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How not to choose a dog trainer

I recently read comments on a dog trainer’s blog and found it interesting how politically correct their references were to the subject matter. They nicely described their concerns as “pet peeves”. The subject was unethical dog trainers who falsely represented themselves to the public, harm the development of pets and made it difficult for honest trainers to compete.

I also have an opinion on this subject but I would not describe it as a “pet peeve”. Personally, it makes me mad as you know what and this article is an attempt to say “I am not going to take it anymore”.

There are a lot of nicely written articles about how to choose a dog trainer.

Most independent articles by associations and other professionals are accurate. The ones written by dog trainers as part of their advertisements are anywhere from slightly biased to very misleading because they are in fact, part of their marketing and they want you to hire them. If dog owners followed the advice in the good articles, used common sense, did a little research about the trade and didn’t just believe everything they were told; we wouldn’t have bad or dishonest dog trainers. Customers would not come to me with dogs that were harmed by other trainers. And, I wouldn’t find myself having to defend my profession because of incompetent, mediocre, myth promoting fast talkers that give dog training a bad reputation.

Let’s be honest, most of us don’t follow instructions but are still good hearted wanting to believe that people are trustworthy. After all doesn’t everyone know how much you love your dog? They wouldn’t try to fool you about something so important, would they? Yes they would! So I am writing this article with a list of thing to look for that should make you guard your pocketbook, grab your dog in your arms and run like hell! If you avoid the dog trainers that do the things on this list then by default you have a better chance of finding a good one.


If a dog trainer practices the things on the following list; run as far and as fast as you can. Hang up the phone, don’t answer their e-mails, buy a disguise and pretend like you do not own a dog.

“Decorated, award winning, renowned, world famous and just plain best in the world at everything Dog Trainers”

If someone uses the term award winning and does not tell you what award; they are lying! If they are the “best in the west” and do not give you the “who, what, how, when or where”, they are just trying to get you on the phone so they can sell, sell, sell!  Authors, radio and television celebrities will tell you what station or stores promote their products. Really great people do not have to put up a web site to advertise that they are really great. They are to busy scheduling book and lecture tours to train your dog. If they are as famous as they say, you would not be able to afford them unless you also are famous.

These guys are so great that when they see your discomfort at how rough they are being with your dog; they will preach to you.  “Look, I know what I am doing. I’m the professional. That is why you hired me; because I know more than you”. If you are not comfortable with what anyone is doing with your dog then tell them you changed your mind. Say you decided that you like your dog just how he is and ask for your money back. Of course, they won’t give it to you! 

“Self proclaimed dog psychologists, behaviorists and aggression expert Dog Trainers”

There is nothing in the dog training or animal behavior industry to license or regulate the title one gives himself. If anyone is calling themselves any kind of expert-IST and they do not tell you what degree they hold, they are trying to fool you. I am a dog trainer and behavior consultant and darn proud of the years of work and self study it took to learn to deal with difficult dog behavior problems. I continually study the work of real behaviorists, but my degree is in business not biology, zoology, ethology, psychology or animal behavior so it would be unethical for me to call myself a behaviorist! That’s right, unethical as in DISHONEST!

Dog trainers are very important to the pet industry. Without them you would not be able to afford to get help with your dog. The honest dog trainers are being slighted by the ones pretending to be something they are not. And, the ones that say they are aggression experts and do not have a degree are not only full of dog poop, they are dangerous.

“Rude, bad mouthed, myth promoting big shot hero Dog Trainers”

Yes, yes, yes we all know that your dog is behaving badly because you did not train them properly from the beginning. But, you tried. And, the reason you are calling dog trainers is because you are being responsible and doing something about it. You should be commended for wanting to have dogs in your home and asking for help; not scolded for using them as substitute children.

Any professional that tries to insult, scare or intimidate you into using their services does not care about you or your dog. They will make you feel guilty for being a bad pet parent and scare you into believing you will be sued. The only way to prevent being prosecuted for animal cruelty and avoiding the disastrous events they predict is to use their services. How lucky you are that you called them just in time to save your life.

If you get one of these heroes on the phone; tell them what you think of their doggie bed side manner and hang up. Call someone who is willing to talk to you like and adult.

“Huge conglomerate, bigger than life, trade marking, nation wide Dog Training companies”

Give me a break! Unless the company is a brand name retail store or is a franchise there is no such thing. How can you tell? If it is a franchise then you can research the franchiser on-line. You will be able to find information on how you or anyone can qualify and purchase a franchise of your own. If you find that the company has several or many web sites and phone numbers that look like different companies but all lead back to the same place; or they list that they have trainers in many states across the country; they are not practicing dog training they are practicing sloppy co-op marketing.

It is the same thing large dog food manufacturers are doing my having 42 million brands of food. They do it for the shelf space in the store. Dog trainers do it for the search engine space. They are trying to keep their competitors from achieving good ranking on the search engines so you won’t find them. The numerous trainers they have around the country are mostly other dog trainers they have agreed to promote (usually for a fee). They are completely separate companies or at the very least independent contractors.

And, don’t you just love the fact that the dog training methods they use are trade marked™. You trade mark a logo to keep others from using your name; you do not trade make a dog training method. Unless of course they had some sort of revelation or great epiphany on how to train dogs instead of learning it from others like the rest of us did.

Sadly, these are very effective marketing techniques. Fooling consumers into thinking you are something you are not is BIG MONEY. In reality the only thing big about these companies is the owner’s ego. Since that is who you will be dealing with; I would keep looking if I were you. To them it is not about dog training, it’s about the money.

So you see, not everyone that advertises is a good dog trainer. Some are well meaning but inexperienced. Some are mediocre and just out to get your money. And, the most dangerous are the ones that are good at sales and marketing but care nothing about you or your dog. There are a lot of good dog trainers out there. Some of the good ones even make the mistake of using some of the tactics in the above list in a misguided effort to compete with the dishonest ones.

Just because you think dogs are nice does not mean that everyone in the dog training industry is nice. Competition in any industry can be real nasty business; dog training is not an exception. When some of my competitors read this article there is a good chance they will come after me with shock collars and choke chains. Please, use your head as well as your heart when searching for a dog trainer; you are putting your loving pet’s life in someone’s hands.

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Wednesday, 04 October 2023

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