Finding a dog trainer whose training approach gels with your personal philosophy can be difficult, but there are some great names out there. These people have been in the field for a while and earned their reputation through effective techniques, a positive training approach, and plenty of hard work. Before we get to America's best dog trainers of 2019, it's important to understand what makes one a top dog trainer.
PODCAST: How to Choose the Right Dog Trainer
While every dog parent has something in mind when they start the hunt for a dog trainer, rather than being too picky when you begin your search, start by looking at your “must-have” features. These will be non-negotiable features that make a good dog trainer for your particular circumstances and they may include things like:
- A training method that utilizes positive reinforcement.
- A trainer whom you and your dog are comfortable with.
- A trainer with available.
- A trainer who understands your needs.
- A trainer who can effectively teach your dog what they need to know!
- A trainer who can teach YOU to teach your dog.
- A trainer who specializes in your specific needs if you are dealing with a particular behavioral problem.
- A trainer who provides the type of training you are looking for: one on one training sessions, group training classes, boarding training, etc.
Is a good dog trainer a top dog trainer? Not necessarily. Every dog trainer you consider should be a good trainer. You can do an online search for “best dog trainers near me” and find many good candidates, but there are some who earned their name and are clear standouts in the nation. So, what makes the trainers we’re sharing today the “top” trainers?
Best Dog Trainers: Experience
The best dog trainer will not only be an effective trainer of animals, but they should be someone with experience. No, you don’t have to find a trainer who has been in business for thirty or more years, but if you want a top trainer, look for someone who has had time to work “hands-on” with enough dogs to refine their approach to canine training.
Can a newcomer be a top dog trainer? Sure, but picking a trainer who has experience will also give you the opportunity to see the results of their program, get references, and talk to other people about their approach, research trainer reviews and read about them, and find out more about what they do.
Best Dog Trainers: Results
Results are a crucial factor in finding the best dog trainer. Hiring someone to work with your pooch who cannot prove that their approach to training is successful and a healthy experience for the dogs in their program leaves questions and doubt. You should have neither when trusting a top trainer to work with your pet.
Best Dog Trainers: Reputation
A top dog trainer who has experience and results under their belt is a trainer who has a reputation that precedes them. They are the trainer who is highly spoken of and often recommended because their program is effective and their results are proven, whether through word of mouth and references from your friends and family, great online reviews, responses on forums, articles, rankings, and so forth.
America’s Best Dog Trainers of 2019
Paul Owens is also known as “The Original Dog Whisperer” and has been a positive training expert and best-selling author for forty years! Located in Los Angeles, Owens training approach is different from many others because, in addition to focusing on a training method that is stress-free for dogs, he also addresses stress management for dog owners to foster a healthy relationship all around. Paul offers both group training classes and one on one training sessions. He's also a best-selling author of The Dog Whisperer, A Compassionate, Nonviolent Approach to Dog Training book, and creator of the popular The Puppy Whisperer and the Welcome Home! DVD set.
Paul is often quoted for his belief that “non-violence fosters non-violence” and in addition to his many years in dog training, he has also played an important role in local violence prevention programs and has been active in yoga for forty years. Despite his many talents, Paul is most frequently called upon for evaluation and behavior modification in aggressive dogs.
Paul is certified:
- Member of the Pet Professional Guild
- Professional Canine Trainer-accredited through the Pet Professional Accreditation Board
Grisha Stewart is a professional dog trainer, seminar speaker, and book author located in Alaska. Grisha’s approach to training focuses on the health of whole family life by empowering a dog with the tools they need to meet their needs through teaching effective two-way communication. Grisha is also known for having developed Behavior Adjustment Training (BAT), which helps build social skills for puppies and re-educate dogs with reactivity issues.
Grisha currently runs Empowered Animals, LLC, and the Animal Building Blocks Academy but began her training career in Seattle in 2003 when she began Ahimsa Dog Training, LLC which she went on to sell in 2015. Grisha has also found time to publish three books on dog training, publish multiple training DVDs, feature films, and online courses, and run regular webinars for dog parents to learn more about force-free problem-solving.
Grisha is certified:
- Professional Dog Trainer
- Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner (KPA CTP)
Emily Larlham is the owner of the Dogmantics dog training business in California. Emily’s training approach focuses on humane training and making free humane training techniques available to everyone. Throughout her training experience, Emily coined what is referred to as “Progressive Reinforcement Training” – the ethical training of animals that uses neither physical or psychological intimidation. In addition to Dogmantics, Emily is perhaps best known worldwide for her YouTube channel ‘Kikopup’ which shows her training techniques in action.
Emily began her work with dogs as a shelter caregiver where she learned many training techniques from her mentor, Kyle Rayon. After five years of learning, Emily went on to begin her own business and run numerous Progressive Reinforcement Training seminars around the world.
