How To Choose a Dog Trainer

  • Choosing a dog trainer doesn’t have to be complicated
  • Legitimate trainers have a certification from a reputable organization like CCPDT
  • There are many questions to consider when interviewing various trainers, and the technique they use is essential

Many folks during the pandemic brought dogs and puppies home but didn’t have opportunities to socialize and train them with a dog trainer due to COVID restrictions.

The stats are also staggering. According to the American Pet Products Association, 12.6 million households took pets between March and December 2020.

As a result, dog trainers are busy! And some dog owners are desperate. Even if you’re feeling anxious and in a hurry to find a trainer, it’s essential to choose someone certified with the same training philosophy as you. There are important questions to ask and criteria to follow when you’re doing research.

For example, do you want private lessons or group classes? As people go back to the office, private sessions in their homes (yards!) may be more convenient than having to run around to get to a dog class.

You may need to be patient as trainers are getting calls every day from new pet owners!

Train Dog Yorkie

A Yorkie enjoying a dog sport during a training class

A few reasons to consider training:

You may be a seasoned dog owner and have been training dogs for years. Or you may just have adopted your first dog ever! Regardless of which type of pet owner you are, there are many reasons you may need a trainer. Likewise, there are various stages of life when you may need a trainer – training isn’t just about puppies!

  • Leash techniques and learning to walk on a leash politely
  • Your home is busy, and your dog needs basic manners
  • Reactivity to other dogs or people is a common reason to bring in a trainer
  • Crate training for puppies and newly adopted dogs
  • Interest in dog sports (LINK TO dog sports here).
  • New puppy needs and basic training tips for littles
  • Upcoming travel with dogs and advice on keeping them safe
  • Post-surgical considerations to keep your dog busy while at home
  • Your dog is training to be a service animal

And just because your dog is a senior doesn’t mean they can’t learn new tricks! Older dogs LOVE to participate in dog sports!

Is dog training regulated?

Nope! Dog training is an unregulated industry. Yet every dog trainer should be certified with a CCPDT certification or another reputable type of dog training certification. So, for example, when you ask the trainer or interview them, ideally, they have a certificate from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), Victoria Stilwell Academy, or Karen Pryor Academy.

CCPDT is the best comprehensive certification for trainers, according to experts. There are two CCPDT certifications (you’ll see these letters after the trainer’s name) you’ll see listed, which may help you differentiate between the various types of trainers available. Some trainers have all three certifications!

Dog behavior consultant certification:

CBCC-KA or Certified Behavior Consultant Canine-Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA®) is the advanced certification for dog trainers who offer canine behavior modification.

Dog trainer certification:

There are two certifications, and you should ask when you interview possible trainers which they have!

  • CPDT- KA or Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA®) measures a broad range of knowledge and skills in ethology, learning theory, dog training technique, and instruction.
  • To have this next certification, you also need the one above.

CPDT-KSA or Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge and Skills Assessed (CPDT-KSA®) is a skills-based certification. It tests expert training and instruction skills through hands-on exercises.

What’s the APDT?

The Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) is also a great organization to search for trainers as many are members of this vital organization. This group also supports the least intrusive minimally aversive (LIMA) positive reinforcement techniques.

LIMA requires that trainers and behavior consultants use the “least intrusive, minimally aversive technique likely to succeed in achieving a training (or behavior change) objective with minimal risk of producing aversive side effects.” It is also a competence criterion, requiring that trainers and behavior consultants be adequately trained and skilled to ensure that the least intrusive and aversive procedure is used.

Group dog training class

Group dog training class

How do you interview a dog trainer?

Those certifications are essential! Every trainer needs to answer these questions, and you can even have these ready to email them in advance of an interview. These questions assume the trainers on your shortlist have some certification and are members of APDT.

  • Choose a trainer that is like-minded and shares the same value as you
  • Training ideally needs to start early, but at what stage of life is your doggo?
  • What about training methods? Equipment recommendations?
  • How is cost determined, and is there a training plan delivered for which you’re accountable?
  • What level of experience does the trainer have? What’s their specialty?
  • References always!
  • NOTHING IN LIFE IS FREE! is a common dog training technique used by many trainers, and it’s a best practice. Ask if the trainer follows this technique.

Also, add a few more questions here about your dog. For example, does your dog enjoy a game of tug versus a tasty dog treat when you reward them? Ask the trainer how they may address certain scenarios specific to your dog.

APDT trainer search tool

There is an APDT trainer tool if you’re looking for credible trainers but try asking our staff as we can recommend many local trainers with which we love to work: https://apps.apdt.com/eweb/DynamicPage.aspx?webcode=TrainerSearch

Our staff can answer any questions about what treats are best and what equipment to use before your class starts!

Most training classes you take will ask you to have a 6’ leash, a basic harness, a treat pouch, an array of high reward treats, and a hungry dog ready to learn. Our stores carry all this gear, and staff would love to meet your buddy to determine what tools may work best.


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