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The Best Dog Trainers in Charlotte, NC of 2023

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Merlin Noble

March 29, 2022

Dog Trainers

Welcome to the Charlotte, NC Sniffspot top dog trainer list for 2023. This is a list of the top dog trainers in Charlotte based on votes from the Sniffspot community and the general public. Over 55,000 votes were used in compiling this list. We have only included the top trainers with sufficient votes and the trainers are ordered in terms of the number of votes received. Trainers that tied are ranked in reverse alphabetical order based on first name. All dog trainers on this list are positive reinforcement only, as defined by no force, fear, intimidation, or aversive methods used. This list is a subset of the broader Top Trainers in North Carolina list. To learn more about our dog trainer contest, feel free to view the dog trainer contest post.

Dog training is one of the most important activities someone can do with their dog. Many come to dog training through a specific issue they want addressed, anything from barking to separation anxiety. Some have adopted dogs from animal shelters with an abusive experience and some just have happy puppies looking for everyday life skills. Trainers can help with all kinds of specific skills and issues, from leash manners to territorial aggression to anxiety around skateboards to common puppy challenges. However, what many discover is that working with a trainer is actually a way for a pet owner to deepen their relationship with their dog. The enhanced communication skills that result can increase quality of life, be a rewarding experience, be a social experience and lead to more harmonious relationships. Knowing that one’s dog is having a happier life can dramatically improve peace of mind. As the saying goes: happy dog, happy life. And it extends further than just the dog, to the pet owners. Owner empowerment can actually improve the relationship between owners. And finding the right trainer can make all the difference in the experience.

This list is sponsored by Sniffspot, which is the largest network of private dog parks for rent in the world. Each of the thousands of Sniffspot dog parks are hosted by locals on private land with all private bookings to maximize safety for guests and their dogs. Sniffspot offers various types of dog parks, including fenced, water parks, indoor dog parks, dog beaches and more. Sniffspot has worked closely with dog trainers to create safe spaces for dogs and our top trainer lists are a natural extension of that relationship. You can browse Sniffspot's local dog parks here.

The Best Charlotte, NC Dog Trainers in 2023

Benah Stiewing

A lifelong animal geek, I first started training dogs at the age of 12 with my Toy Poodle, Kodi. I quickly became completely obsessed, and absorbed as much information as I possibly could. Kodi was an excellent first teacher - he was unmotivated and fearful.

Determined to be a team, I sought help from talented trainers and slowly started to broaden and deepen my knowledge of canine behavior. Years later, Kodi earned his Master Agility Champion title. I have trained with many master animal trainers and devoted myself to becoming the best possible advocate for every dog. I have worked in animal rescues, boarding facilities, and studied under some of the world's top agility competitors.

In 2015, I brought home Mojo, my first Border Collie, who has been a devoted and accomplished teammate. From a young age, Mojo demonstrated aggression and anxiety and I had to quickly learn how to be his best advocate. Under leading trainers, I dove deeper into canine behavior and communication than ever before, and haven't looked back since.

I understand that relationship-building, fluid communication, and trust are the fundamental building blocks for every human-dog relationship. In order for our dogs and us to work in unison, there must be inherent value and trust in the relationship. We build this through understanding our dog's needs and desires and advocating for such as best we can. I have supported many teams in reaching goals and overcoming barriers, but my favorite moment will always be when a team is able to effectively communicate and experience joy in their work together.

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • Board and train
  • In home training
  • Reactive dog training
  • Off leash training
  • Puppy training
  • Agility training

More info about service provided: I provide a vast range of services to fit you and your dog's needs. At this time, the majority of my work is conducted remotely through Summit Dog Training - I do still offer limited in-person training in Columbia County, NY. I work with puppies, adult dogs, nervous dogs, high-energy dogs, reactive dogs, and more. I am a positive reinforcement based trainer and am committed to the well being and success of each and every one of my clients.

Behavioral issue focus: Leash reactivity, human reactivity, transition stress, and mild aggression cases.

Training methods: When we begin working together, we become a team committed to your dog's success. I provide detailed training plans and flexible scheduling. My training is extremely flexible based on your needs and experience level.

