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Tip For Finding a Great Dog Trainer

By: Jeff Noce, Voyce President

Have you ever taken an obedience class with your pup? As a dog dad and a former professional dog trainer, I always tell people that it’s one of the best things you’ll ever do…for both of you!

The benefits of training are almost too numerous to count. Teaching your dog new skills boosts his confidence and self-esteem, improves the bond between you and makes him a pleasure to be around.

Before any of this happens, of course, you have to find a good trainer. But where do you start? Depending on the size of your town, there could be dozens to choose from.

Begin by asking your vet and dog-loving friends and family for referrals. The Better Business Bureau and online review sites are also a good option.

Narrow your choices to three to five trainers or facilities. Then call and ask if you can observe a session. This will give you an opportunity to see how the class is run, and most trainers are happy to let you sit in.

On the day of the class, go without your dog so you’re not distracted. If possible, arrive a little early so you can chat with the human students to get a feel for how they like the class and the trainer.

Once class is underway, pay special attention to the following:

  1. Is the facility clean and well organized?
  2. Do they require animals to be healthy and up-to-date on their vaccinations?
  3. Does everyone – dog and human – seem happy and relaxed?
  4. Is there ample space between each dog/handler team? Overcrowding can lead to tension and frustration.
  5. Does the trainer have good control of the class and keep things moving along?
  6. Does the trainer use positive reinforcement? Harsh, fear-based methods like hitting, kicking, choking, yanking and yelling should not be tolerated.
  7. Are instructions clear and easy to understand?
  8. If there are questions or concerns, does the trainer listen and take the time to work through it with the student?
  9. Does the trainer calmly handle dogs who are barking, whining or growling?
  10. Does class begin and end on time?

After the class is over, ask the trainer if you can have a few minutes to speak with him or her. If they’re preparing for the next class, schedule a time that’s better for them so you won’t be rushed.

Chat with them about their background, experience and training philosophy. Ask what types of certifications they have, if any? Are they members of any professional associations and if so, which ones? Have they taken any continuing education courses recently?

Keep in mind that there isn’t any one thing that makes a good trainer; it’s important to look at the whole picture. For example, if they don’t have a particular certification but have years of experience and a great track record, they may be a terrific choice.

Finally, before enrolling, pay attention to your own intuition and personal reactions. Do you feel comfortable with the trainer and their methods? Is the trainer’s style a good fit for your dog? If anything seems “off,” keep looking. With a little perseverance, you’ll eventually find the perfect trainer for both you and your pet.

I’d love to hear from you! If you have any questions that you’d like me to answer on the blog concerning health, wellness or behavior, drop me an email at

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Posted on Aug 16, 2015 by VOYCE Behavior & Training