With so many people involved in the field of professional dog training today, trying to determine who's truly qualified can be a difficult task. For those trying to decide on a professional dog trainer, the American Dog Trainers Network offers the following criteria concerning what to look for:


    An excellent reputation. Shop around and get recommendations from your vet, the ASPCA, the city's other humane societies, other reputable trainers, or your breeder/breed club.

    Widespread experience. Inquire about his or her training background, years of experience, and areas of expertise. You deserve to have your questions answered, so don't be timid about asking them. (Also, see consumer warning at the bottom of this article.)

    Humane training methodology and gentle, effective handling skills. Reputable trainers are concerned about their dogs' welfare. They also know that harsh or abusive handling methods are not only unnecessary, but are often counter-productive as well.

    A genuine love of and devotion to dogs. When you find a trainer with this important quality you'll know it. The joy of living and working with dogs makes this person shine.

    Extensive behavioral knowledge. Dedicated trainers keep themselves up-to-date by attending dog training and animal behavior courses, conferences, seminars and workshops whenever possible.

    Good teaching and communication skills. Trainers who have this gift make the learning process quicker, easier and more enjoyable for their students.

    A sense of humor. Training can and should be fun for both dogs and owners. A positive attitude and a little laughter goes a long way.

    Affiliations with reputable associations, organizations and training clubs. While this is not mandatory, it's certainly a plus.

    Ethics before profit. Is monetary profit his or her primary motive for training dogs? Is everything this trainer does geared towards making money? While financial success is great, ethics must come first.

A NOTE OF WARNING: Unless a dog trainer comes highly recommended to you by *at least* one reputable source, the bottom line for the consumer is BUYER BEWARE!

Remember, absolutely anyone can call himself a dog trainer or behaviorist. Slick ads with inflated claims, grandiose self-descriptions, and impressive sounding titles can be very deceptive. Investigate any stated affiliations a trainer lists on his or her brochure, Yellow Pages ad or web site. If a trainer claims to be affiliated with an organization (past or present) or claims to have "studied" with well-known dog trainers or behaviorists, ask for their telephone numbers and contact them to be sure. NOTE: A common ploy for some trainers, is to attend a couple one-or two-day seminars or workshops with a well-known dog expert (or University), then claim to have studied with that person (or at that institution).

Also, verify how many years the trainer you are considering has been training dogs professionally. While years alone are not enough to determine a trainer's experience level in and of itself, it's certainly says a lot.

A FINAL NOTE: Beware of dog trainers who care more about publicity, public relations, and celebrities, than they care about your dog and the quality of training they provide. Many professional dog trainers have worked with celebrities and high-profile people. But take note if the trainer seems totally pre-occupied with dropping names, and bills himself as the "Trainer To The Stars", something that says little or nothing about his ability as a dog trainer.





Robin Kovary is the American Dog Trainers Network helpline director
 and canine behavioral consultant.