The dog training industry is unregulated in many countries. Literally, anyone can call themselves a dog behaviorist or a dog trainer. When looking for a trainer, ask for certifications*, especially if you don’t know much about that trainer.
*At the end of this blog post, you’ll find a list of the recommended certifications (the US and some international).
In-person or online?
If you have a local trainer you like a lot, great! But if you don’t–or prefer remote meetings–many trainers work online. During the pandemic, it was often the only way to “see a trainer.” Many behaviors can be successfully addressed with cameras during online training sessions or group classes. Some trainers work exclusively online and offer training packages and programs.
In some cases, online sessions are more beneficial than in-person sessions. For example:
✔Easily distracted pups
SF Puppy Prep is a reputable dayschool for young puppies in San Francisco, CA. At first, the school offered a 60-minute complimentary in-home consultation. But as much as the trainers loved meeting with the puppies and their owners face-to-face, the playful and curious young pups often made it difficult for their owners to focus on the consultation. So
Sf Puppy Prep moved the consultations online, and the parents love it!
✔Dogs with Separation Anxiety
Sessions are done exclusively through remote one-on-one training to ease the stress on your already-anxious pup.
✔Young children and dogs (my domain!)
Parents reach out to us for various reasons: the dog is uncomfortable with young children, has been showing signs of stress, or worse, the dog snapped, growled, or bit a child. Young children are not very cooperative, so in-person training would be hard to execute, not to mention the ever-changing nap schedule. To best help the family, we rely on detailed forms and videos of the dog’s body language to develop a plan before the consultation. I recommend scheduling a consultation after bedtime or when the child is with a caregiver.
In-person obedience training works better pre-baby when it’s less about the child and more about the dog, but even those can be successfully done online.
If you are interested in booking a consultation with Dominika, fill out this short form.
How and where to find a (great) dog trainer.
- Word of mouth
- Recommendation from the local shelter, humane society, rescue group, veterinarian, vet tech, groomer, or local pet store.
- Dog Meets Baby follower: ”Our vet clinic had an in-house trainer, and many times, people in the waiting area would talk about how great he is.”
- If you have a good experience at a group-training facility, consider asking the trainer for private sessions or simply just for 1-1 training recommendations.
- Google, Yelp, or Nextdoor (USA) search can be hit or miss. Some people find the most amazing trainers this way, some not.
- Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook. Social media is a great way to learn about that trainer’s style, approach, and expertise. Talking from my personal experience, many parents who book private consultations with me have been following me on Instagram or have taken my online courses. Knowing a trainer (and their house, kids, and dogs) from social media makes the interaction easier.
- Business cards at pet stores, groomers, or veterinary offices.
Different dogs & different behaviors need different types of training. Here are our top tips for finding the best fit for your dog.
- If your dog has behavioral issues, look for a trainer who specializes in that area. Elizabeth: “The trainer had tons of experience working with aggressive dogs and was able to shed light on why our dog reacts so quickly and help us come up with ways to help avoid and manage future situations.”
- Look for dog training facilities that offer not only puppy classes but higher level obedience classes and dog sports (like agility or nose work) if you need an experienced trainer.
- If ongoing support is important to you, look for a trainer who offers a package with email or text support after the session or a membership.
- An experienced and well-educated trainer can be pricey and is frequently booked up. Usually, well worth the price, and wait if that works for your family.
Casey, Dog Meets Baby client from San Francisco: “I had a great experience finding trainers through SFSPCA before we moved across the country. Since then, I have mostly reviewed trainers' websites and looked for a certain language, photos, etc., to gain insight into their philosophy. We have a fearful dog, so I avoid anyone who references correction-based methods, the use of prongs, or choke collars. I look for “force-free,” “reward-based,” and “positive” as keywords.”
Types of training
Behavioral Consultations: For general manners training and the resolution of problem behaviors.
Private Coaching & Training: The trainer works with you and
your dog privately in your home or at whatever location the problem behavior dictates: dog parks, parking lots, playgrounds, etc., typically an hour-long training session. Depending on the behavior you want to address, it could be single or multiple sessions.
Boarding & Training: The dog stays at the trainer's house or facility for 14-21 days (could be longer). After B&T, the dog’s new skills are transitioned into their home through hand-over sessions where the owner learns the cues and how to use them effectively.
Day Training/n-home Private Training: The dog remains in your home while the trainer comes to train your dog. A package includes follow-up sessions with the family to ensure long-term success.
When it didn’t work out
- The trainer doesn’t have the qualifications to address the behaviors.
Kathryn, dog owner of a reactive rescue: “The person was knowledgeable on basics but didn’t have experience with nervous dogs who growl when strangers approach.”
- Training methodology, personality, and lack of support.
John, Dog Meets Baby follower: “The vet behaviorist was shaming us for not doing enough training. When we felt like we were doing the best we could. We stopped seeing her because we felt incredibly judged.” Note: Hearing this makes me really upset.
A dog trainer is not a magician
Training takes time, especially when addressing behavioral issues.
Owner compliance and commitment are essential factors, and the lack of either is frequently why training doesn’t work.
A good trainer should help you understand what can be achieved with training and management andwhat might not be possible.
Finding the right trainer is not only about finding a person to help you train your dog. It’s about finding someone who understands what you are going through, someone on your side who will support you and give you the tools you need for long-term success.
If your trainer is not a good match, don’t settle, there is a perfect trainer for everyone.
Dog Trainer Certification Programs
CTC - Certificate in Training and Counseling from The Academy for Dog Trainers
CPDT-KA - Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
CPDT-KSA - Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge and Skills Assessed from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
CBCC-KA - Certified Behavior Consultant Canine from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
KPA CTP - Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner from the Karen Pryor Academy
CTBC - Certificate in Training and Behavior Consultation from Dog Training Internship Academy
CDBC - Certified Dog Behavior Consultant from the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
ACDBC - Associate Certified Dog Behavior Consultant from the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC)
ABT - Animal Behaviour Technician from the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC)
CAB - Clinical Animal Behaviourist from the Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (APBC)
ABCDT - Animal Behavior College Certified Dog Trainer
CAAB/ACAAB - Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist/Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist from The Animal Behavior Society
PCT-A - Professional Canine Trainer, Accredited from The Pet Professional Guild’s Accreditation Board
PCBC-A - Professional Canine Behavior Consultant, Accredited from The Pet Professional Guild’s Accreditation Board
CTT-A - Canine Training Technician, Accredited from The Pet Professional Guild’s Accreditation Board
PMCT – Pat Miller Certified Trainer through Peaceable Paws
VSPDT - Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainer through the Victoria Stilwell Academy
DN-DCT - Dognostics Dog Training Certificate from Dognostics
DN-DBC - Dognostics Dog Behavior Consultant from Dognostics
CCDT - Catch Certified Dog Trainer from Catch Canine Trainers Academy
CSAT - The Separation Anxiety Certification Program from Malena DeMartini - Price
SA Pro Trainer - The Separation Anxiety Certification Program from Julie Naismith
FPPE - Family Paws Parent Educator
CBATI - Certified Behavior Adjustment Training Instructor for trainers working with aggressive and fearful dogs.
Fear Free Certified Professional - certification from Fear Free
Veterinary Medical Professionals (behavior as primary focus)
Veterinarians who are DACVB – Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behavior.
Veterinary technicians who are VTS - Veterinary Technician Specialist – Behavior.