13 Tips to Improve Working with a Dog Trainer

This is based on what I expect my clients to do and understand.  It was made into a more generic handout and blogged.  No matter how good the trainer is, you are an important aspect in how effective the dog training program for your dog is.  Please note, there are always cases that cannot or should not be resolved for a host of reasons.  And of course, be reasonable. Are your expectations really in the best interest of the dog?



  1. Be honest about why you are contacting us. We need the truth – even if it seems embarrassing. It takes a lot to embarrass a dog trainer!
  2. Fill out all necessary paperwork (such as history forms) and return it to the trainer at least 2 days before the session. Some trainers will do a phone interview instead of a written intake form, so please see #1.
  3. Try to have the whole family present at as many sessions as possible, this helps keep everyone on the same track.
  4. Follow all protocols outlined. Various things are put in place to facilitate training, behavior modification and safety. What is recommended will depend on your specific situation.
  5. If you are finding something hard, let your trainer know immediately. Some things can be adapted.
  6. Do your homework. This includes management and practice. Not doing this can have negative effects on the program your trainer is developing.
  7. Let your trainer know about successes – even if small – and setbacks. This is important information.
  8. Even if you think you can go faster, follow the pace your trainer requests. Do not push things further than instructed without consulting the trainer. You could accidentally undo the current progress.
  9. Others can undo all your hard work! Have your trainer help to practice advocating for the needs of your dog if you are unsure of doing this.
  10. Keep various logs and video sessions if asked. This provides needed information. Feel free to do this even if you were not asked! Again, this provides needed information.
  11. A good trainer knows his/her skill set and may refer to someone whose skill sets are better in line with what you need. If this happens, please follow through!
  12. Give at least 24 hours if you have to reschedule. Trainers have other clients who need their time too. Be respectful of the trainer’s time. Frequent rescheduling may make it harder for the trainer to fit you around other clients.
  13. Finally, a few sessions with a trainer will not mean your dog fully trained or “fixed.” Learning is a lifelong endeavor. There are no crystal balls to determine time frames, ultimate outcomes, etc. Be patient and partner with your trainer to get the job done!

Karen Peak is owner/operator of West Wind Dog Training in Prince William County, VA and founder of The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project. This may be reproduced in its entirety for educational purposes only with credit given.

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