Always interview at least three different trainers, and ask the following questions:

•What is their educational background in the area of dog training (and behavior if applicable)? What are their credentials and do they have any verifiable certifications? Look for and verify the letters after their name (CPDT-KA, ACAAB, CABC, KPA). To be a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAAB) they must have an advanced graduate degrees in the science of animal behavior, though some dog trainers will fraudulently call themselves a behaviorist. Ask where they received their degree.

•What method of training do they use?

•What is some recent continuing education that they have attended?

•What equipment do they use?

•Can they provide a list of clients you can contact for references?

•Do they belong to any professional associations, other than the organization or business that they work for, and if not, why not?

•Do they offer any specialized services?

A good trainer should be personable and respectful of both you and your dog. Avoid trainers who recommend using physical force (e.g. alpha rolling, pushing a dog into position, hitting, choke chain, shock collar or pinch collar correction) or methods/devices that have the potential for harm, as an acceptable way to train. Additionally, avoid trainers who use terms like Alpha, Dominance, Pack Leader, or any trainer who makes you feel bad about the speed of progress that your dog is making.

Avoid Trainers That:

  • Use Aversives. Choke collars, prong collars, hitting, dragging, strangling, loud noises, electric shock… this is not the way to treat your best friend and companion, and not conducive to a good learning environment, either. These devices have no place in modern training. Their use promotes pain, fear, aversion, suppression, hyper-reactivity, aggression and damaging changes to brain chemistry and function. Did you know that even police and military dogs are now being trained using modern, reward-based techniques?
  • Have all the answers. A good trainer is a life-long learner who is always looking to improve his instruction and techniques, and always on the lookout for more information and other ideas. He has a network of other trainers and behaviorists that he can call upon when he needs help. He regularly attends conferences and other learning opportunities. He can readily give book recommendations when asked.
  • Emphasis on dominance/alpha. The idea that pet owners need to exert dominance over their dogs is an outdated one. Being a good leader to your dog is about so much more than dominance and power. If the first lesson you receive is to not let your dog go through a door first because doing so would lessen your dominant role, or to not let your dog step ahead of you when walking, this may not be the right trainer for you. There are a lot of reasons to ask your dog to sit while you go through a door first, such as to avoid tripping over each other, to practice sitting and waiting or to ensure safety on the other side of the door — but dominance or being “alpha dog” should not be the emphasis in any training lesson. If the trainer suggests potentially dangerous “alpha rolls”, in which the owner or trainer holds the dog on his back until he succumbs, you should choose a different trainer. Many dominance-based trainers use the buzz words “positive reinforcement”, “balanced”, “eclectic”, because modern day behavioral science and the amount of evidence piling up against the use of aversive techniques threatens to undermine their businesses. NEVER LET ANYONE HURT YOUR DOG FOR ANY REASON. Your dog trusts you, so no matter how hard a trainer may try to convince you that you need to “correct” a behavior, it is your responsibility to make sure no one harms him. Dogs have the mental and emotional capacity of a three to five year old child. A good rule is, if you wouldn’t do it to a kid, don’t do it to your dog.