it’s tough to know who’s legit—and who could potentially put your dog at risk. Thankfully, animal behavior research has evolved over the years, and there are many more science-based positive reinforcement trainers all over the country. But, how do you find the right fit for your dog? Here are five tips to help you find the best dog trainer.

Gather Recommendations

Have a friend or neighbor with a perfectly-behaved dog? Ask her who she used! Conversely, if you know someone whose dog struggles with behavior issues, ask that person who they’ve worked with. Another great way to get suggestions is through crowd sourcing on social media. Post on Facebook a request for suggestions. Also note any bad experiences your friends mention.

Research Online

For trainers who received glowing reviews from your friends, look up their business website and Facebook page. Review their listing on your local Better Business Bureau website, and check Yelp and Google for other first-person reviews. In the meantime, you can also check searchable databases for science-based trainers. Here are three: The Association of Professional Dog Trainers, Victoria Stilwell Licensed Dog Trainers, and Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partners.

Observe Classes

When you’ve narrowed down the list to your top couple choices, call the facility or trainer and request to observe a few classes without your dog. Ideally you’ll be able to watch a session of the class you’re interested in, but if that’s not possible, observing a couple sessions of other classes can give you an idea of the trainer’s personality and the structure. Because so much of dog training is really people training, it’s critical that you and the trainer can work well together, particularly if you’re hiring this person for individual sessions rather than group classes.

Arrange to Meet-and-Greet

While it’s important that you work well with the trainer, it’s vital for your dog to be comfortable, too. Some dogs love new people and places. If your dog is one of those happy-go-lucky types, good for you! And you can probably skip this step. However, if your dog is a nervous nelly around new people or in new places, request a one-on-one greeting with the trainer. If you’ve already decided on a person or place, simply show up early before the first class—with your trainer’s approval, of course—to introduce your dog before the session begins.

Trust Your Gut

Working with a trainer can be an incredible, life-changing experience for both you and your dog. Once you’ve gotten to this point, it’s likely you have a feeling about who’s the best trainer for you and your pup. Trust your instincts.

Meet the Author: Maggie Marton

Maggie is a writer and author, whose first book, Clicker Dog Training: The Better Path to a Well-Behaved Pup was published by Open Air Publishing. When she's not writing (or reading books about grammar), she teaches writing courses to college students and professionals who want to nail down the basics of communication. Outside of work, she hikes, throws dinner parties, plays with her three dogs and cat, and travels as much as possible.

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