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10 Important Questions You Should be Asking A Dog Trainer; How to Choose The Trainer that's Right for You and Your Dog

By Edited Mar 14, 2016 1 2

Lady Training her English Springer Spaniel

Happy days, you brought home your new puppy.  The kids are happy, you are happy, and life is good.  Now what should you do next?  Find a good dog trainer.  Choosing the best dog trainer for you and your puppy is as simple as asking the right questions.

Allow me to arm you with some helpful insights of what to ask a perspective trainer, and the homework you need to do to get the most effective and talented trainer available.

To find reputable trainers in your area, get referrals from your friends, neighbors, and your vet.

You can also do an Internet search for dog training schools, and the associations that many trainers are members of. Associations such as the “APDT” - Association of Pet Dog Trainers, or the “NADOI” - National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors to name just a couple.  There are many other professional associations related to dog trainers, use them to your advantage.

These associations will have listings of dog trainers in your area that are searchable just by typing in your zip code. You will be able to get phone numbers or emails to communicate with these trainers.

When you have narrowed your search to two or three trainers ask the following questions in your interview.  The answers you get from these questions will benefit you greatly and make you feel more at ease with a new trainer.

  1. How long have they been training dogs professionally?
  2. Do they have any formal education in dog training?
  3. Do they own their own dog training business?
  4. Do they have insurance?  If they have their own dog training business they will  have insurance.  Don’t be afraid to ask for proof.
  5. Do they have referrals?  Call their referrals and ask if they were happy with the training provided.
  6. Ask what training methods they use and why?  You want to hear the words “positive dog training methods”.
  7. Are they affiliated with any dog training associations?
  8. What do they charge?  Just because their fee is higher than other trainers this does not always equal a better quality of training.
  9. Are they available for questions outside of the class setting?
  10. What kind of dog do they have?  If they don’t have a dog ask why.  A dog trainer without a dog?  Unless there is a special life circumstance, personally I would be concerned.  (It could be simply due to a living situation; such as their apartment doesn’t allow pets).

Sheltie Puppy

A reputable dog trainer will be happy to answer these questions and give you references. Your trainer should also have an upbeat and happy attitude.

When you find a specific trainer that you are considering, ask if they teach group classes.  Ask if you could see one of their classes.  Generally, this is not a problem.

Check with your local pet store to see if they offer  dog training classes.  Most of the big named national chains offer training classes.  Most of these classes are held inside the store, so you can easily see their class as you are shopping for your pet supplies.

The nationally known chains have a specific dog training course that all their dog trainers must take, and pass their tests before being allowed to train a class on their own.

When observing a training class notice the size of the class.  Look at the ratio of dogs to trainers.  My personal preference is six dogs per one trainer.  This allows the trainer to answer your personal questions and will be able to give you a minute or two of one-on-one time even if it is after class.   Ask the store manager,  or the manager who oversees the dog-training program the same questions you would ask of the trainer.

When observing a puppy class, take notice that they allow for puppy potty breaks, and have supervised socialization time with the other puppies in the class.  Socialization is part of training.

To summarize, choosing a good dog trainer is just like choosing the right school for your child.  Ask for referrals, and the associations they belong to. Ask how long they have trained dogs professionally.  What method of training do they teach and what are their fees and refund policies.  Ask the trainer about their dog.  Call their referrals and ask if they would recommend this trainer. Take  time to see a class. Talk to friends, neighbors and your vet, they may know the perfect trainer for you to interview.

 If you have taken the time to have this conversation with the trainer you will know if they are the right choice for you and your puppy.  The most important thing of all, trust your judgment.  You will know that you have a good dog trainer.

Good luck with your new puppy and remember training is a lifelong commitment. 

Only dogs truly understand unconditional love and we want to get them started on the right path.



Aug 7, 2014 2:01am
Great article with helpful tips. Some people prefer clicker training. Personally I prefer hand and voice control. Simply if you happen to leave the clicker behind will you still have the same control. All dogs need to be vaccinated before going to any puppy classes too.

We have a Blue heeler and we took him to obedience training when he was six months old. I was the problem with the training as I was not good at having the correct sound to my voice when controlling him at first. If he has done something wrong he still needs to know the difference between right and wrong. Rated up.
Aug 7, 2014 5:29am
Hi Shar-On,
Thanks for the comment. Funny you should mention the clicker training. I recently did a guest post on a friends blog explaining clicker training. I explained how clicker training really helps the new trainers especially when it comes to timing. In the post I mentioned, If you should ever find yourself without the clicker learn to make a similar sound with you mouth, like the one uses to get a horses attention will work in a pinch. I too and more of a voice/hands signal trainer.

In a recent post I did on my own blog. I mention the fact that you should have the all clear from your vet before socializing with other puppies and dogs. Making sure your pet is completely immunized before socialization. It's funny how great mind think alike.
A Blue Heeler you have quite the breed there, not are they a beautiful breed, in my opinion, but an extremely active one . They definitely benefit from training, as I am sure you are well aware, they can take over if they don't have a leader/trainer to guide them.
Thanks again and best of luck with your dog, have you consider doing any agility training with him?
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