Welcome to the Pittsburgh, PA Sniffspot top dog trainer list for 2023. This is a list of the top dog trainers in Pittsburgh 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 Pennsylvania 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.
I worked in the criminal justice field for years. As the pendulum swung to where perpetrators had more rights than victims, I had to leave the field. The only reprieve from the negativity of the world came from my dogs. Not wanting to waste my master's degree, I obtained certifications in the National Animal Care and Control. Unfortunately, I learned I needed more. Although I like animals, I truly love dogs. Upon finding Pat Miller of Peaceable Paws, I found my calling and completed her academies to equipped me to properly learn how to train both dogs and owners using force free techniques.
Certifications: PMCT 3; ABCDT
More info about service provided: All training focus on increasing the handler's ability to understand their dog and their dog's needs. The pet parent learns how read canine body language, understand learning theory, and psychology. All trainings are completely force free. Owners learn to understand that dogs do not give us a hard time, the reactive ones are having a hard time.
Behavioral issue focus: Fear based aggression is the most common behavioral concern. These are often dogs who lack in socialization and respond by offering distance increasing cues like barking, growling, and lunging.
Training methods: Using counter conditioning and desensitization, we help dogs learn by helping change their opinions about stimulus that otherwise triggers reactions. We work within the dog's behavior threshold and close the gap as the dog is able.
Why I became a dog trainer: To enhance my understanding and love of dogs.
My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Seeing owners gain a better understanding of their dogs.
My #1 dog training tip: Understand that we often get frustrated with dogs for behaviors that are completely natural and normal dog behaviors. If we want to achieve new behaviors, we have to teach them. And learning should never hurt.
Service areas: Western Pennsylvania: Indiana, Homer City, Blairsville, Shelocta, Kittanning, Armagh, Ebensburg, Johnstown, Clymer, Commodore, Penn Run, New Florence, Marion Center, Ernest, Creekside, Punxstawney
Hi there, I'm Aunt Beth! At NPAB we focus on nothing but positive reinforcement-based, fun & effective training the whole family can do. As a certified professional trainer, I offer a variety of services, including in-home dog manners training, behavior consultations and behavior modification, and group classes at our training & education facility, as well as at local veterinary offices and county parks.
I'm highly experienced in various areas of training and thoroughly enjoy working with:
First Time Dog Owners
Anxiety & Fear-Based Reactivity & Aggression
Certifications: Certified Behavior Consultant Canine, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Fear Free Professional
Behavioral issue focus: Aggression, Reactivity, Fears / Phobias
Why I became a dog trainer: Save dogs from going to shelters
My favorite part of being a dog trainer: The lightbulb moments from dogs and their owners
My #1 dog training tip: Build a healthy relationship with your dog
Service areas: Pittsburgh
Vanessa (she/her) has been involved in the 'dog world' since 2010 with roles like volunteer dog walker, volunteer manager, staff kennel attendant, dog sitter, and foster parent. She cites her most notable experiences as: joining several of her rescue friends out of state assisting in dog fighting confiscation efforts (#367), interning at the Humane Society of the United States in their state legislative affairs department, presenting her Master of Public Health thesis "Breed Specific Legislation: Does policy equal prevention?" at the largest annual public health conference, becoming a founding member of the Pittsburgh, PA based non-profit, The Proper Pit Bull, and finally, as a full time professional dog handler to a specially trained Canine Advocate named Nelly for a local victim services organization. The lessons she learned in this position greatly influenced her approach to group training classes where she has been a lead instructor since 2019.
Continuing education has always been important to Vanessa and she is grateful for the dogs that are always willing to teach her something new. While she may not have her official certification (yet), she appreciates that quality content continues to become more accessible for others like herself and is inspired by the work being done in the force free world.
At the heart of it all lies her dogs: Belle (2019), Henry (2020), Sasha (2021), Nelly, and Keisel. Vanessa currently lives in Pittsburgh with her best boy, Keisel, and also works in public health research.
