Tips for Hiring a Dog Trainer

Finding a Dog Trainer

Where to find a dog trainer

There are many ways to find a dog trainer. You can ask your vet for recommendations. Neighbors and friends may have used a trainer in the past and will recommend him or her. You can ask your Facebook network. Or you can do a Google search. You can also search leading industry group websites for dog trainers. All of these sources will yield dog trainer or dog training company names.

group dog training class puppy class
Harper loved puppy class!

We recommend you first do these two dog training industry websites: and When searching on, we recommend you limit your search to certified trainers. This ensures that you hire someone who has taken the extra step of obtaining a certification. This shows their understanding of learning theory and also that they have experience (hundreds of hours of hands on experience are required to sit for most certification exams).

If you have a fearful dog, will gives you names of trainers who have a certification in fear free training. This training is focused on helping pets feel safer at the vet and being handled by the vet and grooming professionals.

Dog training is unregulated industry. Literally anyone can put out a shingle that says they are a dog trainer. Certifications do not a guarantee that the trainer is excellent. They are a great step toward proving competency and dedication to the profession, hundreds of hours of documented experience, and that the trainer has a solid grasp of important topics like learning theory, and in most cases science-based training techniques.

How to know a trainer is good fit

Once you have some dog trainer names, contact the dog trainers and see how they respond. Do they answer the phone when you call? Do they respond to your email in a timely manner? Are they willing to talk with you for a few minutes? Yes’ or no’s to these questions don’t mean the trainer is good or bad, but they should give you a feel for whether or not you want to work with him or her. If a scheduling office answers the phone, are you able to talk with the trainer before they come to your house or you go to their class?

private training
Private lessons were a great fit for Mickey

We find that, at minimum, a quick chat or email exchange is the best way to get started in relationship with a dog trainer. This is a person that you are going to trust with your dog, and that will need to teach you as well. If your personalities do not mesh, or you are uncomfortable with how they talk to you, it can make learning difficult for you.

Bottom line: you (and ideally your dog) should feel comfortable with the dog trainer. Don’t just hire the first person to answer the phone, there may be a reason they are the easiest to reach.

What to ask prospective dog trainers

When you are interviewing your prospective trainer, here are some great questions to ask: What methods and tools does the trainer use to train dogs? What does the dog trainer do when a dog does something he/she doesn’t like? What type of rewards does the dog trainer you use? How many times does the dog training class meet, or how many private lessons are included in the program? What certifications does the dog trainer have? How long has the dog trainer been a trainer? Does the dog trainer have references? (either on line success stories or clients who you can talk with?)

Not all dog trainers have clients you can call. We generally don’t offer up client names because it would involve a lot of back and forth between the existing client, us, and the new client. We do have lots of Google and Facebook review and success stories on our website. Because our primary referral partners are dog rescues and vets, we rarely get asked for other references. Make sure to ask the dog trainer how much the training will cost. If they won’t quote a price – at least a ball park figure – over the phone, I would move on.

Deciding who to hire

At the end of the conversation, ask yourself “Did I enjoy talking with that dog trainer? I am OK with all of the answers to my questions – especially about what they do in training and how they get behavior?” If the answer is not a certain “yes!”, keep interviewing other dog trainers. It is imperative that you are comfortable with the dog trainer and the dog trainer’s methods.

Different Venues for Dog Training

Group Dog Training Classes

puppy class graduates

Group dog training classes are typically help in a facility of some sort. The facility may be a pet supply store, dog daycare or boarding business, vet office, or stand alone training business. Group dog training classes typically meet 4-8 times for a set fee. Fees vary by location, but generally fall into $25-50 average per class meeting. Group dog training classes can be effective for learning basic commands (sit, lay down, come, stay, leash walking). Classes are usually not recommended for dogs with fear issues, severe dog reactivity, or aggression towards people or dogs. They are also less effective for things that only happen in the home. Chasing the pet cat, house training, and separation anxiety are good best handled in private lessons.

