What to look for, what's important, and what makes a trainer "good" vs "bad". Hint: Look for education and a commitment to non-punishment methods! 

Below we will discuss details.

Dog Training & Behavior Certifications are very important when choosing a Professional Dog Trainer for your Canine Companion!

These accreditations, certifications, memberships and acronyms attest that the trainer takes their responsibility to their doggie students seriously and they willingly comply to most current positive-based training methods.

Most professional organizations require that Professional Trainers follow and attest to only using LIMA-based training methods, and avoid unnecessary aversive, harmful, inhumane or punishment-based training methods. See below for LIMA-based Training Method details.

Behavior science has proven many times that punishment (Positive Punishment) is harmful to our dogs emotionally and psychologically in ways that can be unnoticed or disregarded by those who do not seek the education and knowledge from other trusted Professional Dog Training leaders. 

The old "Dominance Theory" has been debunked for years now.

What is considered to be a "positive punishment"?

We look to the Humane Hierarchy and the Skinner Operant Conditioning Behavior/Consequence Models to define that term.

"Positive Punishment defined: Adding an aversive, punishment or other stimuli, which causes the dog to reduce or stop a behavior."

Examples of Positive Punishment, according to the APDT:

"Choke collar, prong collar, shock collar (including "stim-collar" and "e-collar"), bonker, shaker-can, citronella spray, water spray, leash-pop/leash-correction (with any type of collar/harness), yelling, or any other technique designed to cause fear, pain, or startle in the dog"

***LIMA does not justify the use of punishment in lieu of other effective interventions and strategies. In the vast majority of cases, desired behavior change can be affected by focusing on the animal's environment, physical well-being, and operant and classical interventions such as differential reinforcement of an alternative behavior, desensitization, and counter-conditioning.***

Adhering to LIMA-based principles and methods requires education, experience and dedication to affect animals behavior in ways that do NOT fall into the punishment or startle category.

Then why do some trainer still use those methods?

It appears to be faster/easier, the clients have more instant gratification and believe the methods work because of that superficial appearance of "immediate behavior change" and so clients are happier in the beginning because it's less work for them, which means faster/more income and a seemingly successful reputation of effectiveness. And further, some believe this aversive is the go-to-method of stopping behaviors that could be life-threatening such as eating things outside, not coming when called or a strong dog pulling on the leash. While those behaviors absolutely do need to be addressed there ARE many other, more positive ways, to conquer those- the "it's the best/fastest technique" is false.

Positive training methods and true behavior change require more time, patience and building a deep relationship with your dog to achieve long term success but it's not easy or fast. So, some owners choose the fast and superficial success options. Especially when they don't truly understand what's happening, or are unfortunately misled by trainers that may have built a name using their techniques.

It's your dog, you decide.

Yearly continuing education (CE's) are often required to upkeep certain Professional Memberships. This ensures those Professional Dog Trainers are staying up to date on behavioral science and industry-leading education. 

To recertify each year, they must attest to using ONLY LIMA-based positive motivation principles and they must show proof of having completed a required number of CE hours in accredited subjects.

There are many such accreditations but we will focus on the top most trusted as a good place to start when looking for a Professional Trainer for your beloved pup!

APDT (Association of Professional Dog Trainers)

Visit their position statements here: *Prepare to be surprised by what they have to say about television shows and crate training! (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants)

Who they are:

"IAABC members believe in the study and science of behavior consulting. We understand that animal behavior consultants can assist owners in managing and modifying problem behaviors, and in the process help strengthen the relationships between an owner and pet.

IAABC members work to minimize the use of aversive stimuli and maximize the effective use of reinforcers to modify animal behavior. Members agree to adhere to the LIMA (least intrusive, minimally aversive) and the IAABC Code of Ethics principle upon joining. Within that framework, the IAABC welcomes diversity and openness. Positive regard, and respect for differences are among our core value, always striving toward solid, effective, positive reinforcement-based work."

CCPDT (Certification Counsel for Professional Dog Trainers)

View the CCPDT Core Values here:

View the CCPDT Code of Ethics here:

CCPDT's LIMA Statement here:

There are different levels of certification, details can be found here:

1) Dog Trainer Certifications both CPDT-KA® and CPDT-KSA® certifications. 

2) Behavior Consultant CBCC-KA® certification.

ABC (Animal Behavior College) ABC-DT

This certification program requires students to complete the program of online education based on positive motivation as well as hands on mentorship, which aligns with the APDT and LIMA-based training methods and curriculum.

IACP (International Association of Canine Professionals)

"The INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CANINE PROFESSIONALS is dedicated to the education, development and support of dog training professional world-wide. The IACP provides a community where experienced dog trainers mentor, guide and cultivate members to their full potential. Our commitment to the highest quality training increases our members' skills and abilities, develops professional recognition and improves communication on training best practices. We support our members' rights to properly use and promote effective, humane training tools and methods to create success for each dog and owner, while expanding the understanding and cooperation among canine professionals and dog owners across the full spectrum of the canine industry. In achieving these aims through education and training, the IACP works actively to reduce cruelty and abuse to canine partners."

Find an IACP Professional:

Fear Free Certified Professional

They aim to provide low-stress handling of animals before, during and after veterinary and other care. Helping animals have more successful, less traumatic health care, grooming and other necessary life skills like ear cleaning, nail trims, bathing, vaccines, exams etc.

Feel free to reach out to me for additional info, or you can visit my website to see how and why I choose to use LIMA-based positive motivation methods myself!

Knowledge is power.

It's your dog, you have the power to decide what's best for them!

There are others, but these are the ones to look for!