How to Choose a Dog Trainer

Interest in sending lovable, and sometimes challenging, dogs to training facilities has experienced a dramatic peak in recent years. With the craft itself constantly evolving, Iʼm happy to take my twenty years of dog training know-how and create a distinct list that will help owners find a facility, and a trainer thatʼs right for them. From basic obedience, to coaching problematic pooches, hereʼs a brief guide to assist in finding the right methods bring out the best in your family pet.
Dog Training Methods

Here’s a general “do’s” and “don’ts” list of what your trainer should be exhibiting. 

 Do’s
  • sit
  • stay
  • down
  • come
  • walk nicely on a leash
Dont’s
  • jump
  • pull on the leash
  • run or dart out an open door
  • dig
  • bite
  • act aggresively
  • chew

Each trainer will have different methods for reinforcing the dos and the don’ts. There are three main dog training methods to teach the dos and don’ts; lure-reward training, compulsion-praise training and marker-training. Keep in mind some trainers may use a combination.

1. Lure-reward training– is when a trainer shapes a desired behavior by luring the dog into the command with a food treat. The dog follows the treat and in doing so goes into the desired behavior such as sit or down. The dog sees the lure as a reward and they get the treat once the behavior is completed. The benefit with using this type of training is the dog is using their own mind to figure out how to get the treat and in doing so will typically learn the command quickly. A good lure-reward trainer will know how to phase out the use of treats and still have success with the dog training.

2. Compulsion – Praise training is when a trainer uses physical placement to get a dog to do the command. A trainer can apply pressure by pulling up with the leash or making a correction with a particular training collar. Some compulsion trainers will follow up a command well done with praise or food.

3. Marker-training is when a trainer uses a particular sound, word or click when a dog performs a command correctly. The sound of the clicker marks the instant the dog does the behavior correctly and can eliminate confusion for the dog. However, the dog owner must have good timing for this type of training to work well. In addition, the handler (dog owner) must be able to handle several things going on at one time: the leash, food for reward, the clicker and manipulate all these in coordination to get the dog to learn the behaviors. Behaviors can be captured, shaped, or lured.

At It’s a Dog’s World K-9 Academy, Inc., we primarily use lure-reward training. However, we will use a combination of all methods depending on the dog and owner’s needs. We encourage food lures to teach commands, but always work on weaning the dog off the food as quickly as possible. It is important when looking for a dog trainer to not only know the methods used to train dogs, but also know where they were educated and what certification they have obtained.

What Does A ‘Certified’ Dog Trainer Mean?
– There are many ways that one can become a professional dog trainer. Technical on line schools for dog training has resulted in a huge influx of new dog trainers ‘hanging up their shingle’ and starting their own businesses. Some trainers have apprenticed with an experienced dog trainer for a period of time before going out on their own. Others have gained their experience through working/volunteering in shelters and competing with their own dogs in dog sports. And, some dog trainers have attended a university or college in animal behavior and gained their experience through higher learning.

In any case, there is no required certification or licensing to become a professional dog trainer or behavior counselor. Certification is not mandatory, but it does imply that the dog trainer takes their profession seriously and is dedicated to continuing to grow in their education. Be aware that not all certifications are the same. Some dog trainers will claim that they or the trainers working for them are certified simply because they issued the certification. In other words, they offer “in house” certification. You can spot these trainers because they will simply claim they are certified and will not list where they received their certification. (See below for a list of “letters” that may follow a trainers name to understand where they received their certification.) Other dog trainers, have attended accredited schools to receive their certification from unbiased educators that use standardized criteria to pass. And yet others, are certified through independent certifying agencies that are not affiliated with any school or program. CCPDT (Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers) is one such agency.

We have included a list of some of the schools or programs that offer certifications. See the list below for certifications and their meanings:

  • ABCDT: Certified by (graduated from) Animal Behavior College
  • ABMA: Member of Animal Behavior Management Alliance
  • ACAAB: Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist by The Animal Behavior Society
  • BA: Bachelor’s of Arts Degree from an accredited college or university
  • BFA: Bachelor’s of Fine Arts Degree from an accredited college or university
  • BS (or BSc): Bachelor’s of Science Degree from an accredited college or university
  • CAAB: Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist by The Animal Behavior Society
  • CABC: Certified Animal Behavior Consultant through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
  • CDT: Certified Dog Trainer through the International Association of Canine Professionals
  • CPDT-KA: Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed through Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
  • CPDT-KSA: Certfied Pet Dog Trainer – Knowledge and Skills Assessed through Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers
  • MA: Masters Degree from an accredited college or university
  • NADOI: Endorsed by National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors

At Its A Dog’s World K-9 Academy, Inc .all of our dog trainers are certified trainers through accredited schools or programs. Karen Widaman is CPDT-KA through CCPDT.  Chris Mangrich, Kerianne Benkosky, Glenda Pate, & Russell McClain are ABCDT’s through Animal Behavior College. All of the dog trainers working for It’s A Dog’s World K-9 Academy, Inc. have gained additional knowledge of animal behavior in a variety of ways: working at zoos, competing in dog sports, or attending educational seminars by renowned dog trainers and behaviorists on a regular basis. It’s A Dog’s World K-9 Academy, Inc. has all their employed dog trainers go through a 6 month apprenticeship with a head dog trainer before being working individually with dog or clients.

A Note About Animal Behaviorists- Many dog trainers use the title “behaviorist” incorrectly. A Behaviorist is someone who has a doctorate level graduate degree. A Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist is a Behaviorist who is certified through the The Animal Behavior Society. Persons who do not meet these qualifications should not be using the term “behaviorist” to describe themselves – in this case, the terms behavior consultant, behavior counselor or behavior specialist are acceptable.

Keep in mind all dogs can be trained. If you or someone has said, “this dog cannot be trained,” then the training methods for that dog or breed are not working. It’s a Dog’s World K-9 Academy, Inc. evaluates each breed and adjusts the methodology to suit that individual dog’s needs.