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Barks & Mewsings

The Trupanion blog

How to Choose the Right Dog Trainer for Your Pet

By: Brianna Gunter

A Jack Russell terrier sits up in front of a kneeling dog trainer on grass.

“A trained dog is a happy dog,” so the saying goes. And as many pet owners already know, dog training is essential to a pet’s safety and wellbeing, regardless of breed or size. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy task.

Training your dog on your own can be challenging, which is why many pet owners give up too soon. Even if you’ve successfully trained a previous pet, a new dog with a different personality can bring on a whole new set of struggles. Fortunately, you likely have multiple dog training services nearby that can help—there are over 7,000 professional dog trainers in the United States alone. But how do know which one is right for you?

8 tips for choosing a dog trainer

Whether you’re trying to teach your pal to use an agility course or are still working on basic commands, signing up with a local dog trainer can help both you and your dog reach next-level success. Follow these tips to find a dog trainer who’s the right fit for your pet:

1. Look for a certified dog trainer

Certification isn’t mandatory for dog trainers, but it’s still something that many who take the job seriously strive for. Looking for those who’ve completed a certification course and/or are registered with professional dog training organizations will help weed out those who view working with canines as just a hobby or side hustle. It’ll also help ensure that your dog is only subjected to safe, professional training techniques.

Reputable dog training certification programs in North America include:

  • Academy for Dog Trainers
  • Association of Animal Behavior Professionals
  • Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
  • International Association of Canine Professionals
  • Karen Pryor Academy
  • National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors
  • Victoria Stillwell Academy

2. Ask what their certification means

Any professional dog trainer should be happy to share information about their experience and the type(s) of certification they’ve received. It’s important to know that there are different types of dog trainer certification, each with their own specialization and peer review process. Additionally, some require renewal after a certain period of time.

3. Ask prospective trainers about their techniques

Once you’ve found a certified trainer you’re interested in, ask how they go about actually training your dog. Some good questions to ask are:

  • What is your dog training philosophy? Can all dogs be trained?
  • How involved with each training session will I be as the pet owner?
  • Do you use positive reinforcement / How are new concepts introduced and enforced?

Last but not least, talk about your own dog’s personality and any struggles you’ve been having with them. A good dog trainer will be able to tell you what their approach will be.

4. Find out what dog breeds they work with

Dog training is not a “one size fits all” approach. Many dog owners do not realize that trainers often specialize in specific dog breeds or simply have far more experience with certain types and sizes. While many dog trainers will state breed specialties on their website, it’s a good idea to ask for specifics.

5. Read reviews

Asking for dog trainer recommendations from friends is a good idea. That said, reading reviews is a great way to get the scoop on local dog trainers if you don’t have that many friends who’ve used them before, or you can’t seem to get any good recommendations.

While many dog trainers have reviews proudly displayed on their websites, be wary that these may not be reliable. Instead, look for reviews on sites like Google or Yelp. Read as many as you can to get an idea of how satisfied past clients are.

6. Check out a class

Still unsure if a dog trainer is right for you? You may be able to go watch a class from the sidelines or take a tour of the training space. This will allow you to see if the space is clean and safe, as well as give you a feel for the trainer’s style.

Some dog trainers even offer the first session for free, which is also a good opportunity to see how your pup does in a group setting. Likewise, many private dog trainers will be happy to meet with you and your pet in person to see if the situation is the right fit for everyone.

7. Compare costs

Some dog trainers may offer you more bang for your buck. When you have narrowed your options down, make a list of each trainer’s prices and what they offer. You may notice that one provides better value than another, or that there might be some costs you didn’t spot earlier.

8. Trust your instincts

Even if a program looks great on paper, it may not be the right fit if you have a bad feeling about it. So, after evaluating everything else, go with what your gut tells you. At the end of the day, you know what you want out of a dog trainer, and you know what’s best for your pet.

Insure your pet before dog training starts

Before taking your pal to his first dog training class, make sure he’s protected first. In fact, some dog trainers may even require proof of pet insurance before enrolling your pal.

Just like teachers, the right dog trainer for your pet will make all the difference. Before you make any decisions, be sure to do your research and ask plenty of questions upfront. While you may already have some ideas of what you’re looking for, keep these tips on hand to help.

A dog and cat snuggle

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We’re the official blog of Trupanion—chosen by veterinarians as the #1 pet insurance in America. Here you’ll find useful dog and cat care tips, interesting veterinary insights, and fun pet topics galore.

While you’re browsing our pet blog, please note that the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Trupanion. Our articles are reviewed by veterinarians for accuracy, but they are not a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. Always consult with your own pet’s veterinarian for advice.

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