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6 Characteristics of a Great Dog Trainer

Updated: Feb 23


I got my first puppy 20 years ago. At the time, I was working full-time in IT and taking classes at night. I mentioned to a classmate that I was about to get a puppy and she strongly recommended I start dog training as soon as I got my puppy. She gave me the contact information for a trainer, and told me to sign up for the puppy class. As I didn't know the first thing about owning or training a dog, I took her advice. As it happened, I got very lucky and the trainer she referred me to was excellent, and embodied all the qualities I'd look for in a trainer today. Not everyone gets that lucky, though, and if I'd known better back then, there are a lot of questions I would have asked before blindly following a random person's recommendation.

So what are the qualities of an excellent trainer? There are many reasons to look for a trainer. Perhaps you have just brought a new puppy home and know the importance of socialization and training at an early age, or maybe your family dog of a few years is adopting some habits or behaviors that need some work. Or maybe your worst fear has happened: your dog has bitten another dog or a person, and you want to understand what happened and prevent it from happening in the future.

Whatever your situation is, a certified trainer can help – and sometimes the process of selecting the right one for you can be overwhelming. If you Google search "dog trainer Nashville", you're met with a myriad of options. So, how do you go about finding the right one for you and your dog? Here are some tips:

1. Your trainer is certified

First, we strongly recommend working with a certified professional dog trainer. By doing so, you ensure that the person you are working with has passed certain levels of evidence-based learning and offers training that is proven to be effective – and that will not harm your dog. There are various certifications for dog trainers. Some certifications are given at the end of a course, which just certifies that you've gone through the course and have met the requirements for passing their course. Most of these courses do not require continuing education, so trainers from these programs may use outdated training methods if it's been a long time since they finished their course. Other certifications are awarded through organizations who are not affiliated with any schools, but require a certain number of hours of hands-on training as well as passing an exam that ensures the trainer has knowledge across a breadth of subjects related to dog training, including learning theory, training methods, equipment, dog health, and dog development.

The best certifying bodies require their certificants to pursue continuing education and to adhere to a code of ethics and conduct, including the humane treatment of dogs in their care. The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), and Pet Professional Guild (PPG) all provide certifications that match these criteria. All our Cooperative Canine trainers are certified by one of these certifying organizations or are in the process of becoming certified and are active in professional training networks, allowing them to stay up to date on the most current training methods and techniques.


2. Your trainer is force-free

You'll want to verify that the trainer is force-free. Punishment-based methods do not meet science-based standards of training and can have negative consequences for your dog, including causing them to become timid, anxious, shut down, or even aggressive. The effects of force-based training sometimes can take a long time to overcome. A force-free trainer always makes sure that the wellbeing of the dog comes first.


3. Your trainer is insured

Responsible trainers always set up the environment to minimize the possibility of injury to any of the parties involved in training; however, there are times when management fails, and either a person or a dog gets injured. By having insurance, a trainer can cover costs resulting from any unanticipated events that arise when your dog is in their care.


4. Your trainer fits your training needs

Find a trainer who is a good fit for your family, needs, and schedule. Some trainers work strictly out of a facility, some will come into your home, some offer board and train, and some do a combination of all of the above. We at The Cooperative Canine offer all the above options and personalize your experience to best meet your needs. We even offer in-home day training to assist busy professionals who don't have the time to devote to daily training.


5. Your trainer has excellent reviews

Once you find a trainer you are interested in working with, check their reviews online and ask for references. These are the best ways to get a feel for the experience that trainer offers.


6. Your trainer provides good value for their cost

Lastly, we understand many of us are operating on a budget. But don't choose a trainer just because they are the least expensive. You may need to pay a little more than you had hoped to work with a certified trainer – and that is because the person you are working with has put money into their education and certification so they can provide the best training and care for your pup. Professional training is an investment in your dog and your family, and by working with a certified trainer you can save yourself a lot of stress – and even money – down the road by effectively addressing the issue now. It may be tough at times during your training. Just remember to stay consistent and trust the process – You've got this!


Check out our Cooperative Canine training options, and please reach out! We'd love to hear from you and help you on your training journey.



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