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Training should be a pleasure for you and your pet. If you are considering working with a trainer or attending a training class, please keep the criteria below in mind:

Signs Of A Good Trainer

  • Uses primarily reward-based training*

  • Methods are enjoyable for both humans and dogs

  • Behaves professionally and respectfully, communicates well with people and dogs

  • Teaches you how to train your dog. All family members are encouraged to participate

  • Good teacher: explains, demonstrates, allows time for owner to practice, personalizes advice, is available by phone or e-mail for follow-up

  • Collaborates appropriately with other professionals (veterinarian, behaviorists)

  • Knows limitations with behavior problems

  • Allows you to observe a class in advance

  • Requires vaccinations

  • Facility is secure, clean, and of adequate size

  • Experience, graduate degrees, meaningful certifications, continuing education

Signs Of Trainers To Avoid

  • Equipment recommended for basic obedience is  a choke collar, pinch collar, or shock collar*

  • You feel uncomfortable with what the trainer does or asks you to do to your dog

  • The trainer offers any kind of guarantee

  • Send-away trainers or “boot camps”

  • Refuses to use food rewards

  • Only qualification is living with dogs

  • Vague or defensive when explaining methods

  • Relies on dominance and wolf theory

  • Instructs you to knee chest, hit, forcibly hold down, frequently yank the collar

  • Recommends “alpha rolls”, “scruffing”, “helicoptering”, choking, or other painful methods*

  • Claims to specialize in specific breeds

  • Diagnoses medical conditions or recommends specific medications or medical treatments

*Why positive reinforcement?


  1. Good trainers: How to Identify one and why this is important to your practice of veterinary medicine Journal of Veterinary Behavior              (2006, vol. 1, pages 47-52)

  2. American Society of Veterinary Animal Behaviorists "How to Choose a Trainer"

  3. American College of Veterinary Behaviorists "How to Hire a Dog Trainer"

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