Finding a Good Dog Trainer


One of the most important decisions you will make in paving a path to happiness with your pet is choosing a competent and kind dog trainer. The absence of standard credentials required by law, or established professional ethics, makes it problematic for pet parents to find a great trainer in an unregulated field.

However, science and culture are moving away from punishment/pain-based methods. Behavioral scientists resoundingly endorse dominance-free, reward-based training as the most effective, long-lasting and safest method, particularly for aggressive dogs who may bite if underlying issues are not adequately addressed.

Use of a front-clip harness or head collar is recommended for hard pullers — a step-in harness for puppies and small breeds. Medical injuries caused by collars constricting the airway passages are well-documented.

Journey, wolfdog ambassador of WolfCreekRanch, admiring his harness.

The Pet Professionals Guild adheres to the “do no harm” ethic and a strict code of conduct for trainers, holding pet welfare as the top priority. It’s the right thing to do for those who cannot speak for themselves. Search for a trainer near you. Victoria Stilwell-licensed trainers, hand-picked by Victoria, may be found on this website. These trainers use non-aversive leash-walking equipment and behavior-change protocols available. They suggest that you:

• Find a trainer both you and your dog like.

• Reward behaviors you want repeated.

• Manage environments to prevent the opportunity for unwanted behavior.

• Remove reinforcement to stop or decrease a behavior.

• Teach alternative behaviors for behaviors you want to change.

Talented trainers can manipulate the resources we control in order to get the behavior we want. They don’t resort to force or pain-based methods.

Killer whales, dolphins, wild animals at progressive zoos world-wide, and wolfdogs trained with purely positive reinforcement methods are powerful examples of the effectiveness of purely positive methods. It can work for your dog, too.

Linda Michaels, “Dog Psychologist,” MA, and Victoria Stilwell-licensed Del Mar dog trainer and speaker may be reached at 858.259.WOOF (9663) or by email:[email protected] for private obedience instruction and behavioral consultations near Del Mar and the San Diego Coast. Please visit us

Originally published in the U~T San Diego, Scratch n’ Sniff. Chris Ross, Editor.


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Positively Expert: Linda Michaels, MA

Linda Michaels is a VSPDT trainer, dog training columnist, and owner of Dog Psychologist On Call in Del Mar, CA. Linda holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology with research experience in Behavioral Neurobiology. She is a Behavioral Advisor for the Wolf Education Project (WEP) in Julian, CA and Art for Barks in Rancho Santa Fe, CA.


5 thoughts on “Finding a Good Dog Trainer

  1. Jennifer Bass

    Hello Victoria 🙂 I just wanted to check in & say Hello 🙂 I am a faithful watcher of "It's me or the Dog" I have two Dog's that I adore 🙂 I have a little BlackPug he is 9 year's old & I also have a BlueNose PitBull he is 4 year's old for the most part the are very well behaved except for pulling on walks & sleeping in my bed no matter what I try, once I fall asleep they are on my bad.!! My big boy pulls my so much I had to get stitches on my left knee 10 stitches inside & 12 stitches outside, my knee cap was exposed.!! Another time I had a lump on mu forehead ...he drags me!! Help!!!!

  2. Kathy Reidy

    I am a huge fan of Victoria and always believed in positive training. I have had great sucess with using it with the many foster puppies that I have had over the year. Right now I have two very tramatized puppies approximately 14 weeks old. They are utterly terrified of going outside. I have tried the buddy system by using a leash connector with my very mellow, calm, cavalier king charles spainel. They ended being dragged. They urinate in fear. Somebody did something horrible to them for them to be so afraid. In the house, they are very friendly and love playing with my dogs including a 220lb english mastiff. I have started throwing treats outside and trying to bribe them to go out. Any suggestions you have I would appreciate!

  3. Amy

    I would like to know the breed of the dog in the photo. It appears to be a Korean Jindo. I have a dog that is half Jindo, and have learned that they have very specific personality traits. Do you have experience with them?

  4. Linda Michaels, MA

    Hi Jennifer,

    I'd try the Freedom Harness. It has two contact points, one in the front and one on the back. AND how about some leash-walking training! It's a skill most people and dogs need to learn. Please check the sources listed...sounds like you could use a hand!

    Hi Kathy,
    So sad, I know. I get those a lot. One of my favorite techniques is to feed all meals scattered out on the lawn, away from elimination areas. Be careful no one fights over food. Be sure there aren't toxic chemicals on your grass, naturally. The higher value, the easier it will be for them to understand that you and your home are "safe" and they are in gentle, loving hands. Be patient. They'll come around. Nice job, Kathy 🙂

    Hi Amy,
    How interesting. Actually, that's Journey, a high-content wolfdog. I'll have a YouTube video of him available any day now. I have not worked with a Jindo...but I'd love to see some photos. You could email me at [email protected] and send something along if you're game!

    Linda Michaels, MA -- Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Training.

  5. Pingback: Finding a Good Dog Trainer | Dog Training articles

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