I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: in the United States, dog training is an unregulated profession. It sounds like the Wild West in the world of dog training today.

Buyer beware. It’s you, the newbie dog sitter, in the dog training services market.

You will spend money on these services and there is a lot of competition for your business.

I read the ads you read, I check references, I confirm claims. I imagine how confusing and infuriating it must be for a beginner to make choices based on advertising for-profit dog training services when, because you are a beginner, you know very little about what is offers.

You have to ask yourself: what does this mean, why does it matter, how do I know it’s true?

I asked dog professionals and friends online to help me with a few simple explanations:

What words used in a sales pitch (announcement, About, etc.) signal to you that the proposed training will be punitive (punishment, force, fear)? What words warn you that the training will not be positive? »

They responded with strong suggestions of red flags warning of punishing training.

Jill Gibbs (Montana) E-collar included with the first session.

mandy collins (UK) Results guaranteed. In one session. Energy. Stubborn. Correct/correct.

Bryn Souza (Massachusetts) Rule.

Amy Suggestars (Ohio) Straight from a trainer’s website in my area: “Easy control at the push of a button!”

Caroline Duncan (Texas) Remote.

Stephanie Niles (Washington) “Balanced” – code for a little bump or jolt of a prong collar and a little treat once in a while. Keep balance.

Photo by Erin Saywell

Janet Velenovsky (Virginia) ALPHA.

Jessica StinsonHudson (Alabama) Warranties. Promising one-session training. Bragging that they don’t use treats, clickers or “fad” methods. Advertise a “system” or proprietary training method. “Natural” (often referring to corrections like those of a mother dog). Use of terms such as ‘dominance’, ‘alpha’, ‘pack leader’, ‘boss’ and outdated theories such as dogs eat last). Boasting 100% reliable “take your dog anywhere” off-leash training. Use of corrections, punishments, leash “communication” (not always a red flag but misuse of terminology). Or if the only references are “I love dogs and have owned them all my life”.

Ann McQuillen (California) Alpha.

Sarah Richardson (California) Balanced, leadership, leader dominance, dominance, submission, energy, follow, command, boss, obedient, obey, obedience (or any variation). No food, alpha. ‘Is your dog stubborn, doesn’t he respect you as the alpha leader you should be? Our patented methods are fast, natural, balanced and 100% guaranteed for life will make your dog the submissive and obedient pet you deserve. Your commands will work. The first time! No need for food bribes because our training collars work remotely, every time. Blah blah blah…

Alisha Ardiana (California) Energy, command, control, food bribes, leadership, pack leader, authority, reprimands, corrections. I also have concerns when they insist that problems can only be solved by advice and an extremely expensive train. Can we also talk about what is missing? Identifiers. Certificate. Scientific training. Degrees. The signup experience makes no sense to me. I’ve had teeth all my life, that doesn’t make me a dentist.

Diane Stearns (Maryland) “Balanced trainer.”

Ray Little (Pennsylvania) It’s a good thing to ask them what that means. Most don’t really know.

Therese Tuttle (Texas) Local trainer: “We don’t work with dogs on anxiety medication.” “We can solve any problem.”

Jeanne Brenan (California) Every time the ad contains old school words like dominance, pack and leader. I’ve also seen danger phrases like “Your dog wants to please you”. I know this may appeal to owners. I also know the truth to let the owners know your dog does what works for him can pass like a lead balloon.

Jorge Melara (Wisconsin) Alpha, energy, pack, order, guarantee, stimulation collar, correction.

Telani Lasoleille (Tennessee) Unfortunately, “science-based” becomes a red flag: “We use science-based techniques to train your dog, using all four quadrants.” But also all the other red flags mentioned.

Meira Frankl Coach (Quebec) All words mentioned. Other flags I teach potential clients are words or phrases such as: training camp, head trainer(s), training lead/leash. Teach a dog he’s wrong. (Dogs have no morals; morality is a human construct that varies from culture to culture.) There are a number of trainers in my area who are balanced/compulsive trainers but claim to use the positive reinforcement (key words). Giving ridiculous deadlines. “Obedience dog in just 30 days!”