Why I became a dog trainer: 2018

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Creating solid lines of communication between human and dog.

My #1 dog training tip: Reinforce your dog for desired behaviors!

Service areas: Columbia County, NY
Brooklyn, NY
Chatham, NY
Hudson, NY
Hillsdale, NY,
New York, NY
Fort Collins, NY


Trish McMillan

Trish McMillan is a certified professional dog trainer (through CCPDT), certified dog behavior consultant and associate certified cat behavior consultant (through IAABC) who holds a Master's degree in Animal Behavior from the University of Exeter in England. She specializes in training and behavior modification work using positive reinforcement with dogs, cats, and horses.

During her seven years with the ASPCA, Trish gained a wide variety of experience in the field of animal behavior. For three years she was the director of the animal behavior department at the ASPCA's New York City shelter, helping staff, volunteers, and adopters work with animals and make great matches. Trish has also helped assess and rehabilitate animals from cruelty, hoarding, and dogfighting cases, as well as pets rescued from natural disasters.

In addition to writing for the ASPCA's Virtual Pet Behaviorist and other publications, she helped create and present several very popular webinars on dog and cat behavior and handling for the ASPCA Pro website. Trish also co-chairs the Shelter Behavior division of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and runs an online shelter behavior mentorship through IAABC twice a year.

Prior to her work with the ASPCA, Trish managed dog daycares, volunteered in animal shelters, taught obedience classes, and worked with board-and-train dogs in her home. She has also trained and shown horses in various disciplines, and has been incorporating clicker training in her equine work for many years now. Trish has also worked with cats with behavior problems, and enjoys helping our feline friends have more enriched lives through clicker training as well. (Yes, cats can be trained!)Trish presents and consults nationally and internationally on canine, feline and equine behavior as well as on sheltering topics.

Certifications: certified professional dog trainer (through CCPDT), certified dog behavior consultant and associate certified cat behavior consultant (through IAABC) who holds a Master's degree in Animal Behavior from the University of Exeter in England

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • Reactive dog training


Shannon Burch

After spending 10 years in the equine training industry, Shannon made the transition to dog training in 2014. She saw a great need for educated trainers with powerful and accessible tools for everyday dog owners to communicate with their pets. She holds certification from the Animal Behavior College (ABCDT) and is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA).

Shannon has a passion for animal behavior and learning theory, keeping up to date on the most cutting-edge and modern techniques for dog training founded in the science of Animal Behavior, utilizing 100% positive reinforcement, force free methods. She studied hundreds of dogs, learning about canine body language, interspecies communication, and play behaviors.

Today, her focus lies in education, teaching people about their dogs, achieving their goals with compassion, empathy, and knowledge. Shannon is a registered Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Evaluator with the AKC, a member of the Pet Professional Guild, certified in canine CPR and First Aid through DogSafe, supporting member of the IAABC, and regularly volunteers her time at local animal shelters facilitating play groups and behavior evaluations.

Originally from West Chester, Pennsylvania, Shannon graduated from James Madison University with a degree in English. When not training dogs she enjoys diving into a good book, exploring nature with her family, going for a run, and baking delicious treats for loved ones.

Certifications: She holds certification from the Animal Behavior College (ABCDT) and is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA).

Services include:

  • Board and train
  • In home training
  • Puppy training

Service areas: Charlotte, Lake Wylie, Belmont, Gastonia, and Fort Mill areas


Cheryl Connolly

Force free, fear free positive reinforcement only trainer.

Certifications: Karen Pryor CTP, Fear Free, ABC-DT.

Services include:

  • Board and train
  • In home training
  • Deaf dog training
  • Service dog training
  • Puppy training
  • Agility training

More info about service provided: Force free, fear free reward based training in your home or in public spaces, small group classes. Specialty in puppies and basic obedience and problem solving nuisance behaviors. We coach you to work with your dog or we can directly train your dogs.

Behavioral issue focus: Jumping, barking, digging, counter surfing, leash reactivity or pulling, puppy biting, potty training

Training methods: Start with a consultation where we set a plan together based on your goals.

