Don’t Sign Up for Dog Training Until You Read This


Seriously. Don’t even sign up for my training until you read this. There are some things about how to pick a dog trainer that you should know.

  • Dog training is a completely unregulated industry.

    You read that right. There is not a single governing agency in the entire country that requires qualifications for becoming a dog trainer. It’s quite frightening. When I submitted my LLC paperwork with the state of Washington to open a dog training business, I was not asked if I had any credentials. Your hair stylist must have more credentials than your dog trainer.Therefore, it us up to you, the pet owner, to research the credentials of your prospective dog trainer. There are a few agencies that exist to educate and certify dog trainers. The most strict is the Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers ( This is the credential that I have. You know someone has it by the letters “CPDT-KA” after their name and then by verifying it on the CPDT website. (“KA” stands for “Knowledge Assessed”).

    There are many other respectable certifications out there. The Association of Profession Dog Trainers (APDT) has put together a nice list. Rather than reinvent the wheel, I’ll include the link here.


  • Your trainer should be an open book.

    If your trainer can’t or won’t explain their methods in a clear and concise manner, it’s a huge red flag. Additionally, your trainer should be able to reference studies and cite sources for why they chose the methods they choose. (Television is not a valid source.)

  • You should be able to sit in on a class to witness the training methods.

    If your trainer offers group classes, potential new clients should have the option of sitting in on a class to observe how the class is run. Obviously, this is not appropriate for all classes (shy dog classes, for example) but for a basic household manners class, you should be able to preview what you’re signing up for. If a trainer does not allow guests, that is a small warning flag that something off.

  • The training methods should be based in science, not what’s popular in the media.

    Oh, the media.  What are we going to do about the media? A trainer friend of mine once said, “Real dog training is not sexy. It’s slow, procedural, and makes for terrible television.” I couldn’t agree more! Much of the “training” you see in the media is based on studies done a few decades ago. This studies were done on wolves in captivity. Since then, the scientists behind the studies have retracted their results stating that their conclusions were wrong!

    The modern science behind dog training strongly indicates that positive reinforcement training is superior to alternative methods based in physical punishment. I highly encourage all pet owners to research the difference in the methods and be very, very wary of trainers that promise instant results. There is no such thing as a magic bullet for dog training.


  • Your trainer should be continuing their education on a regular basis.

    New studies are coming out all the time. New research is being done. This is a good thing! It improves the way we interact with our dogs. Your selected trainer should be keeping up on this new research. Many of the certifications for dog trainers (including the CPDT-KA which is the one I have) require that a minimum number of continuing education units be completed in order to keep the certification current. This means that a trainer must continuously seek out new ideas, new perspectives, and new information. Doesn’t that sound like the kind of trainer you want to work with?


  • Your trainer should require things of you.

    Other than the usual expectations (showing up to class on time and remembering to bring your dog), your trainer should have a baseline requirement of health for your dog. Your dog should have had at least its second round of shots if it’s a puppy. For an adult, it should be up to date on all shots. If playtime is going to be done in class, a negative fecal test in the last six months should be on record.

    Your trainer should not allow your dog in class if he or she has been vomiting or has diarrhea. This is for the health safety of your dog and the other dogs.

    If your trainer is “fine” with allowing unvaccinated dogs and dogs who are sick into class, then that is not a class you should be a part of! It’s impossible to prevent the spread of all diseases but a reasonable effort should be made!


Visit the training shop to sign up for the training that is right for you!

If you have any questions about how to pick a trainer or if you want to ask me questions about my training services, please feel free to contact me!