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The Best Dog Trainers in Madison, WI of 2023

Merlin Noble photo

Merlin Noble

May 30, 2023

Dog Trainers

Welcome to the Madison, WI Sniffspot top dog trainer list for 2023. This is a list of the top dog trainers in Madison 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 Wisconsin 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 Madison, WI Dog Trainers in 2023

Shannon Skolaski

With DBF since: 1999

Areas of expertise: Families with dogs and children, general training, puppies and reactive/ aggressive dogs

Education: Bachelor’s degree in zoology and psychology from UW-Madison

I have always had a passion for animals. My grandfather was a large animal veterinarian. As time went on I was going to pursue a degree as a veterinary technician. A local veterinarian directed me to Patricia McConnell. I read a few of her booklets and tried some of her techniques and saw immediate results. I switched from veterinary technician program to a bachelor's degree with the intention of becoming an animal behaviorist.

My family and I moved to the country in 2013. We enjoy the fresh air and hard work of country life.

I currently share my home with a young active miniature poodle named Rona. My previous dog, Madi, was one of the most loyal wonderful Boxers anyone could have known. In her younger years she was a star in a production at American Players Theater in Spring Green, WI.

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • In home training
  • Deaf dog training
  • Reactive dog training
  • Off leash training
  • Puppy training

More info about service provided: We are experts at getting to the bottom of why your dog is behaving the way he or she is – and we help owners discover the positive steps to take to change a dog’s behavior.We are one of the few programs in the country to combine ethology and psychology in the development of humane and effective treatment plans for dog training and dog behavior problems.We have evolved over the years and extended our offerings to clients based on their needs. We provide a full range of classes that range from puppy and family dog training to specific behavioral training and dog agility classes.

Behavioral issue focus:

Any issue can be addressed in an appointment, but more common problems include:

aggression (toward family members, visitors or unfamiliar people, other dogs or animals)
resource guarding
anxiety (separation or generalized)
sound phobias (thunderstorm, etc.)

Training methods:

The term 'positive' has at least two meanings in dog training. One is positive, as in dog-friendly. In that sense, Dog's Best Friend Training is all about positive dog training. We train with food reinforcement or clicker training and do not use force, shouting, or other 'negative' forms of coercion to train dogs.

The other use of 'positive' in dog training is as a technical Learning Theory term. In that sense, there is 'positive reinforcement' and 'positive punishment,' among other things. In those terms, 'positive' just means you're giving the dog something, in the mathematical sense of addition. You're giving treats or giving pain/annoyance. So in that usage, 'positive dog trainer' doesn't make sense.

Positive dog training is the way to go!

Why I became a dog trainer: I have always had a passion for animals and a love of teaching. Finding Patricia McConnell opened the best of both worlds.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: I enjoy the diversity of every day. My favorite part is helping families understand their dog and really being able to communicate effectively.

My #1 dog training tip: Spend a few minutes every day training and exercising your dog.

Service areas: Dane County and surrounding areas


Jessica Cady-Bartholomew

Jessica Cady-Bartholomew believes in training and educating efficiently with kindness and compassion. She uses the latest and best methods in animal learning to ensure that you and your pup are reaching your goals and having a great time doing it.

A Madison native, with a degrees in sociology & recreation, Jess has made the commitment to help people and their dogs lead their very best lives in our community.

Jess, her husband, 3 dogs and 2 cats live west of Madison and enjoy spending as much time outdoors as possible.

Certifications:  KPA CTP, CPDT-KA, Fear Free Trainer, Predation Substitute Trainer, Family Dog Mediator, Certified Trick Dog Instructor, Pro Dog Trainer

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • In home training
  • Reactive dog training
  • Off leash training
  • Puppy training

More info about service provided: I offer private lessons and group classes that inspire dog teams to get outside and make the most of the natural world and time with your furry best friend.

Behavioral issue focus: Finding the right dog, introducing a new dog to your home, all things puppy, struggles on leash, reactivity, resource guarding, enrichment, predation

Training methods: I offer private lesson packages, group classes and organized training groups that not only deliver great education, but also invites teams to become a part of our community. As a KPA CTP, I practice positive reinforcement training and seek solutions through setting the learners up for success.

