Choosing an Animal Behavior Specialist or Dog Trainer

Practical and insightful tips for pet owners by Charlotte Reed

1) Identify your animal care needs. Dog trainers control behavior. Behaviorists deal with the root of the problem through modification.

  • Preparing your dog for a co-op or condo board interview? Call a dog trainer.
  • Does your kitty defecate outside the litter box? Does your dog destroy the house when you leave for work? Call an animal behaviorist.


2) Get a referral from your new veterinarian, local animal shelter, humane society, owner of a well-behaved canine or feline or the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

3) Review a potential dog trainer's credentials and affiliations through the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (NADOI) and the Animal Behavior Society ABS).

4) Make sure she is keeping up with the latest in the field through continuing education, workshops or seminars. The longer a professional has been practicing, the better their expertise.

5) Experience is key. Has the candidate worked with pets that have had problems similar to those your pet is experiencing?

6) A seasoned instructor is flexible, utilizing a variety of methods and techniques to ensure each client's success.

  • A good teacher knows you get more with patience, a treat and a toy.
  • Positive reinforcement coupled with proper correction is the building block of basic obedience training.
  • Harsh, abusive methods are counterproductive and encourage fear.


7) Communication and an energetic attitude are essential ingredients in a good trainer, Make sure she:

  • Clearly explains the process, readily demonstrates techniques and freely answers questions;
  • Does not make guarantees regarding standards of performance or length of time it will take to train your pet or solve its behavioral problem;
  • Makes it clear that working with your pet dog or cat is a continuous process that should be healthy, productive and rewarding for both of you.


8) When choosing an animal behavior counselor or dog trainer, ask questions, check references and expect no less than the absolute best and safest training for your pet.

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