How to Find a Positive Based Trainer

Feb 3, 2020   Tracey Aston   Training

Whether in need of a trainer for a behavioral problem with your pet or just looking to brush up on basic obedience, the most important part of the equation is finding the right trainer for you.  Finding the right trainer will put you and your pet on the road to success, and finding the wrong trainer could have devastating and lasting effects.

Unfortunately, dog training is unregulated and un-credentialed making finding the right trainer even more difficult. In addition, anyone who has taken a class, or watched a TV show, or read a book can claim to be a dog trainer.  For this reason, it's essential to evaluate and interview trainers before choosing the right trainer.  Many pet parents will simply pick the trainer closest to their location without finding out the trainer's methods, background, education or experience.

When looking for a trainer, look for the words positive reinforcement, force free, modern, scientific based training. Positive reinforcement means rewarding a pet for good behavior with praise, treats, pets or something the dog highly values.  This teaches the pet what is expected of them, and that by giving this action, they will receive something they value. It also allows dogs to make their own decisions. Our pets are thinking creatures and positive reinforcement training allows them to make their own decisions based on the incentive of reward. If a child is offered $20 for every A on their report card, they will attempt to get that ‘A' every time. The incentive for our pets is similar based on what they value, such as owner praise, treats or positive attention.

Force free is teaching a pet without fear, pain or use of aversive techniques such as e-collars, shock collars or choke collars.  For a pet to truly bond with their pet parent, the relationship must be built on trust and the pet must feel safe.

Dogs trained with aversive training methods are more likely to exhibit signs of fear and stress and develop new defensive behaviors such as biting. Not only will using aversive equipment and training cause a pet fear, stress, aggression and it could lead to serious behavioral problems in the future for not only the owner but the pet's family, friends, veterinarian and dog walker.

A pet who has experienced negative stimuli from a shock or choke collar will react negatively to any type of collar being put on their neck.  If every time someone raised their hand to you, you received a smack, you would start to get very defensive when someone raised their hand. In the same way a pet who has been trained with pain will react defensively in any similar situation. This means anyone attempting to put a collar on a dog, a veterinarian trying to examine a pet, are now in danger of a pet reacting defensively.

 Balanced, punitive or aversive trainers will tell you that this equipment used properly does not hurt or cause problems, this is untrue. The equipment designed to cause pain. For example, a choke chain is basically a noose and there is no way to properly use a noose that wouldn't be painful or cause choking. This type of equipment also runs the risk of a pet damaging their trachea and developing thyroid issues.

Positive reinforcement allows a pet parent to build trust and respect with their pet by communicating in a way the pet can understand and benefits pets as opposed to the fear and pain of aversive training. Please realize, training takes time, be wary of anyone offering a quick fix. Training is essentially building a bond, and building a bond takes time, patience and perseverance.

Referrals are good in most cases, as long as the pet parent and the person referring share the same views on training methods. Always make sure you are interviewing a potential trainer, even one who has been referred. Ask them what types of methods and equipment they use, their educational background and continuing education, or if they belong to any professional associations.  While it is true dog training isn't regulated, there are certification programs available. The Association of Animal Behavior Professionals (AABP) offers a Certified Dog Trainer program (AABP-CDT). Requirements include 300 hours of professional training within the last five years, 30 hours of supervised skills development, proof of insurance, a proficiency exam, and two references. For more information on dog training certification, visit

Due to the lack of regulation in the industry, “experts” are popping up all over the internet, on TV shows and in pet stores everywhere.  This experts not only put themselves in danger, they are putting the pet in danger and anyone who comes in contact with in improperly trained pet or a pet used with aversive equipment.

You wouldn't choose an untrained veterinarian or your pet, or an uncertified groomer or let just anyone care for your pet, and the same should be true with a trainer.

To find an educated and certified professional in your area:

Certified Council for Professional Dog Trainers

The Association of Professional Dog Trainers

Pet Professional Guild

Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training and Behavior

Certified Professional Pet Sitter
PetTech CPR & First Aid Certified
PPG Badge
Pet Sitters International
National Association of Professional Pet Sitters
Angieslist 2015 Super Servica Award
Angieslist 2016 Super Service Award
Shock Free
Pet First Aid/CPR Certified
Pittsburgh's Professional Pet Sitters Network
Bite Prevention Educator
Doggone Safe
2020 Nextdoor
Fear Free Logo
National Association of Professional Pet Sitters Certification