Choosing a Dog Trainer

Choosing a Dog Trainer

When choosing a Dog Trainer, selecting a Dog Obedience Training School or Problem Dog Behavior Counseling, Lionheart K9 offers some valid and worthwhile tips to help you make the right decision:

Whether you are looking for dog training tips on potty training a puppy, adult dog housebreaking, how to crate train a dog, or just basic dog training, it is important to feel comfortable with the person instructing you on how to train your dog. Lionheart K9’s Choosing a Dog Trainer page is designed to educate the prospective student on the qualities a Professional dog trainer or training Instructor must possess in order to make their personal dog training experience a pleasant and successful one.

When you decide what the most suitable venue of training for your dog will be, whether it is private, one-on-one dog training, a dog boot camp that offers training while the dog is boarding; it is important to know what qualifications your dog trainer or training instructor possesses to insure not only a safe and secure environment, but one structured to provide you with the knowledge to succeed!

Why is dog training so important?

Training your dog is not only important, but essential. It is important for you to provide proper veterinary care, food and exercise and training helps you accomplish those simple basic needs. For example, you go to the vet at least once a year for your dogs’ health exam and shots. As you walk into the clinic, you notice the anarchy of dogs barking and pulling their owners, often showing aggressive tendencies towards the other dogs or people. With a trained dog, not only are you capable of averting this behavior, but controlling your own dog sufficiently so that he presents a picture of calmness in the face of all of that calamity. Your vet compliments you on your dogs’ behavior because he is not only well behaved in the lobby, but easy to administer to in the exam room.

When you take your dog for walks, has it become a chore because he pulls or is unmanageable in the presence of even mild distractions, like cars or other dogs? Even things that pose no imminent threat, like dogs on leashes, across the road or behind a boundary fence. As a result, you stop taking your dog for walks because it is no longer enjoyable. This sets up a chain of events that is easily resolvable with basic obedience training. You are frustrated because your dog misbehaves. Your dog misbehaves because he lacks the self control that training provides. You stop taking him on outings as a result of his behavior, and he starts destroying things, becoming unmanageable at home, perhaps even becoming possessive of his toys around your family members. Maybe even aggressive. In other words, the kind of dog that ends up in shelters just because he is unruly. Every shelter and rescue on the face of the planet is filled with dogs like that.

Dogs are not born “well behaved”. They are made that way. Through the efforts of their owners and good dog training, they become the “dog I had as a kid” or “the dog I ALWAYS WANTED“.

Basic dog training serves not only as a means of control for owners, but it establishes a means of self control for dogs. You have seen the shy dog, the aggressive, out-of-control dog, or a myriad of other dog behavior that reflect badly on the dog. It seems to never transcend to the owner, or his responsibility to the dog. What behavior and obedience training does is to teach the dog internalization skills in the face of triggers. He learns that if he is compliant to a command, he is rewarded. In this simple act, the dog also learns SELF CONFIDENCE. He is repeatedly re-enforced for confident, self contained behavior and pretty soon, he believes it!

Good dog training is important. It serves as a safety net when boundary fences fail, someone accidentally leaves a door open, chains snap or any other material containment system fails. Dog obedience is important for the confidence of the owner in his ability to control his dog effectively in a society where Breed Specific Legislation may someday determine the breed of dog one owns because of the thoughtless behavior of careless owners. Obedience training is important to the welfare and well being of dogs, to keep them in their current homes, and the absence of simple obedience is the number one reason dogs are relinquished to shelters and rescues across the Nation.

What is “good dog training”?

The short answer is “Identifying the Problem, Visualizing a Solution and Implementing a Change”.

The Good Dog Training question is a multi-faceted one. Good training is the delivery of appropriate instruction to multiple species in a way that is understandable and achievable. Good Dog Training considers the individual dog, temperament, age, breed and environment and their owners. Good Dog Training is measured by output, it is not measured by any methodology.

Will a trainer be able to help with my dog’s behavior problems?

In all honesty, there is no real ‘magic’ to dog training. The majority of effective dog training is common sense. If you are opposed to a particular dog behavior, the quick solution is “Don’t let him do that!” The unfortunate reality is that a large percentage of folks who own dogs are not equipped to identify the problems until it’s too late. Take the common puppy behavior of mouthing for example. You bring the little guy home and you indulge his every whim. He sits next to you on the couch, chewing away madly on his favorite toy. You reach for the toy and he grabs your hand. He’s little now, but what happens if that behavior goes unchecked until your “little guy” becomes an adult? This does not mean that your dog is aggressive, but inappropriate mouthing behaviors can lead to increasingly aggressive dog behavior later on. Often what’s cute/excused/ignored in puppy behavior becomes an issue in adult dog behavior. The likelihood that there will be “carry-over” behaviors from puppy to adult is 100%. This is where dog trainers come in.

Dog training is constantly evolving. The competent dog trainer travels seamlessly between the ability to communicate effectively to the owners and to the dog. It looks a bit like magic when you see it transform a dog from an obnoxious liability to a calm, controllable and loving companion. Transforming that information into a salient image for the owners requires knowledge and skill. To an untrained eye, dog training looks easy when they watch the ‘dance’ between handler and animal. What it actually is portraying is the skill and knowledge amassed over many years and many dogs. Every dog is an equal contributor to a trainers’ skills and education. There have been many new things learned about dog behavior. A good dog trainer not only understands “why”, but is intuitive to the necessary changes that need to occur in order to intervene, avert and ultimately eliminate inappropriate dog behavior.