More info about service provided: I teach group manners classes at one of our local shelters. Our classes range from Puppy Kindergarten to Level 2 Intermediate Adult. Our sessions are 6-7 weeks long and meet for one hour. We focus on providing a strong foundation so our learners are set up to succeed no matter where their training journey takes them. I am most proud of our Bully Breed basic manners classes that are the product of a partnership with local non-profit The Proper Pit Bull. The curriculum isn't different, but the spirit of the classes is. A deeper sense of community is gained in a room full of our beloved breed and their beloved humans.
Behavioral issue focus: The most prevalent behavioral issues we see in classes include: reactivity (various types), anxiety, and arousal/impulse control.
All of my lessons have a basis in science and force free methods. Many of our learners aren't familiar with concepts like thin slicing, adjusting criteria, or how to be clear and consistent. This informed the design of our weekly lessons, how they flow, and the additional resources that are provided.
During orientation I ask our learners what they hope to get out of the course and adjust/adapt specific lessons as much as possible. Certain requests can be difficult to address in a group setting but I am lucky to have great assistants that can help provide additional one on one time if needed.
Each group level focuses on engagement, foundation behaviors, handling/technical skills and communication basics for humans. As our class levels progress we build on proofing and fluency.
Upon graduation, I assess the progress each team has made and advise our training department manager on what I think would be most beneficial for them.
Why I became a dog trainer: After spending so much time in the shelter/rescue world, I wanted to do more to help keep pets in their homes. Around this time, I was also introduced to work by Sophia Yin, Patricia McConnell, and Emily Larlham. I was fascinated with all of this new information but most importantly, I found it fun!
My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Watching dogs figure something out for the first time!
My #1 dog training tip: Listen to your dog! They're constantly answering our questions and giving us feedback.
Service areas: Pittsburgh and Allegheny County
I am the author of the How Many Dogs? Using Positive Reinforcement Training to Manage a Multiple Dog Household, which has also been translated into German. I write as a contributor for Victoria Stilwell's Positively website as well as on my book's website.
I began my training career in 1998 as a volunteer instructor at Animal Friends shelter in Pittsburgh. I have taught literally thousands of classes both through the shelter and at other locations. I started as a dog walker and developed a keen interest in behavior and was asked to join the behavior program.
I also ran my own Doberman rescue for nearly 15 years before taking a less active role in the rescue world.
Certifications: Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC)
More info about service provided: In home behavior consulting for fear/aggression/reactivity as well as in-home and remote consultations for multiple dog household issues, remote and in home consultations for Caucasian Ovcharka owners and related breeds behavior concerns, and getting your puppy started off on the right paw.
Behavioral issue focus: Fear, anxiety, aggression, reactivity, and multiple dog household conflicts. Also, puppies getting started off on the right paw.
Training methods: My methods are modern rewards-based science supported dog and human friendly designed specifically for each individual dog.
Why I became a dog trainer: Because I had a challenging dog that I needed to learn how to effectively help make better choices.
My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Client happiness at improving the relationship and understanding between themselves and their dogs.
My #1 dog training tip: Show your dog what you want them to do instead of correcting what you don't want them to do.
Service areas: Allegheny, Fayette, Butler, Beaver, Green, Washington, Mercer, Westmoreland, Indiana counties
Rachel McMichael is the owner and founder of UpSwing Canine Behavioral Services and UpSwing Total Pet Care, LLC. With nearly 20 years of experience working with dogs and an entire lifetime around them, Rachel now specializes in the most shy/fearful dogs as well as dogs with moderate behavior issues. Rachel goes beyond the basics for dogs in need and puts concentration on humane, positive and effective behavioral change. Her goal is to repair relationships between dogs and their people and to create happier and more harmonious households. Rachel fully believes that the relationship that the dog and family share can often be a contributing factor in behavioral challenges, therefore she aims to create treatment plans for dogs and their families that include relationship building as well as added enrichment.
