How to Find a Good Dog Trainer

Print pagePDF pageEmail page


Woman and Her Dog Shaking Hands Silhouette

Good Trainers!

With the overwhelming variety of dog training collars and methods advertised, it is often frustrating for pet parents to find the best trainer. Please remember this: The safest, as well as the most effective methods are based on force-free/pain free/fear free scientific principles. The consequences of using other methods not only include a high risk of psychological and very possibly medical injury, but they are entirely unnecessary. Renowned veterinary behaviorist and editor of the Journal of Veterinary Behavior, Dr. Karen Overall (DVM, PhD), provides an outline in her article aptly titled, Good trainers: How to identify one. (Overall, K., et al., 2006).

This easy-to-use reference guide was developed for pet parents, dog trainers, veterinarians, shelters, rescues, groomers, and other pet-related professionals.

“Good Training Tools: Safe and effective.
a) Small bite-sized treats
b) Leashes
c) Flat collars
d)  Harnesses
e) Praise
f) Toys

Tools to Avoid: Cause anxiety, fear and may cause aggression.
a) Shock collars/ electric collars / e-collars/ static collar
b) Prong collars
c) “Correction” collars
d) Choke collars, choke chains
[e] Citronella collars

Problematic Tools:
a) Flexi-lead
[ b] Crates (overuse)

How to make the case for force free dog training linda michaels del mar dog trainer dog psychology positive reinforcement

Learn How to Make the Case for Force-free Dog Training DVD

What is positive training?

a) Based on a reward structure that encourages the dog to want to work more with you
b) Only reward based, there is no punishment or “correction”
c) Having the dog pay attention to something that is coupled with the reward [Best standards of training techniques include capturing, luring, and shaping.]

What about punishment?

a) Punishment increases anxiety and fear
b) Punishment ruins relationships

c) Punishment inhibits desired learning
d) Punishment does not tell the pet what to do
e) Punishment makes animals more reactive so it increases aggression and arousal. Any animal that was already aggressive will become worse when punished.
f) Punishment increases the risk of physical and psychological injury. Dogs manhandled with choke chains and prong collars often have laryngeal, esophageal, thyroidal, and tracheal damage. Recurrent laryngeal nerve damage or paralysis can sequelae and may be detected by a change in bark. “

Overall, K., Brammeier, S., Brennan, J., Brown, S., Bryant, D., Calnon, D., . . . Seksel,K. (2006). Good trainers: How to identify one. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 1, 47-52.

Linda Michaels, “Dog Psychologist,” M.A./Psychology a Top Ten Rated U.S. Dog Trainer — Del Mar Dog Training, may be reached at 858.259.WOOF (9663) or by email:  for private obedience instruction and behavioral consultations near Del Mar and the San Diego Coast. Please visit us at  All rights reserved.


Linda Michaels, M.A. Psychology, Del Mar Dog Training, serves clients in Del Mar and San Diego County from La Jolla to Carlsbad, plus Rancho Santa Fe, Hollywood, and Beverly Hills. Linda Michaels was recently rated one of the top ten dog trainers in the United States, by Top Ten Magazine. Linda has a master’s degree in Experimental Psychology (Hons), and is the creator of the Hierarchy of Dog Needs™ (HDN). She focuses on the psychological aspects of dog behavior that often mirror human psychological conditions, such as: fear, separation/attachment disorders, and aggression toward humans and other dogs. She also teaches private, customized basic manners/obedience lessons for dogs of all ages and every breed.

Featured Posts