Choosing a Dog Trainer and Training Method

by David Cugno

If you have researched dog training you may have noticed that there are many different methods of dog training. There is treat-based training, clicker training, all positive, pack mentality training and I’m sure there are many more.

Here is the bottom line

Training is more about the dog owner than the dog. Any good dog trainer knows this and forms their training method around the owner. All positive means no discipline, but that doesn’t necessarily mean all other types involve discipline. Some trainers believe in deterrents – this involves negative reinforcement such as corrections or something the dogs prefers not to feel. It is motivated by fear and nothing else. Almost all of the other methods have some base in scientific fact.

If you are looking for a dog trainer, make sure that you do your research – find a method that fits with your personality. A dog’s best trait is the uncanny ability to adapt. This means that as long as you love them they are happy.

Understanding is everything

A good training method should focus on teaching the dog owner how to understand how their actions influence the dogs actions. So many dog owners spend time frustrated with behaviors they unknowingly create. A trainer should get to know their client and understand how they live.

When they see the owner getting upset with something their dog does, it is important to let them know if it is being caused by the owner. At least that way they can spend less time feeling negative.

Make sure to ask questions

When looking for a dog trainer, make sure to ask questions. There are no stupid questions and if a trainer gives you a problem for asking questions go to another trainer – there are plenty to choose from.

The most important question is one you should ask of yourself: Can you see yourself working with this trainer for a long time? This is important because in order for the job to be done right you and your dog will have to work with the trainer each week for an extended amount of time. If you don’t like the person, it would be a mistake to expect to buy into their program. If you do your research and feel comfortable with the trainer, both you and your dog should gain from the experience.


About the author: Pulling from his 20 years of experience working with dogs, David Cugno, dog behaviorist and trainer provides tips and techniques that will help foster a happy, well-balanced relationship between dog and owner.
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  • Educated Dog Owner

    “As long as you love them, they are happy.” Is this a joke? So it’s ok to find a trainer who uses positive punishment because I love my dog?

    Choosing a trainer has less to do with YOUR personality matching the trainer as it does with choosing a trainer who can help you get results for your dog without hurting him. A good trainer will understand Operant Conditioning, and will be up to date on modern training methods. They will consistently seek education in the field – attending seminars, reading books, watching DVDs, going to conferences, etc. A good trainer should be a member of various training organizations, such as the PPG, APDT, CCPDT, IAABC… A good trainer does NOT use a choke chain, a slip collar, a shock collar, spray bottles, shake cans, Pet Corrector – or anything else that punishes the dog in the name of training.

    This article is a waste of space. If you’re REALLY looking for a good trainer, go to The Pet Professional Guild’s site & seek out a trainer who has vowed to use force-free methods. This is what progressive training is all about. Just because a trainer has 20 yrs experience does NOT make him or her good. In fact, if your trainer is still using methods they used decades ago because they are “tried and true,” RUN RUN RUN away! The best trainers have updated their techniques to incorporate the newest methods.

    I am disappointed in this article. I used several trainers who matched my personality, and NONE were effective with my dog than they did for me. But training isn’t about ME, it’s about my dog. According to this article, if I was a big tough, controlling person, I should chose a controlling, punitive trainer because he “matched” my personality – and that’s the WORST thing I could do to raise a healthy, well-adjusted dog.

  • Free Thinking Dog Owner

    The comment from Educated Dog Owner is exactly what is wrong with so many dog trainers today. This article doesn’t bash any training method and is thoughtfully attempting to relay information to help dogs and owners get the most effective training based on their circumstances. To call the article a joke and waste of space is mean spirited and without basis.
    I would take a trainer with 20 years of successful hands on experience over one who has learned through DVDs, seminars etc. and being a member of an organization. Real experience cannot be discounted, especially in favor of reading a book. I want hands on experience not only in my dog trainer but also in my surgeon, my pilot, my electrician and plumber.
    This group of people continuously tout the “scientific facts” about dog training. I’m not saying that they aren’t true but I remember some scientific disproven “facts” from the past like the earth is flat, the sun revolves around the earth, lobotomies are a cure for mental illness, Phrenology is a science ( an entire branch of neuroscience!) and most recently that Pluto is a planet. As we learn and experience more, our understanding changes.
    How were these “facts” debunked? By independent thinking, openminded people not willing to swallow the party line. These trailblazers change the world for the better! I applaud them for making us see things from a different perspective and expanding our understanding. Think of Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, even Abraham Lincoln.
    I have rescued many dogs and have had many different trainers. I believe that training which helps me understand what I may be doing to cause certain behaviors in my dogs and improves communication with my dogs works. That said, it is me who is learning how to positively affect my dog’s behaviors. It does not involve negative punishment! This has been the best approach for me by far. BUT I will always be open to new ideas.
    The purpose of the article appears to be to help dogs and their owners and I believe it contains valuable information. I think that if Educated Dog Owner and other closed minded dog trainers would accept that there is not only “their way” of training, dogs and their owners would benefit greatly. Without independent thinking and consideration of contrary ideas, they just might fall off the edge of the earth.

  • Thanks for sharing this. But I think in order to know more about the dog training method we should consult it to a professional dog trainer because they know exactly what to do, right?