In addition to being Butler County's leading Certified Canine Behavior Consultant (CBCC-KA), Rachel is also a Catch Certified Dog Trainer as well as a Catch Mentor Trainer for new students. She is an Accredited Dog Trainer through the IAABC (IAABC-ADT), Certified Trick Dog Instructor through DMWYD, and a AKC CGC, STAR Puppy and Trick Dog Evaluator. Rachel also holds a degree in Veterinary Technology and has a wide base of canine knowledge.
She is a proud professional member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, a professional member and Board Member of the Alliance of Modern Pet Professionals, as well as a professional member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She has attended many behavior seminars and demonstrations over the years and continues to earn credits, attend conferences and stay on top of the most current animal behavior studies.
She is super passionate about creating enriching, positive and lasting bonds between pets and their families and views training as an integral and imperative part of overall wellness for our pets. She truly believes that a great relationship with your dog is more important than any trick you could ever teach, and you can teach your dog just about any trick if you have a great relationship!
Certifications: CBCC-KA, CCDT, IAABC-ADT, CTDI
More info about service provided: Specializing in shy & fearful dogs, Rachel offers confidence and trust building, basic training, skills and manners, behavior adjustment and modification, group classes and more
Behavioral issue focus: Shy & fearful, reactive, aggressive, compulsion behaviors and anxiety (as well as basic)
Training methods: Usually starting with a meeting or behavior consultation, I take into consideration all of the dogs needs prior to creating a treatment plan for the family. Using positive methods alongside enriching activities and confidence building, we see results.
Why I became a dog trainer: I feel it is so important for people to truly understand the dogs that they choose to spend their lives with. In understanding them, they can do better by them. My job isn't just one of dog trainer, but one of bridging communication gaps, repairing and building relationships and assuring harmonious households.
My favorite part of being a dog trainer: When people rediscover what makes them love their dogs so much - the moment they realize the work can be done kindly and efficiently with love and patience.
My #1 dog training tip: See the world through the dog's eyes - this helps you to understand why they make the choices they do.
Tena Parker has been working with dogs for over 15 years. She earned her Master's Degree in Education and her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology (with a 'minor' in Physics, just for fun) from Sarah Lawrence College and is the head trainer for and owner of Success Just Clicks Dog Training. She is a nationally Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) with IAABC, a nationally Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) with CCPDT, is a member of the APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers), is a Certified APDT C.L.A.S.S Evaluator (and instructor), is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor (CTDI) with DMWYD, is a Certified AKC Canine Good Citizen and S.T.A.R. Puppy Evaluator, and is a Tester/Observer for Alliance of Therapy Dogs.
Tena's background in education has played a critical role in how she runs her classes, develops her curricula, and works with her individual students. Her deep understanding of how humans learn allows her to teach dog owners how to be very skilled trainers and teach them how to continue to help their dog. Students quickly learn that having fun is an important part of how she teaches classes and interacts with clients. If training is not enjoyable, it's not likely to happen but if everyone involved enjoys the process, it's much more likely to be worked on and refined.
Certifications: Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA), Certified Trick Dog Instructor (CTDI)
More info about service provided:
We offer 30+ group classes every week covering topics from basic manners (puppy k thru CGC levels) to dog sports (rally, agility foundations, scentwork, and more) and behavior classes (Keep Cool Reactive Dogs and Marshmallow dog class for nervous dogs) to trouble shooting classes (recall class, life skills, be polite class, etc).
Along side our robust group class offerings we offer private training for both behavior issues and basic manners.
We also offer elite day training programs and training adventure programs for our students to have direct training with one of our certified trainers.
Behavioral issue focus: Aggression towards people, aggression towards dogs, reactivity on walks, resource guarding, phobias, etc.
Training methods: We are LIMA based trainers who work on preventing unwanted behaviors, teaching what we do what them to do, and then making sure we are meeting the needs of the dog.
Why I became a dog trainer: Like many colleagues, I got into dog training as a hobby with my own dogs. We took training classes and had fun together. I then adopted a dog who was really troubled and I got into the behavior side of the world. I became passionate about working with dogs to really resolve behavior challenges and not just mask it through my journey with her. Pair that with my interest and passion for human education and it was a no brainer to make this jump from my human education background.