Why I became a dog trainer: I've always been a professional people trainer, but I was inspired to train people with dogs when I got my first dog. He brought a level of joy, excitement, playfulness and challenge to my life that I will forever be grateful for and I absolutely love to coach my clients to live their best lives with their dogs.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: The little wins. I love to help my teams find meaningful success, to learn more about who their unique and awesome animal is (even on the tough days) and to watch them grow together. I have this amazing client base who loves play and fun as much as I do. My clients inspire me and give me something to smile about every single day.

My #1 dog training tip: Have fun! Working and training your dog should feel really good for both of you, even when working on the tough stuff. If you are struggling or want to learn more, find a trainer who both you and your dog have enjoy spending time with. Play is a beautiful way for humans and dogs to learn together.

Service areas: Madison & Surrounding Communities


Chelse Wagner

Certified Behavior Consultant

Education: UW-Madison B.S. in Psychology and Zoology, Apprenticed with Patricia McConnell, Ph.D., Graduate of Susan Friedman Ph.D.'s 'Living and Learning with Animal Program

Certifications: CBCC-KA CPDT-KA

Chelse has always been passionate about animals and started her professional career in sheltering in 1994, working for the Dane County Humane Society where she was responsible for implementing and directing their animal behavior department. While there, she helped staff and volunteers learn how to evaluated dogs to best determine what types of homes they should be adopted to and when needed develop individual training and behavior programs to make dogs more adoptable.

Chelse began working for Dog's Best Friend Training in 1998. She has almost 25 years experience training group classes and working privately with clients to address behavior problems in dogs. Chelse specializes in behavior modification cases involving aggression, anxiety, and phobias as well as helping people find ways to enrich their dog's lives through training and play. She also has a soft spot for Greyhounds.

Chelse's personally owned and loved many different dogs over the years including Greyhounds, Aussies, Border Collies and Golden Retrievers.

Certifications:  CBCC, CBDT

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • In home training
  • Deaf dog training
  • Reactive dog training
  • Off leash training
  • Puppy training

More info about service provided: I work with all kinds of behavior concerns including anxiety, reactivity and aggression. I also work with family who are just starting out with a new dog and want guidance. My clients are also supported in group training classes, if appropriate, run by Dog's Best Friend. I'm committed to using humane methods for dogs and their people!

Behavioral issue focus: Reactivity (bark/lunge type behavior) to triggers (dogs/humans/cars/etc), aggression (a dog biting people/dogs/cats), cat/dog concerns, anxiety (separation/noise/generalized), struggling puppies (excessively mouthy/shy/unable to settle in their crate)

Training methods: I start with assessing the background of the dog, the environment where the dog is struggling and the physical health of the dog (make sure that a vet has seen the dog recently and if not, encourage owners to have the vet assess the dog) . From here, I teach skills using positive reinforcement techniques in order to encourage alternative behaviors. I consider each dog, owner and their environment as an individual case so all cases get an individualized plan. After 20 years of doing this job, I have quite a few tools:-) Owners get a typed plan with their assessment.

Why I became a dog trainer: To help people and dogs along with extreme interest in non verbal communication and how animals learn

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: The times when dogs and their people are in sync and having a lovely conversation!

My #1 dog training tip: If there's something your dog is doing that you want to change, start with keen observation about what is going on before and after the undesired behavior.

Service areas: Madison, WI and surrounding communities/rural areas. Remote, too.


Julie Vanderloop

I have been in the dog behavior business for over 20 years.

Certifications:  BS, CVT, CPDT

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • In home training
  • Reactive dog training
  • Off leash training
  • Puppy training

More info about service provided: I do in home Behavior Consultations for behavior problems and general training. I also teach group classes including Puppy through Advanced obedience and socialization, Tricks, Scent work, and CGC.

Behavioral issue focus: I work with reactivity, aggression, caution, arousal, anxiety, socialization, manners, and puppy development.

Training methods: I provide behavior consultations, behavior modification plans, and training plans.

Why I became a dog trainer: Dogs have affected my life in positive ways since I was young. Helping other people understand their dogs and build a better bond is my way of giving back.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Facilitating bonds between owners and their dogs and helping people raise well mannered family members.

My #1 dog training tip: Be clear and consistent!

