How and What to Consider When Choosing a Trainer

When considering a trainer, most will mention that they are “positive” or “balanced” and that they are a “behaviorist” or that they are “certified”. They may suggest specific equipment to purchase. How much is really necessary?

Positive: one of the current buzz words but is not defined by the industry. I have met primarily shock collar trainers who describe themselves as positive. Ask the trainer to tell you how they define it. What training tools do they use and why?>

Balanced: another not defined buzz word. Again, ask them to define and describe their philosophy.

Behaviorist: Any one can call themselves a behaviorist (even my 11 year old niece). It does not have clout unless it is backed up by a postgraduate degree. For example, an Applied Animal Behaviorist has a masters or doctorate in animal behavior. A Certified Animal Behaviorist has been certified by the Animal Behavior Society (an outside of the education institutional group). A Veterinary Behaviorist is similar as it is a veterinarian with advanced study and is certified by the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.

Certified Dog Trainer: tricky. The question you want to ask is: who did the certification?

Was it the Certification Council for Professional Dog trainers ( They are an international and outside organization not associated with any dog-training group. By not associating with any dog-training association, their testing process is viewed as unbiased than if it were linked to a specific association, school or company. They do require continuing education classes or to retake the test every 3 years.

Was it a school? The two best schools are: San Francisco SPCA for Dog Training (the Harvard for dog trainers) or Karen Prior Academy for Animal Training & Behavior (she was training dolphins back in the 60’s and applied those training techniques to dogs). These two are well known internationally for their exceptionally high standards. Other schools may be known locally but do not command the reputation these two do within the industry.

9Was it a company? Companies will often certify their own employees after the employee has had a specific level of training education. Again, it is like the training school which certifies their own students.

Good people can be certified by their employer or graduate from a local training school. Good people can be great trainers but not certified by the CCPDT. It just depends on the individual.

Is this trainer a member of any dog training association? Do they attend seminars to learn updated information within the industry? Would they be willing to let you sit in on a class? Are the students treated with respected? Are the dogs look happy to come or do they show signs of fear?

Equipment: this is the training tool like leashes or collars. Does the trainer allow choke chains or prong collars? What do they say about head harnesses or harnesses in general? It is important to ask what tools are allowed as well as why certain tools are not encouraged. Where do they suggest you purchase their suggested or required equipment? Is it easy to find in multiple locations or is it only available through them?

These are all questions to consider when trying to choose the right trainer for you and your dog.