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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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