Service areas: Madison, Dane County


Brianne Statz

Brianne first joined Teacher's Pet in 2004. While her training journey took her away from Teacher's Pet for a bit, we are so delighted to welcome her back in 2022! Brianne's love for animals started young and when she went to college at UW Madison, she got her bachelor of science in Zoology. She became a certified professional dog trainer (CPDT-KA) in 2006 and has diligently kept up on her continuing education to know the most up to date training methods. Her love of animals did not stop with training though as she became a Certified Veterinary Technician in 2010.

Brianne particularly enjoys training tricks, agility, and parkour fun with her pets! Brianne's current crew of pets includes a deaf/blind Aussie named Simon, a deaf Border Collie named Banjo, a vision impaired Aussie named Kuma, a Pomeranian mix named Pepper, a cat named Joan, and a chinchilla named Eleanor (yes, even her chinchillas are trained too!). Brianne also welcomed her beautiful (human) baby girl in 2021.

Certifications: CPDT-KA

Services include:

  • Agility training

More info about service provided: Brianne particularly enjoys training tricks, agility, and parkour fun with her pets!

Service areas: Greater Madison Area


Emily Blythe

Homeward Bound Behavior and Training, LLC is owned by Emily Blythe. Emily has over 15 years of experience helping families and pets in need. She got her start in Nebraska, moved to Iowa, and now her journey has brought her to Wisconsin!

She has extensive experience working in animal shelters and veterinary clinics. She specializes in feline, canine, and avian behavior and implements behavior modification through force free training. She is committed to a science-based approach to training, behavior modification, and teaching people.

She holds her associate certification in the canine division and feline division through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, is a Fear Free Certified Animal Trainer, a Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer, and a certified AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator. She is a member of the Pet Professional Guild and Force Free Trainers of Wisconsin.


Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant - IAABC
Associate Certified Dog Behavior Consultant - IAABC
Fear Free Certified Professional - Trainer
Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer
Bachelor of Science in Animal Ecology

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • In home training
  • Deaf dog training
  • Reactive dog training
  • Puppy training

More info about service provided: We offer in-person coaching, day training, and virtual coaching for dogs, cats, and birds. We also offer in-home pet sitting.

Behavioral issue focus: We work with all behavior issues!

Training methods:

Our training methodology is force free and science-based. The first step in the process would be to schedule an initial consultation. There are three goals that we accomplish during this:

- Gather a thorough history. The initial consultation is our opportunity to hash everything out so that we have a clearer picture of what's happening.

- Customized management plan. Once the history is gathered, we will create a customized management plan for the animal. Management plays a crucial role in the success of training because it helps prevent them from practicing any problem behaviors and sets them up for as much success as possible. Training goes much, much slower when there is no management plan in place.

- Behavior modification plan. This involves setting clear training goals and prioritizing those goals so that we cover the concerns that are most important to you. Gathering a history will help us create the most accurate behavior modification plan so that we have a solid foundation to use as a jumping off point.

Initial consultations are done remotely via Zoom. Within a few days of the consultation, you'll receive a written report and a recording of the session itself. In the email with the written report, we will provide training package options for you to choose from. In-person options will be provided at this point. Typically, training sessions are 1-2 times per week.

To start with, we suggest visiting our website to view all of our services and pricing. The initial consultation lasts 1-2 hours and costs $100. Half of the cost of the consultation will be due at the time of booking. The other half will not be due until the day of the initial consultation. I invoice via email through Square. There will be a link in the invoice that you can click to pay with a credit card.

Why I became a dog trainer: I have been working with animals since I was 15 years old in many different capacities. I discovered the world of animal behavior when I was 18 and never looked back! It's so gratifying to be able to help people and animals have a better bond and to keep families together.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Getting to help so many different people and animals. Every case is different and keeps me on my toes!

My #1 dog training tip: In-person services within a 40 mile radius of Wyocena, WI. Virtual training is offered worldwide!

Service areas: All dogs can benefit from mental enrichment! This includes food puzzles, sniffaris, and decompression walks (just to name a few).


Nikki Darga

Nikki Darga has 6 years of experience training dogs. Nikki started training in competitive obedience with her dog Kona when she was sixteen years old. Nikki and Kona also trained for tracking and retrieving. From then on, Nikki knew that she wanted training animals to be a part of her life.