John Garcia is the official trainer with Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in southern Utah and is known for his work with the dogs of DogTown (a homeless dog “shelter” where dogs are treated as more than “shelter dogs”.) Garcia focuses on training that builds positive relationships between dogs and humans and approaches training with the belief that every dog deserves a second chance. John is skilled at working with dogs from difficult circumstances and is noted for his work with the Vicktory Dogs confiscated from Michael Vick’s dogfighting operation.
John Garcia began his work with the dogs at Best Friends Animal Society when he was just 18 years old and has since dedicated his life to working with dogs at the sanctuary. In addition to his appearance on the National Geographic television show “DogTown”, Garcia has also been featured on Larry King Live, The Ellen Degeneres Show, and been featured in numerous books and publications highlighting his career as a dog trainer and animal rescuer.
John has worked as an official trainer for the Best Friends Animal Society as well as Stray Rescue in Missouri. Currently, John is back working with Best Friends as an emergency response manager.
Larry Benoit is the owner of Larry Benoit Dog Trainer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Larry’s approach to training is built on the Dick Russell Method of Dog Obedience that builds on trust, respect, and leadership with gentle training techniques that are easy to follow through with. Larry’s training program offers group classes, one on one training, and boarding while training options.
Recognized for being the only official partner of the late Dick Russell, Larry Benoit was mentored by the famous dog trainer himself and went on to continue Dick’s method of training with his own training school after Dick passed away. Larry has since been ranked one of the top ten dog trainers in the country and has won numerous awards for his work in animal services!
Larry is a:
- Professional Member of the IACP (International Association of Canine Professionals)
- Full Member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers
- Southern region dog trainer/mentor for Animal Behavior College.
Martin Deeley is the owner of Florida Dog Trainer in Florida. Martin’s approach to training focuses on curating a relationship between the dog and its owner to reinforce healthy behaviors in dogs on and off-leash. Most particularly, Martin excels when working with behaviorally challenged dogs and dogs being trained as gun dogs. The Florida Dog Trainer program offers one on one training and boarding while training programs.
Originally from England, Martin has been recognized for 35 years for his work in various fields of dog training. Martin is the co-founder of the International Association of Canine Professionals, is an American Ambassador for the Animal Foundation Platform, has received awards for training military dogs, and has been named by Garden and Gun Magazine as one of the top Six Gun Dog Trainers in South East USA!
Martin is certified:
- Certified Dog Trainer (IACP CDT)
- Certified Dog Trainer Advanced (IACP CDTA)
- Professional Dog Training Instructor (IACP PDTI)
Tonya Wilhelm is the founder of Toledo Dog Training AKA Raising Your Pets Naturally based out of Toledo, Ohio. Tonya’s approach to training is designed to give dog parents the skills and tools they need to train their dogs using positive reinforcement. She offers both one on one private training sessions and group training sessions.
A proponent of holistic pet care, Tonya is a globally-renowned speaker on pet behavior and training and she has written a number of dog behavior books. Tonya’s experience with dog training began in 1998 when she was just a kennel technician at the humane society and she wanted to do something to make the dogs in her care more adoptable. This education turned into a lifelong passion and she went on to train service dogs and work as a full-time dog trainer before starting her own training school and publishing multiple training books and resources.
Tonya has published the following books:
- Proactive Puppy Care: Preventing Puppy Problems
- What’s For Dinner, Dexter? Cooking For Your Dog Using Chinese Medicine Theory
- Please Stay: Help for A Dog With Separation Anxiety
- Dexter’s Delights: Fun and Healthy Treats for Dogs
Linda Michaels is the owner of Del Mar Dog Training in California. Linda’s approach to training focuses on the promotion of animal welfare while solving behavioral problems using a force-free, positive training approach based on scientific (behavioral neurobiological) evidence. Linda is perhaps best known for her development of the “Hierarchy of Dog Needs” which serves as a guide to wellness and force-free modification of behavior.
Founder of the Do No Harm dog training approach, Linda is a certified veterinary assistant and Victoria Stilwell-licensed behavior consultant. A sought-after speaker, Linda has frequently been called upon for her experience with aggressive, fearful, and reactive dogs by the San Diego Humane Society.
Linda is certified:
- Fear, Aggression and Reactivity Consultant (FAR Beyond Licensed)
- Accredited Professional Canine Trainer (PPG)
- Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainer (VSPDT)
- AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator
- AKC Community Canine Evaluator
James Hamm is the owner of Lonestar Dog Training in Texas. A training facility that serves the entire state and focuses on “whole-dog” training that considers the mental, physical, and psychological needs of a dog while building a strong relationship between the dog and its owner.
A retired United States Army Command Sergeant Major who served 30 years of active duty, Hamm both trained and supported military canines and their handlers. After his military career, Hamm went on to study canine training for civilian dogs underdog training pro Martin Deeley at the International School for Dog Trainers.
James is certified:
- Master Dog Training Instructor (MDTI / ISDT)
- Professional Dog Training Instructor (PDTI / IACP)
- Certified Dog Trainer-Advanced (CDT-A / IACP)
- Certified Dog Trainer (CDT / IACP)