Melissa McCue-McGrath (Massachusetts) Not always, but often: K9; also, “balanced” or “static shock”; Ah, Alpha. Submitted. Guess I should make a dictionary, huh?

Adrienne Critchlow (UK) The phrase “We use the right training method for every dog ​​we work with” always rings alarm bells for me. Also “guaranteed results [within a specified timeframe]and “We use all four quadrants in training. “

Ray Little “Obey”, “follow your orders”, “do what you want” or other qualitative language such as eliminating “bad” behaviors. Anyone who promises quick or guaranteed results or talks about your pets as subordinate or submissive. Many trainers have claimed to be “behavioral”, which is a clue to look for references proving this.

Many unqualified trainers cannot tell you how they plan to teach your dog. They simply emphasize obedience and eliminating bad behavior. You want them to explain how they will achieve this. Cryptic or nebulous promises such as “proven methods”, “our unique approach”, and “we’ll show you the secret” always give me a red flag. Any methods that seem drastic or employ punishment as the primary method, and anything that makes a parent feel uncomfortable or nervous. Anything that compares dogs to wolves or thinks like wolves.

Brae Raphael (Oregon) Self-taught.

Kelly Byam (California) Alpha.

Claire Eccles (UK) Guaranteed Results, Pack Leader; no bull, no frills; train the dog in front of you, some tools for some dogs.

Erin Saywell (Indiana) “Mindset”.

Frances Dauster (Alabama) “Every Dog Learns Differently” and “We Tailor Training to Your Dog” always send me to find more information on their website. Could be good, could be bad. Also, stock photos are a huge flag for me. Don’t have photos of your own clients? Why???

Claudia Black-Kalinsky (New Hampshire) “Balanced”, “no treats”, “pack leader”.

Sarah Richardson behaviorist.

Debby McMullen Yeeeeeesssssss!

Rebecca Piedad Or even “behaviorist” when they don’t actually have those credentials.

Sarah Richardson True, but it shows their ignorance even more when they don’t even know how to use the word correctly. It always makes me want to laugh, cry, tear my hair out.

Rebecca Piedad Fully agree!

Diane Stearns Yeah. There is no such thing!

September B. Morning (Washington) Guaranteed results.

Donna Weider (Washington) “Works on all dogs.”

Shelly Keel (Idaho) Quick, easy ordering, guaranteed. Fix, alpha, pack, leader, balanced.

Barbara Miller (Missouri) Teach simple “commands”, “corrections”.

Jane Finneran (North Carolina) Guaranteed results.

Lynn Brezina (Illinois) Balanced training.

Karen DiCostanzo (Kansas) Command, respect, leadership, relationship formation, dominance.

Debby McMullen (Pennsylvania) Any franchise; 99.9% are punishment based and few if any “trainers” have any real behavioral education. They are usually marketing experts.

The words: stubborn, dominant, alpha, stim-collar/e-collar, “training” collar, control, obedient, fixed, guarantee, pack, leader, commands, correction, boot camp, balanced, pinch/pinch /Strangler.

Now, for credentials, the word “certified” doesn’t make sense. The origin of the certification is what counts. What professional organizations are they affiliated with? Are they using science or backed by science? Those are two different things. Anyone calling themselves a master trainer, as mentioned above.

I also think it’s a huge red flag when someone offers a free consultation because quality consultants/trainers just can’t do it unless they have their own setup and then it’s a “Come see me, you have 15 minutes” and that’s it. Generally, free in-home consultations are done so they can sell you a set of very expensive shock collars.

Red flags warn of what might be expected. I hope the red flags that many commenters have addressed in their replies warn of dishonesty and delusion. These flags say: “Keep away – danger.” Look elsewhere for the positive training you want for both your dog and your family.