How to Find a Dog Trainer for YOUR Dog
Updated: Feb 8
Whether you have a service dog, an ESA, or a pet dog, finding a good dog trainer can be daunting. There are so many different techniques and styles out there and since anyone can call themselves a “dog trainer” regardless of their education and experience, how can you make sure that you’re getting a good trainer to help you?
Especially when you want help training a service dog, you must make sure that the trainer you are working with knows what they’re doing. It’s too easy to harm a dog’s training by using the wrong techniques (whether that’s reward-based or correction-based training), which can lead to having to wash a service dog that may have otherwise made it.
The first thing to look for is certification through an accredited organization, such as the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT). You can also look for educational certificates, such as from the Karen Pryor Academy or Catch Canine Trainers Academy to indicate in-depth education focused specifically on dog behavior and training.
When you’re looking for a good trainer, one of the easiest places to go to find good trainers is the CCPDT’s “Find a Dog Pro.” You can then search by the area you are in and find trainers who have been certified by the CCPDT, which requires a minimum of 300 hours experience and passing a thorough test based on science, behavior, and training knowledge.
Another great place to find trainers is the APDT’s “Trainer Search.” You can search by area through the APDT, but they also allow you to search by services offered, including service dogs as well as in-home training, group training, and more. APDT does not require that their members are certified by any specific organization, but trainers can list their certifications, so you can still find knowledgeable and experienced trainers.
Once you have found a trainer, you want to look through their website. What techniques do they use? You don’t want a trainer who starts with punishing methods which can easily break a soft dog. What training tools are they comfortable with? Do they use/recommend a flat collar, head halter, pinch collar? What techniques do they use? Reward-based training is how you want to start, though make sure that they’re comfortable getting away from rewards, too.
Look for red flags such as using the words “alpha” or “dominance,” the term “bootcamp,” if they use primarily punishment-based methods, if they guarantee that your dog will behave (especially within 2 months or less), if they always/only use one technique that “works for every dog,” or similar phrases. Any of these should make you wary of the trainer and have you looking for someone else.
If they seem like a possibility, setup a call with them so that you can ask for more details. Make sure to ask about training techniques, experience (especially with service dogs!), and how their training process works (how long does it take? How do they decide what technique is best for your dog?). If you feel comfortable with their answers, setup a meeting.
If at any point, you feel uncomfortable with the trainer or like they won’t be able to help you, move on. Just because a dog trainer guarantees results if you just do it their way doesn’t mean you should ever use techniques you are uncomfortable with. There are thousands of dog trainers out there and not all will fit your unique situation and dog.