Choosing the Right Trainer

Questions to ask when looking for the best trainer/behavior counselor for your situation

Ask yourself:

                  What are my specific concerns, needs, desires for my animal?

                 *Are these basic training issues, or behavioral concerns?

                *What type of training is the best fit- private, class, board & train.

A note about board and train programs-They generally focus on teaching the dog, not educating the human or improving the bond between human and animal. This type of program is best suited for animal requiring focused training for a specific task such as search dog, service dog, etc..

Always consider where the behavior occurs. If your dog only reacts to strangers in your home, a group class is not a good choice. 

             How involved do my family members need/want to be?

              What am I willing to pay for the right person? 

Money is always a concern; but should not be the primarily factor in finding help with your pet. The right fit for your and your pet are the most important. Be realistic with your expectations. Qualified and experienced professionals are not going to offer the lowest price; but will offer high value for your money. 

           How much time and effort can I reasonably devoid to working with my pet?

           Do I have any special needs? Language barriers, physical or travel limitations?

           Is there specialized training required? If so, does the trainer/counselor need to specifically certified or accepted by a governing body or association?

Court ordered evaluations and training MUST be done be a professional already accepted/approved by the applicable court jurisdiction. Some therapy dog groups require the animal to be trained or tested by an approved trainer.

Where should I look to find someone?

                               Professional referrals (from your vet) are considered the best

                               Personal referrals from others with similar issues

                               Listing on professional association website-

Be sure to investigate the  requirements for membership in that organization. Read the association’s philosophy and ethical codes. 

Questions to ask prospective trainers/behavior counselors:

              Why did you get into training, why do you do this work?

               The answer should place you and your animal on the top of the list.

              What experience do you have with my animal/breed?

              What experience do you have with my  particular issues, desires?

               What formal training do you have?

              What related background/training/experience?

For example, Marie Seelmeyer was a certified veterinary technician, and is trained in complementary/supportive care; which is utilized in behavior modification.

What  professional associations do they belong to?

Always investigate the business name with the Better Business Bureau! Even if the business is not a member of the BBB, each business will have a letter rating and listing of complaints and how those complaints were handled.

What styles of training or types of tools do you use?

Do not limit yourself or your search to one style of training. Most tools have a legitimate purpose and proper use. No one style “fits all”.  Each situation, and each animal is different. You should find someone open to considering appropriate options and who are able to customize a behavior plan specifically to your animal and situation. 

What type of contract do you require?

Avoid trainers that require a set number of sessions (group classes excluded), or have a standard plan before they meet you and your dog. Each situation is different and needs to treated uniquely. 

What do you charge? How do you charge?

              Per session, class, per dog, per hour of time…..

What types of payment do you accept

Be leery of anyone who only accepts cash. This suggests that they do not have a bank account, and therefore are not a legitimate business. With mobile credit card processing systems readily available, most should accept credit cards. 

You can ask for references, but most people are going to provide only positive references. On-line reviews can be more accurate. Read all reviews, especially “bad” ones. (The reasons given in a “bad” review sometimes reflect the unrealistic expectations  of the reviewer).

CAUTION: Be cautious of Free First Consults. These sessions are usually a strong sales pitch and do not offer you much useful information. In order to provide free consultations, the cost of actual training sessions will usually be higher than normal.