How to Find a Dog Trainer You Can Trust With Your Pup

How to Find a dog trainer you can trust

Whether you just brought home a new dog, or your current canine companion is exhibiting a concerning behavior, you need to find a dog trainer you can trust.

The search for a well-trained, reliable dog trainer is harder than you might think. With so many dog trainers advertising their services on open sites like Yelp, you might find yourself entrusting your precious pup to the wrong person.

How to Find a Dog Trainer

If you’re wondering how to find a dog trainer and who to trust, we can help.

Here at IC HQs, we understand just how difficult it is to find a qualified dog training professional. One person’s website offers one opinion, while another’s recommends something completely different. Friends and family offer their advice only adding to your confusion. How do you filter through all the friendly advice, suggestions, and online searches?

Not to worry, we’re here to help you find a dog trainer by addressing common questions, and providing the information and resources you need, to find the right trainer for you and your four-legged friend’s needs.

Let’s begin with some common questions and concerns.

Are all dog trainers created equal?

No, they’re not. First, it’s important to note that the dog training industry is unregulated. There are no official government bodies that oversee the practice of training dogs. Additionally, there are no official universal rules, policies, procedures or gold standards. This basically means that anyone can call themselves a trainer, and do whatever he or she wants – whenever and however they see fit. Some dog trainers don’t even have a business license!

Thankfully, there are independent organizations that have addressed these concerns, including the Academy for Dog Trainers, Karen Pryor Academy, the Pet Professional Guild, the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), and International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC).

These groups, and others like them, have developed higher standards of practice on a global level. They screen their applicants, require testing for certification and recertification or membership, and provide educational resources — among other things. Although dog trainers aren’t required to become certified or apply for membership in order to train dogs – certification proves that he or she has become proficient in their craft, following the latest in training research and best practices.

What’s their real training philosophy and approach?

The dog trainer’s approach should be straightforward, transparent, and self-explanatory. If they are claiming their techniques are “the best” and/or “most humane,” then they should have evidence to back up those claims.

Utilizing subjective jargon can be misleading, which can cloud decision making for the pet owner. Is this person describing training methods that enhance the experience for both dog and owner? Does it sound like the experience will be enjoyable for both the dog and the handler? Or, is this person promoting a “unique” approach, while implementing outdated techniques, including those that can cause fear or discomfort to the dog? Keep in mind that while addressing overall goals of the client, training should still be fun throughout the process — for everyone.

What’s with the title?

You are likely familiar with such designations as positive reinforcement trainers, cookie trainers, clicker trainers, e-collar trainers, and balanced trainers – to name a few. As mentioned above, there are no gold standards when it comes to training dogs. However, the person’s title, or what they refer to themselves as, will likely tell you a lot about their methods. For instance, trainers who are certified through the CCPDT will refer to themselves as a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. This title indicates he or she practices positive reinforcement methods as outlined in the CCPDT’s Code of Ethics.

Titles such as “balanced trainer” often means they practice dual approaches. They may combine positive reinforcement with fear-based techniques, including physical corrections (i.e. alpha rolling, kicking, kneeing, collar corrections, choking with a prong or choke collar). E-collar trainers also implement punishment based techniques, with the addition of electronic (shock) collars.

Fear-based techniques are outdated, and the trainers who use them may not have an education on animal learning theory or science-based techniques, are unaware of progress within the industry, and don’t have a grasp on the fallout of coercion and aversives.

Trustworthy dog trainers will use transparent, clear, and consistent content throughout their website and social media pages. Those who use a force-free approach will talk about using whatever motivates the dog to want to participate in the training plan, focusing in on rewarding wanted behaviors, and teaching the dog what the best behavior choice is — without instilling fear.

Those dog trainers who express their use of treats, as well as “dominance” or “corrections”, give a cloudy picture as to what their methodology is. Are they putting a spin on their training approach and using these terms to help market themselves? Do they really have their clients’ best interests at heart? Techniques that risk injury should raise a red flag.

