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Choosing a Professional

Choosing a professional for your pet care needs is not always simple, here are some quick tips we recommend while you do your homework for your pet care needs.

      Training or Behavior Professional


  • Check for Certifications or Credentials-- The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CPDT-KA, CPDT-KSA, CBCC-KA) has rigorous standards for membership and International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (commonly CDBC & ACDBC) has a very rigorous standard for membership and is specific for professionals who are proficient with behavioral cases. There are also program certifications like Karen Pryor Academy, Pat Miller Dog Training Academy, Fear Free Pets, and Victoria Stilwell Academy (among others). Certifications are a good place to start but they do not tell the whole story, there are some exceptional trainers who do not hold certifications and some trainers who hold certifications who are not exceptional, so looking deeper is important.

    If you are looking to compete in a sport, looking at your trainer’s credentials with their own dogs can be helpful.  Do they compete in the sport you are looking to learn… do they compete at a high level successfully?  Many sport trainers are experts in their sports but not in the bigger dog training picture, so likely won’t hold a certification

  • Research training methods-- Scrutinize a trainer’s website.  Look for information on training philosophy or methods—do they clearly state their methods or philosophy or are they less concrete?  Look for a trainer whose methods emphasize the dog earning tangible rewards (food, toys, play).  Many trainers throw around “positive reinforcement based” terms without either understanding it or actually believing in it—so look deeper and investigate photos and videos on the website and Facebook. If the dogs are wearing correction collars like prong collars, choke, chains, or shock collars, that contradicts their “positive reinforcement” statement.  Do you see owners with treat pouches feeding their dogs treats?  

  • Ask to observe a class--Even if you are considering hiring the trainer for private training for a behavioral issue, it can be very informative to sit in on a class.  How does that trainer treat the dogs in the class?  How does the trainer treat the humans in the class? Do the human and dog students seem to be enjoying themselves? What type of training equipment do they use and recommend?  How are their teaching skills? Do you feel comfortable with them?

  • Ask:  “What happens if my dogs gets it right?”      “What happens if my dog does something wrong?”
    For the first answer you are looking for them to describe using tangible rewards like food or play when your dog is right. The second answer you want them to describe taking that incorrect response as information to set the dog up for success next time or possibly change the situation so the dog can be successful the next time.

      Grooming Professional


  • Check for Certifications, including first aid--Does the groomer have a certification?  The National Dog Groomers Association of America (NDGAA)'s National Certified Master Groomer (NCMG) is the main independent groomer certification, but there are schools and programs that graduates earn a certification upon completion.  It's also important that they are trained in first aid in case something happens while your pet is in their care. Can they recognize a dog who is overheating, do they know how to recognize a dog with respiratory distress, can they clean a superficial laceration if they accidentally knick a dog?

  • Are they insured and licensed appropriately-- Do they carry appropriate general liability insurance?  In Pennsylvania, groomers with a physical shop location likely also need to have a kennel license.

  • Look for a Fear Free Certified Groomer or ask how they handle difficult dogs--There is a Fear Free certification for groomers available through Fear Free Pets, this program is designed to teach groomers lower-stress ways of grooming and handling their clients.  Specifically ask about how they handle challenging dogs. Will they let you stay?

  • Is the shop clean? Are lots of dogs just running around?  Are dogs tethered on tables or in tubs being attended?
    The shop should be clean and free of dog waste.  Although it might be cute to have all the dogs running around together after their groom, these dogs are not at all being supervised and any number of accidents can happen with unsupervised dogs. If the groomer is using tethers to keep dogs on tables, they should never be unattended. 


  • Do they allow scheduled 'happy visits' or the use of food during grooms?--Will they accommodate paid happy visits or partial grooms with lots of treats to help build good experiences? Maybe the doggie gets brushed on the table or a bath while given lots of treats and then goes home. Do they use treats during grooms to help reduce stress?  

  • Read Reviews--Have there ever been reports of rough handling?  Any reports of injured dogs, particularly if the injury was not disclosed at pick up?  Are they reported to be reliable with their clients or pups excited to go for grooms? 

        Dog Walking and Pet Sitting Professional

  • Check for Certifications or Organization Memberships--There are several certifications for dog walking and pet sitting. They aren't always common but they exist. If your professional doesn't have a certification, look to see if they are members of a professional organization like National Association of Professional Pet Sitters.

  • Insured and Licensed-- Insurance (general business liability) is very important for any person taking care of your pets in your absence--it protects all parties if something were to happen. But it's not so simple--here are some considerations...

    If you are using an online service that employs hundreds of different walkers, you should really do your homework. One company explicitly states their walkers are not insured--they offer a "Guarantee" but in order to file a claim you must first try to resolve it with the walker, then, before you can file a claim with the company, you have to file it with any other insurance that might cover it, including your own homeowner's insurance. Similarly, if you use a local multi-employee business, make sure that not only is the business insured but your individual walker is covered (if the company hires the walker as an Independent Contractor, rather than employee, that walker may not be insured, even if the umbrella company is).

    If you are using a pet sitter who will take your dog into their home, you want to make sure their business insurance covers this and that they hold a kennel license. If your pet sitter works for a larger company, make sure they are insured in their home and that their own home has a kennel license (not just the location of the main business).

    It's important to know that some insurance policies won't cover events if dogs are off-leash or doing a meet and greet, so if your dog is part of an off-leash adventure group, you should check. They also often exclude incidents in a vehicle.


  • Uses safe equipment appropriately--Make sure your professional knows how to use your preferred equipment safely! Some harnesses can be confusing, but if not on properly can be easy to escape. Specifically ask if the walker ever uses their own equipment on the dogs they walk, if they do, ask what equipment they use. There have been situations where a dog walker, unknown to the owner, was using a correction collar on a dog.

  • Check reviews--Does this walker have good reviews from other clients? Are they reliable, are they responsible, do they have good communication skills. Are there any instances of them losing a dog or a dog being injured in their care

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