This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series DOGthusiast in Manhattan

Are you searching for a good dog trainer, great dog training classes, or a dog training school to address behavior issues, train your dog to do things, or just have fun with your dog? How do you know that the obedience school for dogs you just wrote down uses the right techniques to train your dog? How do you know that dog trainer or training school won’t make matters worse?

The most important thing you can do before you choose a dog trainer is ask that trainer a series of questions before following their lead in teaching your dog manners or tricks. How they approach dog training makes a huge difference

At the Better With Pets Summit I was really lucky to have a chance to interview Victoria Stilwell, famous dog trainer and CEO of I asked her the following: what should someone ask a potential dog trainer before taking them on? She lets us know what questions to ask, and what answers to expect, from a good, positive, force-free dog trainer or dog behaviorist. For more about force-free, positive training and the science behind it, see my post on Victoria’s presentation about the myths and facts of positive training.

Note: I wasn’t able to improve the audio quality of this video (despite having some great tools! The background voices were simply too loud). Therefore, I have roughly transcribed Victoria Stilwell’s response below the video if you have trouble making out what she says.

How to choose a dog trainer: Interview with Victoria Stilwell from Jen DeHaan on Vimeo.

How do you choose a dog trainer? What questions should you ask, and what are the answers that you should expect? Learn how to interview a dog trainer who is positive and force-free from Victoria Stilwell, of

Apologies about the audio – very noisy and the video was spontaneously taken on a phone! Audio edits did not improve the quality, so posting it raw.

How to find a good dog trainer: The Questions to ask.

I would ask that trainer:

  • What kind of collar do you use?

  • Do you use a collar or do you use a harness?

  • If my dog regresses, what do you do?

  • How do you tell it no?

  • I would get references and talk to other people.

  • I would ask the trainer about “pack leader theory”.

  • What do you think about dominance?

  • Why do you think my dog is being aggressive?

What kind of responses to expect, and what to do as a result

  • If the trainer says they use shock collars, prong collars, or choke collars: run away.

  • If the answer is you need to be that dog’s pack leader, that you need to dominate the dog, there has to be a hierarchy or the dog needs to see you as “alpha”: run away.

  • If they say “I use various methods of correction” such as alpha rolls: run away.

Why are these important questions to ask when choosing a dog trainer?

There are so many trainers in this country now that train using cognitive science and scientific methods – including a group at – licensed trainers that are all force-free, and there are others all around the country.

So ask questions, really educate yourself. I think a lot of people just say, “oh, this is a dog trainer, I’m just going to go to them” and I pick up a lot of the pieces from people who did that. The dog is damaged, and I’ve had to change and reverse that. It’s tough.

Thanks to Victoria Stilwell & find a positive trainer in your area

I’d like to thank Victoria for her time, and point you to her excellent website as a source of great information on dog training. As mentioned in the video, you can also search for a dog trainer in your area that follows positive, force-free techniques on her website.

2014 Holiday Guide coming soon!

Keep your eyes out for our 2014 Holiday Guide, about to be available on this blog! It has some lovely ideas for gifts this season, exciting deals, ways you can help some great rescue dogs, and more.

Series Navigation<< The Myths and Facts about Positive Dog Training: Victoria Stilwell’s presentation at #BetterWithPets

About Author

Jen deHaan is graphic designer, small business owner, and dog person living in Bay Area, California. Jen enjoys learning about dog training and behavior, and has taken several courses and seminars since 2010. She also contributes articles to leading websites, such as Victoria Stilwell's Positively . It all started with a great dog called Mikey (aka "dude"), loved and lost but remembered forever. Jen also runs a freelance business focusing on graphic, web, and UI design at FoundPixel, and a small business creating hand crafted dog products at Stylish Canine.

  • Cathy C Bennett

    Very nicely done my friend.

  • Talent Hounds

    Loved meeting and chatting with Victoria. She has such a kind soul!

  • What a great interview! I adore Victoria Stilwell, she is one of the most knowledgeable people in the dog world today. Loved her show It’s Me Or The Dog & love her web site I’m a huge believer of positive training methods & reinforcement.

  • Oh, in my comment I also wanted to mention that although there was a lot of background noise, I was able to catch everything Victoria was saying. Loved the video, thanks

  • So awesome – and I’m very impressed with her answers. I just love that positive/scientific dog training methods are gaining so much traction and I’m pretty sure she has a lot to do with it. She’s such an inspiration to those of us looking to help train our dogs in a way that’s productive and a great experience for both dog and owner. Great interview, and I didn’t have any problems hearing her answers even with the background noise.

  • Kari Neumeyer

    Great tips! I heard her last year at BarkWorld and was so inspired.

  • Lindsay Stordahl

    So great that you got to interview her! I read what you wrote below while listening to the video, so that helped me understand everything she said.

  • Emmy Scammahorn

    I recommended a trainer to a pet sitting client based on a single meeting and I don’t think it’s working out well. Sure wish I’d read all these questions first….

  • HuskyCrazed

    Oh I SO wish I could afford a trainer!!!

    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!

  • What a great interview!! :D