trainer teaching dog to stay

Tips to Finding a Professional Dog Trainer

There are no legal certifications or education requirements for dog trainers. That means that anyone can say they are a dog trainer, even if they have no actual experience, education or training. This can make it difficult to know if you are hiring a true professional or not. If you find yourself looking for a dog trainer but cannot decide who to choose, there are a few tips that can help you find a qualified trainer.

Find a Trainer Who is Trained and Certified

A true professional dog trainer should have some type or formal education and should have experience training dogs other than their own.  There a few reputable dog training groups that can help you find a good trainer.

  • Certified Professional Dog Trainer (Knowledge Assessed or Knowledge and Skills Assessed)- these trainers have a required number of hours they must complete before they take a standardized test. To renew the certification, the trainer must get 36 continued education units within three years. (This means they must continue their education all of the time!)
  • Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner– these trainers take a 6-month course that involves hand on skills as well as written on-line course material. To become certified, these trainers must pass quizzes and tests based on the on-line material and they must demonstrate their skills in person with a dog (they also must demonstrate their training skills with another animal).  To renew, these trainers must also continue their education every year.
  • Pet Professional Guild– this is a group of people that all believe in positive, force free training.  To be in the group you must show that you are a positive, force free animal professional.
  • International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. This group has a variety of levels of membership and they have many educational opportunities.

A professional trainer should belong to at least one dog training organization and take continuing education courses on a regular basis. As an educated trainer, professionally certified by multiple organizations, and active in many such groups, I can attest to the difference it makes in success for both the trainer and their human and canine clients.

Look for a Trainer Who is Kind and Compassionate

A professional trainer will allow you to observe them training before you work together, and be willing to give you references. For training to be enjoyable and successful, it’s important for both you and your dog to feel comfortable and at ease with the trainer. They should be kind and compassionate towards you and your animals as they will need to work with you both. Ask them about their use of positive, force free techniques when training dogs. If anything seems off, trust your gut and your dog’s instincts and look for someone else.