How do I locate a good dog trainer?

There are a lot of ways to determine the right dog trainer or training instructor for you. If you find yourself in the market for a dog trainer, as I had stated previously, there are dozens to choose from. If you look in your phone book under ‘KENNELS’ or ‘PET TRAINING’, I am sure you will see no less than a half dozen in your immediate area.

First determine what would best suit your specific need. Do you have a large reactive or aggressive dog who may prove difficult to handle in a group dog obedience class setting? Although there are trainers who accept this sort of dog in a group dog training class, myself included, safety issues for other participants need to be addressed, as does your own ability to physically handle your dog effectively. Perhaps a group dog training class is not your best choice. Don’t rule it out entirely, but if you are concerned about safety and you know your dog is difficult, maybe another tactic would work better.

If deciding on a dog trainer who offers private instruction; ask to audit a group class if they offer any, or arrange for a training demonstration which will give you an idea of how well the prospective trainer communicates both with the two-footed and the four-footed student. If possible, approach some of the students and ask their opinions of the instruction they have received. No dog trainer I know of will be concerned about this. They should welcome scrutiny by their peers as well as their prospective clients. If you ‘heard’ of a particular trainer through an acquaintance who may have had a dog in training with them, ask to see their dog work, ask to sit in on a private dog training session to assess the trainer for yourself.

If after all, you decide that perhaps your dog is better suited to a boarding facility where training will occur under contract, visit the trainer’s facility. Is it clean and secure? Will your dog be safe there? How often will your dog be handled on a daily basis? Will he live in a kennel or a home environment? See if there are dogs the trainer already has in training. Request to see them, or request referrals from that facility’s training program. There should be several. Of course you will never see a bad review, but get as much information as you can collect on the prospective trainer, their facility and past clients. Again, no COMPETENT, Professional dog trainer should refuse your requests. If they have nothing to hide, then they have nothing to fear.

When it’s time to choose, keep these things in mind;

  • A Competent Training Instructor will permit and encourage you to audit classes already in session before you make a commitment to enroll.
  • A Competent Training Instructor will protect the HEALTH and well being of the class by requiring all canine participants to provide a verifiable veterinary record of all immunizations to date.
  • A Competent Training Instructor will protect the SAFETY of all participants by maintaining control over the class and the students in an effort to avoid conflicts that could result in injuries to owners or animals.
  • A Competent Training Instructor is approachable and willing to answer questions from the students and interacts confidently with the class.
  • A Competent Training Instructor will provide clear instructions and demonstrations of the behaviors being taught, either in written, oral or demonstration form.
  • A Competent Training Instructor will aide students during class time to execute proper techniques in the teaching of behaviors to their dogs.
  • A Competent Training Instructor is never ABUSIVE to their human or canine students.
  • A Competent Training Instructor is familiar with and is capable of demonstrating the correct application and use of a variety of training equipment and avoids the practice of adhering solely to one training principal, as one size does NOT fit all.
  • A Competent Training Instructor practices HUMANE training principals, with their ultimate goal being the willing cooperation and companionship of a well trained dog.
  • A Competent Training Instructor welcomes and encourages exchanges of information to the benefit of all the participants.
  • A Competent Training Instructor is committed to providing a positive experience for their students in a dynamic and educational environment.
  • A Competent Training Instructor should be prepared to provide additional assistance to struggling students to ensure a satisfactory experience that is both productive and worthwhile.

Dog training is dog training, isn’t it?

Well, no. It has become an INDUSTRY, contentious, convoluted and hotly debated. It is no longer a ‘sport’ for the competition-minded. It has invaded the pet market with a vengeance and there are factions akin to religious fanatics who follow a certain manifest regarding how dogs should be trained.

  • There is currently no legislation governing the dog training industry on a local, State or National level. Summarily, anyone can CLAIM to be a Dog Trainer.
  • There is currently no (nor has there ever been) an ORGANIZATIONAL BODY that regulates the criterion for Professional dog training, although there are Organizations (who are solely membership driven) that provide continuing education and testing criterion to help assess a person’s skills as a PROFESSIONAL DOG TRAINER. They also provide “Certification”, which essentially means that the applicant for certification has met that individual Organizations’ criterion for demonstrating a specific skill set or body of knowledge.
  • Dog Training Schools have been in existence for decades. For the price of admission, anyone can go to one of these schools. There are actually some very good ones, and I personally agree that every attempt should be made for a Professional dog trainer to continue their education in this evolving field. The best indicator of your success with any trainer will come when you ASSESS THEIR SKILLS FOR YOURSELF!

Before your physician is allowed to put his hands on you in private practice, he went to college, then on to Med School, then interned for quite a few years before being allowed to practice medicine on a living human being; a field which has a Standards of Practice, A Code of Ethics and laws regulating the extent of the “practice” component of the Physician’s license. Professional dog training provides no such measures. The best way to protect yourself and your dog? Research, observe and ask questions germane to your set of circumstances.

The best way to measure a Dog Trainer’s skill is to watch him work some dogs. Period.


Lionheart K9 has over 4 decades of established practical, hands-on dog training experience, perfecting skills generated from pursuing ongoing education and thousands of students. Through the persistent study of dog behavior and the ever-evolving dog training industry, Linda Kaim of Lionheart K9 continues to revises and perfects her skills to provide you with imaginative and comprehensive, Effective, Results Oriented dog training.