Choosing a Good Dog Trainer

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Continuing Education –

The trainer you choose should actively seek to improve his/her abilities by pursuing continuing education in the field. Professional Associations offer continuing education opportunities continually. In addition to continuing education through Professional Associations, the trainer should be able to explain what trainers they admire and why.

Choosing a good dog trainer means picking one who keeps on learning throughout his or her career.


Choosing a good dog trainer... not something you should take lightly. You’re going to be spending your hard-earned money so you want the trainer who can give you the results you want. Many clients contact us without having any idea of what to ask trainers before choosing one. Here are things to consider when choosing a good dog trainer.

Experience –

Just as you don’t want a first-year medical student to be allowed to do surgery on your kids, you don’t want a dog trainer who doesn’t have a lot of experience. Because it takes many years to become a real expert in training,I recommend trainers who have been in business for at least 15 years. Trainers need time to gain the experience needed to handle a very wide variety of temperaments and breeds. And, although each dog is unique, having worked for many years with a large number of dogs gives a truly experienced trainer a big edge over someone just starting out.

Price –

The cost of dog training goes hand-in-hand with experience. Since dog training is not a licensed profession in many areas anyone can claim to be a trainer. But the people who really have no idea what to do are going to charge you very little. They have to do that. Because it becomes very apparent very quickly that their “dog training expertise” is that they’ve watched a few dog training videos on YouTube they can't charge much.

Another reason someone may undercharge is that they're "hobby trainers." Dog training is not a career for them. Check out the hours a trainer is "open" whether they have a brick and mortar facility or work from home. Anyone who is only spending a few hours a day as a trainer should not be on your list of likely hires.

Besides the number of hours someone works at the profession a week, consider how they gained their knowledge? Is it from watching YouTube videos? Spending time in front of the television "learning" from reality television "trainers?" Choosing a good dog trainer means asking how the trainer became a dog trainer.

Choosing a good dog trainer may cost you more than you might expect. But, in the long run, you’ll save money. I have had many clients over the decades who paid for cheap training and ended up coming to me after having spent a few hundred dollars elsewhere. In fact, I recently trained a Newfoundland who had been through two training classes. The owners paid for 3 trainers when coming to an experienced trainer would have saved them the cost of the first two failed attempts.

Method of training –

Look for a trainer who can expertly utilize every method of training available. Balanced trainers will use the tools that will allow your dog to learn in the most gentle, pleasant method possible.

Purely positive trainers often cannot achieve the required results because not every training issue can be solved with a clicker and treats. If you choose a pp/ff (purely positive/force free) trainer and they tell you your dog's behavior problems cannot be corrected and the dog should be put to sleep please wait. Contact a balanced trainer for a second opinion!

If you do choose a "positive" or "force free" trainer and they tell you your dog's behavior cannot be corrected, please seek a balanced trainer for a second opinion. Don't just put your dog to sleep!

Professional organizations like the International Association of Canine Professionals and the Association of Professional Dog Trainers support the LIMA (least intrusive, minimally aversive) training method. These methods are safe, effective, and ultimately the most humane ways to train.

Professional Associations –

Joining and maintaining professional membership in Professional Associations shows a commitment to ensuring that the trainer has access to the most up-to-date methods, continuing education opportunities, and networking with other trainers. This means that the trainer is constantly gaining valuable, new information on the best training methods.

Questions for you –

Choosing a good dog trainer means answering a lot of questions about your dog, your family, your lifestyle, and more. This provides the information the trainer needs to choose the best training course and methods for your dog. A good trainer wants to know everything possible to ensure you get the best training!

References –

You should ask if the trainer can provide references. Some clients prefer that their phone numbers are not given out. In that case the trainer should be able to refer you to reviews or provide letters of reference.


Internet presence –

When I began training in the late ’70’s there was no internet. But in 2020 an established trainer should have an internet presence. Devoting time to maintaining a website and/or Facebook page for the business means that the trainer is interested in keeping the public in touch. A website is a great place for trainers to showcase photos and videos of dogs they’ve trained. Articles on things that are dangerous for dogs, or fun things to do with your dogs indicate a desire to help people, even those in different states or even different countries, with dog care.

Client follow up –

Trainers should not simply provide training then forget the client. The trainer you choose should be available to give suggestions and advice if you encounter problems with your dog. This doesn’t mean that the trainer will not have to charge you an additional fee if the issue is something unrelated to previous training and requires the trainer to work with the dog again. But if you have trouble with the things your trainer worked with you on, he or she should be there to assist.

Joyful Dogs of Michigan... a proud member of The International Association of Canine Professionals and the Association of Professional Dog Trainersas well as a Certified Evaluator for Therapy Pets Unlimited.

We continue to educate ourselves in the most current training methods, psychology, and philosophy of dog training.

Feel free to give us a call to discuss your training needs!