My favorite part of being a dog trainer: I love watching dogs and owners build a better bond, clearer communication, and get to enjoy life together.
My #1 dog training tip: Environmental management is a game changer. Sometimes it's not about spending months training your dog to do this series of skills ... sometimes it's just about putting up a gate, using a leash, or avoiding the problem all together by using our big human brain to make better choices for our dogs. You don't have to take on every battle, pick and choose what you want to work on and manage all the rest.
Service areas: Southwest PA, Allegheny County, southern butler county, Pittsburgh neighborhoods
I am a disabled dog trainer who specializes in basic and advanced obedience. I am hoping to also help others train their own service dog for their disabilities. I've been helping others train their dogs for a year now while training my own animals for 4. Everything from donkeys to ferrets no animal is too big or too small.
Certifications: CPDT-KA FDM
More info about service provided: Group classes for manners and reactivity, board and trains for puppies and service dogs, service dog training specializing in psychiatric service dogs, private in home training for manners, behavior, and service dog.
Behavioral issue focus: Reactivity mostly! We work to address the core emotions and not suppress them. Kinda like therapy for dogs.
I take a LIMA approach to dog training so I try everything I can do before using +P. I always try to reward the good that the dog does and manage my environment to help set them up for success.
I'm also pretty into errorless learning for dogs so we always set them up to make the right choice.
Pet parents receive training plans, video evaluations, and even emotional support from me at times. When I get stumped I often reach out to other qualified trainers to help me work through an issue so I can continue to avoid punishment in my training.
Why I became a dog trainer:
I created this business to help others like myself. Service dog training is so specialized and there's a lot of conflicting information out there. I also felt that dog trainers were missing out on the human end of the leash and felt like I was just another number in their book.
Dog training is a way to give people what I wanted from a dog trainer. Someone who was empathetic, kind, and most of all knowledgeable about service dogs.
My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Seeing the light bulb moment between dog and handler. When things just start to make sense and they grow closer together.
My #1 dog training tip: Training for 5-10 min a day really does help and prevents burn out. Training doesn't have to be a chore that takes up hours of your day.
Service areas: Allegheny County
Animal behavior and training have been a passion for Christine ever since childhood, when she eagerly studied every training book in the library and regularly volunteered to walk shelter dogs on the weekends. Since then, she has worked with a wide variety of animals, from a resource guarding Yorkie to a fearful Labrador, and even other species such as guinea pigs and rabbits! Christine's training philosophy focuses on bridging the gap between humans and pets through relationship building, clear communication, and using rewards to motivate and encourage learning. She also strongly believes that providing enriching activities for dogs to fulfill their natural instincts helps improve their confidence and promotes mental wellness.
More info about service provided: Primary focus on day training & enrichment services, limited one on one sessions and group classes available.
Behavioral issue focus: Overarousal, reactivity, fear/anxiety, noise sensitivity, frustration/redirection
Training methods: +R (positive reinforcement) using food, play, environment, etc. with verbal marker cues.
Why I became a dog trainer: I have always felt a connection to animals, and learning how to "speak their language" is such an amazing feeling. Nothing makes me happier than helping build that bridge of communication between a pet and their family!
My favorite part of being a dog trainer: That moment when it all "clicks" - the dog is having fun, the people are having fun, everyone's having a great time learning together.
My #1 dog training tip: Be patient. It's so easy to get frustrated when things don't go the way you imagined. Take a step back, take a deep breath, and try again.
Service areas: City of Pittsburgh / Allegheny County, select availability for South Bay, Los Angeles, CA
How are Pittsburgh dog trainers selected for this list?
These are the top dog trainers in Pittsburgh 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 Pittsburgh 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 Pittsburgh?
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 Pittsburgh 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 Pittsburgh cost?
Pittsburgh 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 Pittsburgh dog trainer. How can I get listed here?
As long as you have a training facility or do in person training in Pittsburgh 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 Pittsburgh?
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 Pennsylvania was $30,779 per year and $14.80 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.
Ordered alphabetically, only included cities where there is enough data to compile a list
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