Professionally, Nikki has been engaged in various training related endeavors, including:

Working at the Dane County Humane Society teaching group Puppy Beginner Dog, and Dog 2 classes.

Joining the Dane County Humane Society as a Canine Volunteer Training Coordinator.

Pursuing continuing education opportunities.

Obtained her CPDT-KA certification.

Nikki also works with cats to help solve unwanted behaviors for feline friends.

Nikki brings enthusiasm and a love of people and their pets to her work and is committed to creating a supportive environment for everyone. Her ambition is to help animals and their humans create a closer bond and work together to achieve their goals.

Certifications:  CPDT-KA

Services include:

  • Puppy training

More info about service provided: Obedience

Service areas: Greater Madison, WI area


Deb Crawley

Why you chose to work with dogs: I came to the Dog Den as a client. I had a reactive dog that I needed help with. I had no idea at the time that this experience was going to change my life. Working with dogs turned out to be a dream come true, especially since I have loved animals my whole life.

Favorite Part of your job: My favorite part of working at The Dog Den is basically, everything. From helping clients and dogs create bonds and setting up training plans for them, to just cuddle time while working with the pack. The educational opportunities that are provided are exceptional. This allows for all of me to be a creative thinker to help all the dogs in my, care to live out theirs lives in a carefree manner whether they are here with us or at home with their families.

If you could be any dog breed who/what would you be: I am asked quite frequently which breed I would be if I was a dog. Honestly, I love all the breeds and would have a hard time picking just one. However, I can see the clown side of a Weimariner in all of us.

Other Insights: I would just like to thank Laura and all the wonderful clients for giving me the opportunity to work and play with their loved ones.

Certifications: CBCC-KA, CPACM, CPACP, CPDT-KA, CGC and Puppy Star Evaluator, CVT, Completion of Knowing Dogs 101 & 201, Pet First Aid Certified


Jolene Short

I'm a certified dog behavior consultant (IAABC) and trainer (CCDPT) who has been in the behavior field for over 10 years. I love working with pet guardians to help strengthen their bond with their companions so they can enjoy their lives together. I strive to continually educate myself on the most up-to-date information in relation to humane and science-based animal training and care. I am currently expanding my education to cats.

Certifications:  CDBC, CPDT-KA, CSAT, FFCP (Trainer)

Services include:

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

More info about service provided: In home training and behavior modification: basic manners, reactivity, fear-based aggression, stranger danger, resource guarding, noise phobia, separation anxiety, workshops for daycares, vet clinics and shelter/rescues

Behavioral issue focus: Reactivity, stranger danger, generalized anxiety, fear-based aggression, separation anxiety, resource guarding, noise sensitivity/phobia

Training methods: We offer initial behavior consultations to take a thorough history and lay foundational information. We then offer a report that recaps and provides additional resources as well as recommended behavior/training packages ranging from day training (when appropriate) to coaching virtually or in-person. We use force free and positive reinforcement methods in order to help maintain a management plan while the dog learns healthy coping mechanisms and we work to help change their emotional state to the triggering or overstimulating situations through counterconditioning and desensitization.

Why I became a dog trainer: I want to help improve the quality of lives of animals and their human counterparts so they can truly enjoy their time together.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Watching owners build relationships with their companions beyond what they were expecting was possible and getting to be their cheerleader through the process.

My #1 dog training tip: Reinforce what you want to see more of. It's so simple, but I always tell clients not to mistake simplicity for ineffectiveness.

Service areas: Des Moines, IA; Ankeny, IA; West Des Moines, IA; Madison, WI; Sun Prairie, WI


Sniffspot Madison Top Trainer Frequently Asked Questions

How are Madison dog trainers selected for this list?

These are the top dog trainers in Madison 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 Madison 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 Madison?

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 Madison 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 Madison cost?

Madison 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 Madison dog trainer. How can I get listed here?

As long as you have a training facility or do in person training in Madison 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 Madison?

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 Wisconsin was $29,733 per year and $14.29 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 Wisconsin Cities

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

Milwaukee, WI

See The Best Dog Trainers In Other States Near Wisconsin

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


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Merlin Noble photo

Merlin Noble

May 30, 2023

Dog Trainers

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