Why I became a dog trainer: I love dogs and want to teach people how to best meet their needs using kindness

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Seeing Ah ha moments when behaviors click

My #1 dog training tip: Listen to what your dog is trying to tell you

Service areas: South Charlotte, Union County


Emily Greene

There's no doubt, even from an early age, that I was destined to work with animals in a professional setting.

I've been very fortunate to have opportunities that allowed me to learn more about animals and how to work with them. In college, I shadowed an accelerant dog trainer and also volunteered at an animal sanctuary with hybrid wolves, dingos, and many other animals. I also had the amazing opportunity to become an educational assistant for the Eco-Bus in Greensboro where I helped teach children and adults about various types of creatures including birds, insects, reptiles, and much more.

Once I graduated college, I started working as a dog trainer for PetSmart where I thoroughly enjoyed teaching and coaching humans how to live harmoniously with their pets. Then, I moved to the Queen City where I found a dog training home at Zoom Room Charlotte where my love for reactivity, aggression and other common behavioral concerns came to light. After Zoom Room closed, I had an amazing opportunity to start my own business and Free Will Animal Training was born.

At home, I live a pretty awesome life with my introverted Labrador mix, Jack and my social butterfly Coonhound mix, Pete. I adopted Jack and Pete from the Humane Society of Charlotte where I volunteer on a weekly basis.

Certifications: Family Dog Mediator

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • In home training
  • Reactive dog training

More info about service provided: We provide behavioral training for dogs and families who are struggling with concerns such as human-directed aggression, dog-directed aggression, handling anxiety, fear, separation anxiety, leash reactivity, multi-dog household aggression, and more

Behavioral issue focus: We work with behavioral concerns including aggression, reactivity, separation-related concerns, etc

Training methods: We are rewards-based, force-free trainers. We do not utilize punishment-based tactics nor do we use correction collars (e-collars, prong collars, etc.) We begin with a 90minute counseling session to collect information about the dog's health, day-to-day routines, exercise regimen, sleeping and eating habits, and more. Then, we schedule 30min or 1hour coaching sessions to teach families how to manage and work with their dogs to resolve and/or reduce behavioral concerns.

Why I became a dog trainer: Ever since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to work with animals in some capacity. Later in life, I was an undecided major in college which meant I was required to take a career exploration course. In this course, I took a variety of personality quizzes which narrowed down three careers that suited me the best: Attorney, Therapist, and Dog Trainer. I did a presentation on dog training, shadowed a local dog trainer, and fell in love with the idea of becoming one someday.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: I love helping people see their dog in a different light. We are so programmed to believe that animals/pets should act a certain way or have a certain temperament, but every animal is an individual. Helping people see how unique and special their dogs are and to also help them understand what their dog is going through is such a joy to experience.

My #1 dog training tip: Be kind.

Service areas: Greater Charlotte, NC area and globally via remote training


Sniffspot Charlotte Top Trainer Frequently Asked Questions

How are Charlotte dog trainers selected for this list?

These are the top dog trainers in Charlotte as selected by broad voting from the Sniffspot community and the general public. These trainers are expert dog trainers, who received votes from their delighted customers, due to their excellent dedication to customer service, excellent results and general care they exhibit for their clients. Many have worked with thousands of dogs and are highly experienced trainers.

How can I get in touch with dog trainers?

Each of the trainer profiles contains a link to their website. You can click through to their website where you can find more contact information.

Are these Charlotte dog trainers certified professionals?

Dog training is not regulated at the federal or state level, so there is no standard dog training certification and professional trainers are not required to be certified. However, certifications are important to show that a professional dog trainer has a standard of expertise to help train your dog. Each trainer’s certifications are listed on their profile.

What are the top certifications for Dog Trainers in Charlotte?

Some of the top certifications in the dog training industry are CPDT- KA, IAABC, Karen Pryor Academy - KPA certification, Jean Donaldson's Academy - CTC certification and Fear Free Certification. You can review the dog trainer certifications for each specific dog trainer on their profile on this page.

What methods are used in the dog training sessions?

There are many methods for teaching dogs and a lot of disagreement about the correct training approach. All of the Charlotte trainers included on this list use positive reinforcement training only, as defined by no force, fear, intimidation, or aversive methods used. This includes not using any specifically aversive approach to training or training aid, such as a prong or electronic dog training collar (also called remote dog training collar or shock collars). As for specific training programs and specialties, such as day training / doggie daycare or obedience training, you can see more information in each trainer’s profile.

Are dog training lessons in a training facility or are virtual options available?

Some dog trainers operate exclusively from a training facility, some do house calls and some offer video calls or other virtual options. There are pros and cons to each option and the most efficient behavioral training option depends on specific circumstances, for instance, what hours work best for you. A training center or training ranch can be a good option if your training plan requires facilities, training equipment or dedicated space. We recommend reaching out to the specific trainer you are interested in or browsing their website for more information.

Are dog training lessons private or in a group setting?

Every different circumstance of dog and owners may require a different setting, whether it’s housebreaking issues, anxiety issues, lack of proper socialization, food aggression or just bad habits. Each trainer has different offerings as far as whether they can offer clients a private training session or a group class. Trainers provide information about their private class and group class offerings in their profiles and you can browse their website for more information as well. It may make sense for your specific circumstance to reach out to the trainer to ask if they recommend group or private dog training classes. Some trainers also have a team of specialists that can provide even higher levels of service, or provide specialized sessions, such as pack walks.

How much does dog training in Charlotte cost?

Charlotte dog trainers have a wide range of costs for different services and phases of training. For instance behavioral modification that involves boarding is often more expensive than day training, and private lessons are generally more expensive than group lessons. Prices can also vary depending on specific behavioral issues. Lastly, some trainers have more overhead than others, We recommend first picking a trainer that provides the services that you are looking for, then reaching out to them to get up to date pricing.

Is training a dog good for the dog?

Yes! Training has many benefits for dogs. Whether with basic training skills or complex training techniques, going through behavior training with your dog can improve the bond that you share with them. Also, training can do a lot to improve the level of confidence enabling of a dog (and it can also help with building customer confidence!). Rather than being about exerting maximum control over them, it gives them more certainty that they understand how the world around them works. For instance, crate training can help a dog feel safe and at home in a crate vs fearful and uncertain. Dog training can teach important skills, such as leash control, potty training or a general level of obedience skills. And lastly, it’s just fun for the dog to learn life skills and for their family. Training can be very stimulating and enriching for a dog and serve them throughout their entire healthy life!

Can an aggressive dog be trained?

Yes! Any dog behavior can be worked on through training and coaching. Aggression in dogs is a serious issue, but it is also a term that is used very broadly. Many dogs that are thought to be aggressive are actually reactive, which is a different behavior altogether. A trainer can help you interpret signs of aggression, such as excessive barking, fear aggression and leash aggression, and type of aggression. If you believe you have a dog with aggressive behaviors, we recommend reaching out to one of your local top trainers to get their diagnosis and advice.

I am a Charlotte dog trainer. How can I get listed here?

As long as you have a training facility or do in person training in Charlotte you can be considered for this list. We update this list once per year, normally starting in January. Make sure to keep an eye on our social media and sign up for email updates with Sniffspot in order to be in the loop on the next round of nominations.

How much do dog trainers make in Charlotte?

Dog trainer earnings vary widely depending on many factors, such as whether a dog trainer is an employee or owns their own full-service professional dog training business. According to ZipRecruiter, the average dog trainer salary in North Carolina was $29,895 per year and $14.37 per hour. It is impossible to say how much a dog trainer can earn with a full-service professional dog training company, because the size and profitability of companies can vary widely.

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See The Best Dog Trainers In Other North Carolina Cities

Ordered alphabetically, only included cities where there is enough data to compile a list

Asheville, NC
Chapel Hill, NC
Concord, NC
Durham, NC
Greensboro, NC
Hickory, NC
High Point, NC
Raleigh, NC
Winston, NC

See The Best Dog Trainers In Other States Near North Carolina

Ordered alphabetically, only included cities where there is enough data to compile a list

South Carolina

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Merlin Noble photo

Merlin Noble

March 29, 2022

Dog Trainers

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