Dog training in Canada is not a regulated profession. That means that anyone can put up a sign and call themselves a dog trainer.
Our ‘Find a Trainer’ link is a great place to start your search (if the screen looks a bit funny and doesn't have a search bar , you may need to hit reload once). The CAPDT member-trainers on our list have all committed to abide by our comprehensive Code of Ethics and Bylaws – a Code that includes a commitment to humane training and protections for you as the client. Note, though, that this doesn't mean that we endorse any of these trainers specifically. You still need to do your homework on those in the list.
The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association suggests choosing reward-based methods and avoiding associated yourself and behaviours with things the dog finds unpleasant – see more here.
When you are thinking about a trainer, you may also want to consider what type of trainer you need, for example:
Example One: You want puppy socialization or obedience classes, or obedience training for public access to make sure your puppy, dog or service-dog-in-training knows the basics (sit, down, stay, come, etc.) or you want to get into a dog sport like dock diving - look for a dog trainer in the directory.
Example Two: You have a dog who is fearful (runs and hides when new people come or charges them barking), has bitten or has separation anxiety. Check out dog trainers who are behaviour consulting specialists. Your specialist may also recommend calling in a veterinarian or veterinarian behaviour specialist to help with medication and management.
Example Three: You are looking for a a dog trainer whose specialty is service dog training to teach specific tasks - from diabetic alerts, medications reminders, preventing a child on the autism spectrum from bolting, hearing ear dogs and more. Look in our directory (under development) for a service dog training professional.
We encourage you to have a list of questions ready when you contact the trainers so you can compare. A professional should be prepared to answer all your questions. On our "Training Articles" page you will find the answers we suggest -- we hope the trainer you are consider has similar answers! Aside from the regular considerations of price, class options, etc.; try asking if you can observe a class. A confident professional will not object. They may have expectations about your level of participation during the class (i.e. an observer should not consume class time that other participants have paid for).
Ask yourself the following questions when you observe a class:
- Did the trainer explain the exercises in a clear and easily understood manner?
- Did the participants look like they were having fun? (You may not think this is important but when the class is enjoyable you’ll be more willing to attend.)
- How did the dogs seem to enjoy the class? Was the trainer concerned about the dog’s enjoyment?
- Did the trainer take the time to help students who were struggling with an exercise?
- Was equipment aversive to the dog selected without considering reward-based methods?
After observing a class, ask the trainer questions about what you observed. A couple of thoughtful questions can be all the difference in finding the right trainer for you!
Another great question for the trainer is how do they educate themselves about dog behaviour and health on an ongoing basis.
One of the most critical observations you can make is the ability to talk to the trainer. Do you feel comfortable approaching the trainer and asking questions? It’s important to feel like you can ask questions. Like any other professional in your life – you must be prepared to have a working relationship with this person. Many dog owners attend more than one class so long-term fit is important.
Good luck with your search!