Private Lessons

Private dog training lessons are the way to go for home-specific challenges. Aggression toward dogs or people should be handled in private lessons. They are also very effective for people who need faster results than group classes. They are also great for people have varying schedules or who can’t meet when the group class meets.

Day Training

Day training is where the trainer comes to your home and trains the dog one-on-one. Training happens in the dog’s home with owner not home or not always participating. This type of training can be great for leash walking, basic commands, leash reactivity, and more advanced obedience commands. In our day training programs we do several lessons with the owner involved throughout a 2-4 week program. These lessons are called handover lessons. They help the owner build on the progress the trainer is making with the dog. Owner included lessons are typically held every 4-8 lessons.

Board and Train

Board and train is an arrangement where the owner drops the dog off at the trainer’s location. The dog lives at the location for a set duration of training. If you decide to go this route, make sure you understand what tools and techniques the trainer will use on your dog. This type of training should also have a handover process for the owner to learn what the dog learned and how to continue the training.

When to start training

The best time to get started on training with a new dog is within the first few weeks the dog is in your home. For puppies, get started within the first few days of getting the puppy. There is no replacement for starting out right with your dog.

puppy socialization and kindergarten
No time like puppy time to start working on training & socialization!

If your dog is starting to show challenging and potentially dangerous behaviors like aggression to people or other dogs, guarding objects, or separation anxiety, contact a trainer right away. These behaviors are unlikely to resolved on their own. Googling or reading about how to resolve these behaviors is not recommend as a replacement for working with a professional.

At the end of day, remember this: doing training with your dog is really about investing in you and your relationship with him or her. Learning how to understand your dog’s needs helps you feel more relaxed and comfortable with your dog. Your happiness with your dog is what makes him or her awesome, and you are worth it!

About Pepper’s Paws

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Traineran AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy, and a Mentor for the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy.

Tips for Travel with Dogs

Canine Adventures

If you could travel anywhere with your dog, where would you go? As dog people, many of us value quality time spent in the company of our furry best friends. I love to travel and choose to take my miniature dachshunds Lucy and Ruby with me when I go. Collectively, my dogs have been to California, New Mexico, Germany, Utah, Virginia, Maine, Georgia, Denmark and many places in between. They are the best co-pilots anyone could ask for and their presence enriches my travel experience without fail. If any of you are considering hitting the road with your dogs, there are two behaviors you should teach your dog before you go.

Training Tip: Go to Mat

travel training tip go to mat

I have found that the most useful skill to teach your dog for travel is a solid Go to Mat cue (see handout attached). This skill is beneficial because it allows you to settle your dog just about anywhere. I have used it in restaurants overseas, traveling on crowded planes, or simply when I want to enjoy a meal without being mugged for food by my long and low criminals. It gives my dogs a job that occasionally yields a reward and the end result is a well-behaved dog that is welcome and appreciated wherever it shows up. Even dachshunds can occasionally turn on the listening ears if you make it worth their while.

Training Tip: Crate Training

travel training tip crate training

Crate training is another essential travel skill for any dog. In everyday life a crate can be a useful management tool for you and a safe space for your dog. In an emergency situation it can potentially save your dog’s life. Imagine a house fire or an evacuation scenario: a rescuer could easily remove a terrified dog in a crate, whereas a terrified loose dog could dash out the door and end up lost or overlooked under the bed. When traveling with your dog, a crate can provide a home away from home. My Lucy loves her travel bag. It is a familiar and safe place for her no matter how crazy her surroundings may get. She retreats to it on her own when the travel hubbub gets too much. She uses it to nap in in unfamiliar locations (hotel rooms, trains, planes, restaurants, other people’s homes, etc.)

Final Thoughts

Overall, remember that travel is stressful on any organism. If you do choose to take your dog along on your travels, it is your responsibility to be aware of how your dog experiences his or her world in the moment. Be prepared to make adjustments in order to keep their stress at manageable levels. This means packing and training a toolbox of skills that you can resort to. For example: teach your dog to be comfortable in a variety of settings and situations ahead of time using mindful socialization. Try not to overwhelm your dog with new experiences. Keep each new experience safe, fun, and positive for your dog.