But, which method is best?

Pet owners can choose between force-free, positive reinforcement; mixed training combining both positive reinforcement and punishment; or punishment-based training. The former uses anything that motivates the dog to want to participate throughout their training. This approach teaches your dog the skills to make the right choices while focusing on wanted behaviors.

The latter uses fear-based techniques for the purpose of decreasing undesirable behaviors. This approach focuses on unwanted behaviors and doesn’t teach the dog how to make the proper choices.

For too long force-based techniques have been used, because they were part of our culture. Thankfully, progress has been made over the years, proving that while these training techniques can work, they are outdated and unnecessary for training dogs — or any animal.

Performing a Google search on the fallout of using punishment to train dogs yields several results. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior composed a lovely Position Statement on the Use of Punishment explaining the pitfalls and risks when using these techniques. This resource will provide unbiased information along with additional links to reputable studies.

Now that I know what to look for, where should I start?

Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of different dog training approaches, you’re ready to begin your search. Searching for a dog trainer is similar to searching for any service-based businesses. Asking for referrals is a great way to find a trustworthy trainer. Veterinarians and other pet owners are a great source for finding qualified professionals.

Yelp is another popular source for finding pet trainers. Just be sure to do your due diligence, read reviews and learn about their approach and methods before committing to their services.

We recommend the following resources (in no particular order) for help in finding a qualified dog trainer:

How do I know I’m making the right choice?

Cyrano the PapillonKeep in mind that humans are animals too. If something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts. Conduct an interview, and ask questions. Use your research skills to review their website, reviews and social media to vet them thoroughly before entrusting them with your canine companion.

Whether you’re a first-time or seasoned dog owner, with each new experience brings new needs and goals. Finding a professional dog trainer who will listen to your needs, develop a plan that works for you and your dog, provides proper education, and supports you along the way can lead to a more pawsitive experience all around.

With the right dog trainer, you’ll have more time to be with your inquisitive canine. Use our tips to find a dog trainer you can trust.

Ever since the Inquisitive Canine was founded in 2005, Joan Hunter Mayer’s life has gone to the dogs — and she couldn’t be happier! A certified professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, Joan not only loves seeing her canine students succeed, but also enjoys empowering dog parents with a valuable education to enhance their relationships with their dogs for life.

Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!

Who’s Rescuing Whom? What to Think About When Adopting a Dog

Thinking about bringing home a new canine companion? Things to consider when adopting a dog.

What to think about when adopting a dogIn honor of Adopt a Shelter Pet Day (April 30th), I thought it would be an ideal time to discuss ways to approach this life-changing decision. After all, it’s not just your own life that is impacted; it is the inquisitive canine’s life as well.

Here are several things to consider when thinking about adopting a dog of any age, from puppy to older.

First of all, ask yourself, WHY?

Literally, make a list that answers the question, “Why am I adopting a dog?”

And then do some follow-up thinking.

For example, consider what you’ll want your new dog to do as a member of your family. Cuddle on the couch? Take daily walks? Accompany you to work? Be a companion to your children, partner, or another pet?

Once you understand why you you’re adopting a dog, then it’s important to ask how that will work within the confines of your current lifestyle. This may mean a change in your home life is necessary; it may even be what’s behind your why. Maybe becoming more active by walking is something you’ve wanted to do, and a new dog will motivate you to get you out of the house.

Timing is everything when adopting a dog.

If you’ve started a new job, or have plans every weekend for the next few months, you might want to consider waiting until you have the time to help your new family member acclimate to his or her new home and living conditions. Like all animals, dogs are adaptable, but having that extra time to be more involved will be key in helping the transition go more smoothly. Also consider whether or not your immediate future holds any major life changes. Adopting a new dog when you’re about to get married or move across the country could be too stressful and be worth waiting on until you are settled in.

Love is free, but pets are not.

Many shelters and rescue groups make it easy for dogs to be adopted out, with relatively modest adoption fees that range from free to about $200, according to Petfinder. From there, you have to take into account the necessities (basic gear like collars and leashes, food) and consider the luxury items, too. According to Petfinder, average annual costs the first year of owning a dog start at around $766 to adopt and get your household set up for your new pet. Petfinder estimates subsequent years start at an annual average cost of $526 and go up from there, depending on what’s going on in your dog’s life, and how much outside services you pay for (i.e. dog walkers and sitters, vet care, training, etc.) For the most part, dogs are certainly simple, loving creatures who don’t ask for much, but expenses can add up. Make sure you have the financial ability to take on caring for a pet for his or her entire life.

Identify the type of dog you want.

You may have in your mind a certain type of dog that you want – small or large, puppy or older, a specific breed – but keep in mind that selecting the right dog for you and your family is like choosing any other friend or mate. The choice should not be made on superficial attributes, but should really take into consideration things like behavior, temperament, common interests, etc. Truly consider how your new pet will fit in and enhance your life, and vice versa.

To help articulate those aspects of your dog-to-be, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where will your dog spend his or her days? At home alone, at doggy daycare, with a friend or family member, at work with you?
  • Where will he or she spend nights? In a crate, on a dog bed, in your bed?
  • Will you have time to groom your dog yourself or will you need to find a groomer?
  • Do you entertain a lot, requiring your dog to be around a lot of strangers, meeting and greeting?
  • Are you active, and do you want a canine running partner? Or is your life more sedentary? (Keep in mind a dogs’ size doesn’t necessarily match his or her energy level).

Breed is in the eye of the beholder.

Once you’re clear on the type of dog you want, then you may want to consider a certain breed. In my opinion, however, dog breed descriptions are subjective labels.

For instance, can you determine which breed I’m referring to with these attributes: powerful, fearless, watchful, energetic, friendly, and sturdily built?

What about: calm, affectionate, and friendly?

And then there’s: calm, tranquil, aloof and attentive, yet loyal, and alert.

The three breeds I’ve just described, based on information I obtained off of the American Kennel Club’s website, are Swedish Vallhund, Whippet, and Xoloitzcuintli, respectively.

I randomly chose these particular breeds to show that descriptive words used can overlap between all the groups. My point is that you should consider choosing your dog based not only on physical preferences, such as small or large, short coat vs longer coat but on his or her individual traits — especially personality traits; objective behaviors specifically. Realize that other variables, such as DNA mutations, environmental situations, prior learning history, and current conditions may make it such that your dog acts much differently than his or her breed description would otherwise imply. It also makes it imperative to find out as much as you can about the true nature of the pet you’re considering adopting. Be inquisitive!

April 30th may be the special day we recognize and promote the adoption of shelter dogs, but no matter the when, where, why, and how, it’s important to ask the right questions of not only the organization from which you’re adopting a dog but also of yourself and anyone else involved in the process, such as family members or roommates. After all, you want to do your best to ensure your new inquisitive canine will have a happy life with his or her new humans, and that she or he will return the favor in kind.


Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!

Trust Your Instincts: How to Know When The Time is Right to Adopt a New Dog

when is the right time to adopt a new dogWhen is the Right Time to Adopt a New Dog

How do you find love again after your heart has been broken? Not only is this an eternal human question, but it extends to canines as well. Choosing to adopt a new dog after loss isn’t an easy decision, but it’s one many pet owners make.

And it’s a question I’ve been grappling with since the original Inquisitive Canine, Poncho, departed the earth in July 2015. Not only was he my husband’s and my BFF (Best Furry Friend), but he was also the inspiration for and greatest helper in our family business. (If you never met Poncho, you can read about him here.) Losing Poncho to the great beyond was devastating for me, as it is for all other pet-parents out there who have gone through the horrible ordeal of the death of a beloved animal.

I remember so clearly when my husband and I were struggling with Poncho’s condition, and wondering how we’d ever know when the right time would be to let him go.

Many friends reassured me by saying, “You’ll just know.”

And, lo and behold, they were right.

How to know it’s the right time to adopt a new dog?

In a very similar way, I often wondered when we’d be ready to take the plunge and adopt a new dog. Even though I knew in my heart someday we would want to be adopted by another inquisitive canine, neither my husband nor I could imagine how and when that would happen.

As time went on, though, despite the fact I’m surrounded by inquisitive canines all of the time, I began to realize how much I missed being a dog-mom. Getting to participate in classes as a student with my BFF at my side, attending working workshops where I could not only have fun with my dog but also get continuing education credits to keep my certification current, and of course family outings and vacations — because it’s always about our dog. It was rough on both my husband and me not being able to do our favorite activities including Nose Work, agility, Flyball, and Therapy Dog classes. In our family, our dog isn’t just our “baby”; he’s also a motivator, guiding light, and joy to have not just in our home, but also in our community at large.

Still, even as recently as five months ago I was still at the point that I never thought I’d be able to love another dog like I did Poncho. Not the right time to adopt a new dog just yet.

As before, friends told me not to rush, that we’d know when it was time.

This past October we finally reached a point where we both agreed we were ready to begin our search at local shelters and rescue groups and adopt a new dog. We talked with a few organizations and went to several “meet and greets,” but unfortunately, as cute as so many of the dogs were, we didn’t feel that special spark.

By day 108, I was ready to take a break from looking at all of those forlorn eyes. But knowing there were so many inquisitive canines needing homes, I took a breath and continued on.

Believing in the whole “gut instinct” premise, I knew our special someone was out there and sure enough, as soon as I’d just about given up, an alert from Adopt-a-Pet and the Ken-Mar Rescue team showed up in my inbox: “young, male, small, and active.”

Yes, he was all of that, but it was his big, beautiful eyes of the Papillon/Chi-X that captured my attention – even though initially my husband and I were focused more on a scrappy terrier type. Turned out the stunning boy was found on the streets and was taken to one of the LA county shelters. After being on a hold for 21 days and no one claiming him (yes, he was chipped), Ken-Mar Rescue stepped in, scooped him up, placed him with one of their fabulous foster parents, and immediately posted his information on the Adopt-a-Pet website.

Within two hours of receiving the alert, my husband and I were on a mission. After a flurry of emails, phone calls, videos, photos, and FaceTime calls with the foster mom, we knew we’d found our new inquisitive canine to complete our family.

And sure enough, from the time we contacted Ken-Mar to when they made the home check, we knew we’d found our new BFF. Aside from his good looks, his personality won us over — all eight and a half pounds of him.

Today I’m thrilled, overjoyed, and beyond excited about our newfound love and happy to announce that Ringo Starr Hunter Mayer has officially adopted us. I am also happy to announce that he is a brilliant new addition to the Inquisitive Canine and TransPaw Gear staff as well.

As we embark on our new journey, creating a stronger bond every day, I still think about and miss Poncho. He will always be the original inquisitive canine. But, I’ve come to learn that with similar challenging situations, time does help.

A dear friend also reminded me that we, as humans, are capable of so much love to give — this is so true! My mother loved both my brother and me equally (except perhaps when I was 13… but that’s a story for another day). I don’t spend time comparing Ringo to Poncho, which is good.

This to me is proof positive that I was ready to move on and share my love with another inquisitive canine.

When I think about all of the joy and new adventures Poncho brought to my life, I can only imagine what little Ringo will bring. I can already see how many fun times are on the horizon. And for now, the cuddles, playtime, and local outings are already bringing more happiness to my husband and me than we could have imagined.

While you can never be ready for the loss of a beloved pet, when you are ready to open your heart to a new animal, I can assure you that you will absolutely know.

Allow us to be inquisitive. How did you know your dog (or cat, or horse, or bird, or bunny, or…) was the one for you?

Wanna join the conversation? Just head to the comment section below. Care to share pics and videos of your inquisitive canine? We invite you to post on our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter – Tweet to us and we’ll Tweet ya back!