Honestly, it's a bit of a complicated question. Unfortunately, the dog training industry is not regulated, and anyone can call themselves a dog trainer, no special degree, education, experience required. This is what makes things very tricky for you as pet parents to decipher, who is going to take the best care of your pup?
You go online to search, and type in dog trainer. Honestly the first five that pop up for me are five people I would never recommend due to their training methods, lack of credentials, and past experiences with the trainers. However, to the unsuspecting pet parent, you see some 5 star reviews and trust that this person is going to take good care of you and your dog. They say they're a dog trainer right?! Sometimes it goes fine, and a lot of times it does not, ending in increased fear and frustration, and sometimes even trauma for both you and the dog.
So how, do you find a good trainer for you?
First, talk with them, what are their credentials, what is their experience? Examples of credentials that a trainer should have are KPA-CTP, CCUI, IAABC-CDBC or CAABC, CPDT-KA or KSA, CBCC-KA. These ensure that the trainer has had to undergo testing and demonstrate their skill set, along with maintaining continuing education to further knowledge of training.
What methods do they utilize for training- are they in line with what you are comfortable with. Do they practice utilizing aversive training methods? If so, I would highly recommend against that trainer, please see linked position statement below. There is SO much research on dog training, and trainers that are not practicing the latest up to date, scientifically proven methods are not doing right by your or your pup. Trainers that discourage feeding treats should be avoided as well, we don't work for free so why should our pets?
Does the trainer's teaching style seem to fit yours, and does their personality fit yours? This is someone that you should be 100% comfortable working with. Training is not one or two sessions then done. It's not going to be over in just a few weeks. It's something that you'll need to keep working on throughout the lifetime of the pet, so having a good relationship with a good trainer is essential for when you hit bumps in the road.
Does the trainer offer guarantees? If so, they are unrealistic. Nobody can ever promise that any animal is going to do exactly what they think we will. We can't even do that with people, and we can talk! Behavior is complicated, there are no guarantees, there is no timeline on when we can guarantee something will be fixed. Setting realistic expectations for change should be the goal, along with always being sure to modify the plan as we go when something isn't working.
Do you feel like you know what your trainer is doing? Can you teach somebody else what they have been teaching you? Can you practice these skills with your own dog when you go home? Training is not just about teaching the dog, it's about teaching ourselves as well!
Avoid trainers who do not feel veterinary involvement is essential. A veterinarian should always be a part of the team when working through behavioral problems in pets. Ensuring that a baseline medical work-up has been performed is essential, and advice on potential behavioral medications may be required.
We are happy to help with behavior problems for your dogs and cats, and as always feel free to call or email us with any questions!