I like to use hunting games to keep Ruby’s little brain entertained during down times. I am also always very aware that Lucy needs her bag to feel safe. Know your dog and come up with a simple list of his or her favorite activities. If your dog is well exercised ahead of travel and has everything he or she needs in order to feel secure, the trip will be as enjoyable for your canine as it is for you.

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

Maike Singelmann is a CCDPT certified  professional dog trainer.  She is also a graduate of the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training and Behavior and a VSA-CDT Certified Dog Trainer. Maike teaches group classes and leads private lessons for Pepper’s Paws, LLC. Read more about Maike here. Contact Maike at
yellow lab

National Train Your Dog Month

yellow lab

Did you know that January is National Train Your Dog Month?

The Association of Professional Dog Trainers started National Train Your Month 8 years ago to promote training your family dog to have everyday manners. Their website, is chock full training tips and videos on everything from new puppy challenges, safe interactions between dogs and kids, what to know when you own a large breed dog, and how to choose a kennel or groomer. New content will be added throughout the month too. Make sure to check out their site.

Why should you bother training your dog?

Dogs who have had some training are less likely to end up in shelters or being returned to rescues or breeders. Dogs who get regular mental stimulation through training are happier, more relaxed, and are easier to live with because they aren’t always brimming with unbridled energy. Training can take the edge off of a nervous or anxious dog. Training teaches a dog to look to his owner for guidance. And last but not least, training is fun for dogs and people.

What behaviors should you train?

Start with the basics. Sit, Lay Down, Come, Stay, and Touch are great commands to begin with. Think of your dog learning these commands as putting tools in your toolbox – behaviors you can call on your dog to do instead of things you don’t want him to do.

Have a dog that jumps on people? Teach him a rock solid sit and call on this behavior when she wants to greet people. If she sits, she gets attention, and a dog that is sitting can’t be jumping at the same time! Same thing with a solid down – a dog that is lying down is not jumping on people. A dog who comes when called can’t be doing a myriad of other things we don’t like – barking at other dogs, getting into the trash, chewing on your shoes – the list is endless!

By teaching your dog to follow these commands you are effectively teaching replacement behaviors – things your dog can do instead of the things he is doing that you don’t like. Remember – training and investing in your dog really is all about you. Training makes your life with your dog more fun (and the dog gets the benefit too!)

How do you get started?

If you are a DYI kind of person, YouTube and Facebook have great training videos and groups. Our recommendation for training is always to use positive training methods. Our favorite YouTube channels for this are Kikopup and Zak George. These two trainers have hundreds of great videos that are easy to follow and get great results.

If you prefer to have someone teach you one on one, private dog training lessons are the way to go. When we work with clients we customize our programs to meet our clients goals and dreams for their dogs. We provide written training plans and handouts and lots of other great materials to support you in your training.

If you prefer to learn in a group setting, group classes can be lots of fun for dogs and people – and we offer those too! Check out our group class schedule on our website

No matter what route you take to train your train, remember to have patience with your dog. Dogs don’t speak English, and some dogs take longer to learn new things than others do. If you dog doesn’t follow your commands, assume he needs a minute to translate from people to dog language or he doesn’t understand what you want him to do. Believe it or not, most dogs are not stubborn. We just haven’t made our instructions clear enough for them 🙂

Pepper’s Paws, LLC provides in home dog training for basic manners, behavior problems, and fear aggression in Chester County, PA. We also offer group classes in everything from Puppy Basics to Advanced Adult Dog Manners to Tricks and Fun! 

Head trainer Deb Murray, is Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Training (CPDT-KA) by the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers, a Fear Free Certified Traineran AKC Evaluator, and a Distinguished Graduate and Mentor Trainer for the Catch Canine Academy, and a Mentor for the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy.