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The Best Dog Trainers in Portland, ME of 2023

Merlin Noble photo

Merlin Noble

May 23, 2023

Dog Trainers

Welcome to the Portland, ME Sniffspot top dog trainer list for 2023. This is a list of the top dog trainers in Portland 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 Maine 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 Portland, ME Dog Trainers in 2023

Sara Sokol

Hello! My name is Sara Sokol. I got into the business of dogs when I was a teenager, pet sitting and dog walking for family friends and neighbors. In 2004, I started Follow My Lead, a full service dog walking/running and pet sitting business in Pasadena, California. Follow My Lead. serviced seven different cities throughout the Pasadena area, employed 6 part time employees and held a client base of 80+ rotating customers.

To facilitate the addition of dog training and behavior modification to Follow My Lead, I began an internship with the Pasadena Humane Society and SPCA which was an open admission shelter. As a behavior and training tech, my job was to preform full behavior assessments including touch sensitivity, food and toy possession, along with dog-to-dog testing on all dogs entering the shelter. Many of the dogs at the shelter had issues with aggression, anxiety, shy/fearful behavior. We also performed evaluations on dogs quarantined for biting.

As lead trainer, I taught obedience classes ranging from Puppy Kindergarten to Advanced Obedience, as well as activity classes including Agility, Tricks, and a class created using my background as a yoga instructor: Doga - yoga with your dog!

Working in a shelter that takes in dogs of all breeds, ages, sizes, and temperaments was an invaluable opportunity for me to fine tune my dog training and behavior modification skills, as well as my understanding of dog body language. My time working at the Pasedena Humane Society was a gift. The knowledge that I gained there from my amazing coworkers and the dogs in the shelter, was priceless. The obedience classes I taught helped owners learn how to effectively communicate with their dogs, helping them build strong and permanent relationships.

In 2011, my husband & I relocated to Connecticut, where I continued my work with animals as District Manager of the Connecticut Humane Society. I implemented a new color coding program for the dog volunteers, new enrichment programs that included obedience classes for the shelter dogs, as well as programs helping staff with compassion fatigue and morale.

In 2012 we moved to Maine and Mr. Dog Training was born, named for my partner in crime, Milo, my little white shih tzu who is my heartbeat by my side.

Helping people and dogs learn to communicate and trust each other is my favorite part of my job. There is nothing better than watching a person and their dog learn and work together with smiles, laughter, and a glint in their eyes.

I'm grateful for the trust and support that my students, and the Maine community of dog guardians that I am so proud to be a part of, show me every day. I could not have landed in a more perfect place.

I believe working with animals is the best job in the world and am grateful for the opportunity to have such beautiful creatures in my life. I learn from my dogs daily. They teach me patience, acceptance, unconditional love, and how to live in the present moment. Most importantly, they make me smile and laugh every day!

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • Deaf dog training
  • Reactive dog training
  • Puppy training
  • Agility training

More info about service provided: My focus when working with clients is prioritizing an understanding of how our dogs, and ourselves, learn, what drives behavior, building clear and consistent communication, an understanding of canine body language so that we can 'listen' to our dogs, and prioritizing, above all else, the relationship that we have with our dogs.
I offer group classes, both virtual and in person, that range from young puppies through Advanced Obedience as well as Agility, Nose Work, Tricks, Fun and Games classes, and Dog Parkour.

Behavioral issue focus: I specialize in helping clients with dogs who struggle with fear/leash reactivity.

Training methods: I primarily work with clients in group classes or through virtual one on one consults.

Why I became a dog trainer: I wanted to provide people with a safe and fun way to make their lives and relationships with their dogs the most amazing that they can be.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Watching my clients listen to their dogs and focus more on meeting their dog's needs than blind obedience.

My #1 dog training tip: Listen to your dog

Service areas: Midcoast Maine for in person and global for virtual


Erin Bessey

I own and operate Bessey's Positive Paws in Maine. I have been training for nearly 20 years. I became a CPDT-ka in 2011. I have a BS in Zoology. I worked a veterinary clinic for the last 15 years and still work there part time. I have raised dogs for Guiding Eyes for the Blind as well as did a 6 week internship with them.

I live with my husband, two daughters and two labradors, Henry (11) and Tripp (6). Each dog was born with a cleft palate and I raised them from 1-2 days old. Dogs and animals have always been an interest and passion of mine since I was little. Training dogs is what I do.

Certifications: CCPDT-ka

Services include:

  • Reactive dog training
  • Puppy training

More info about service provided: Basic training, private sessions

Behavioral issue focus: Shy dog, overexcited, unsure/fear reactivity

Training methods: Clicker training, reward based training (food, toys)

Why I became a dog trainer: I always loved learning about animals and how they behaved and communicated. I knew when I was young I wanted to train animals. When I was in college I started working at a doggie daycare/boarding/training facility and began learning about the fascinating world of dogs and decided, dogs would be what I train.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Seeing the connection between owner and dog become stronger. I love when I see the owner's appreciation for their dog grow because of the knowledge they gain when working with me. You see the lightbulbs go off and the joy it brings to them.

My #1 dog training tip: Let go of stereotypes or comparisons to other dogs and train the dog in front of you.

Service areas: Lincoln and Kennebec counties primarily


Jenny Yasi

Jenny Ruth Yasi, BFA, CPDT-KA, FFCP, CTDI is certified through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, and she is also a Fear-Free Certified Professional animal trainer. She's certified as a Trick Dog Instructor through Do More With Your Dogs, an AKC CGC evaluator, member candidate of International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and Control Unleashed Instructor Training. Jenny is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. Her dogs are titled in and they train in a variety of dog sports. Jenny enjoys training 'practical' dog behaviors, such as skijoring, retrieve and deliver, find, alert, and backyard games that don't take a whole lot of training equipment, and that offer fun exercise, and practice of useful skills.

Jenny grew up on a small farm, milking goats, riding horses, caring for meat rabbits, keeping a wide variety of small to large pets (especially birds!), and graduated from Vermont College of Norwich University in 1998 with a self-designed major in Behavior Science. Jenny LOVES behavior science, and has traveled to study with chicken, monkey, horse and marine mammal trainers, as well as with world renowned dog trainers. She has especially followed Leslie McDevitt (Control Unleashed programs ) and Susan Garrett's Recallers, H360, Agility Nation, Puppy nation programs, and Sylvia Trkman have had profound impacts on Jenny's animal training style, which is centered on the power of choice, and removing 'adversarial' components to the human/dog partnership.

Locally, Leslie Whitney from Happy Tails was Jenny's first dog training teacher, and introduced Jenny to Karen Pryor clicker training. Jenny got tired of buying clickers and so she started clicking with her tongue, and now sometimes if she dreams of a dog, she might 'click' the dog in her sleep!

Jenny approaches behavior and training as a science as well as an art, weaving operant and classical conditioning into the way we arrange our environments. Control of the environment (Jenny is also an organic gardener, with a special love of flowers and natural medicine) helps shape default behaviors as dogs respond to environmental cues, aka 'context cues' and learn to think independently and do what works best.

Jenny has had 8 dogs of her own over her adult life, Sampson, Lady, Lassie, Dandelion, Tigerlily, Charlie, Honey Bee, M'Ocean, two or three dogs at a time, and besides Susan Garrett and Leslie McDevitt, Jenny has sponged from some of the greatest animal trainers in the world: Chicken Camp with Terry Ryan, ClickerExpo, Freestyle workshops and seminars with Carolyn Scott, Atilla Suzukalek, Mary Ray. Jenny especially loves training 'freestyle' (dog tricks to music), and she provided pet assisted therapy to in the pediatric psychiatric unit of Spring Harbor Hospital for a few years with her barbet, Tigerlily.

At one time, Jenny had a career as a singer/songwriter/storyteller, and she loves to combine music with animal training. She is also hard of hearing now (but don't blame the drummer, blame genetics!) and has trained four of her dogs to perform hearing alerts, and she also has trained SAR alerts! Jenny loves to continue her education and regularly attends seminars, workshops, and competes in rally, agility, trick dog and other events to challenge and test her growth as a trainer!

After raising her family on an island off the coast of Maine, Jenny and her husband moved to Freeport in 2015. In 2016-2017 they sailed 2800 miles with two dogs aboard Magus, from Maine through the Bahamas. Along the way, Jenny visited over a dozen schools with her reassuring animal training and humane education program 'How to make big problems smaller!'

Even if you aren't a local, if visiting us calls to you, we invite you 'Stay and Train' with us at our homestead, Bliss Woods Farm in Freeport Maine! Or Find us on facebook!

Certifications: CPDT-KA, CCUI, CTDI, FFCP(trainer) AKC CGC evaluator

Services include:

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

More info about service provided: Scent work, Agility, Freestyle, Rally/Obedience, Play Training, Retrieve/Delivery, Control Unleashed

Behavioral issue focus: Reactive, shy, anxious, separation anxiety, resource guarding

Training methods: Written evaluation, video recorded sessions, training plans, online resources and community, zoom follow ups

Why I became a dog trainer: To make the world a better place

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Everything!! The people! The dogs!

My #1 dog training tip: Dogs are jokers. They like to laugh. If you aren't laughing and having fun the whole time you're training, your dog isn't going to understand you.

Service areas: Portland, Freeport, Cumberland, Yarmouth, Falmouth


Sniffspot Portland Top Trainer Frequently Asked Questions

How are Portland dog trainers selected for this list?

These are the top dog trainers in Portland 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 Portland 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 Portland?

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 Portland 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 Portland cost?

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

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

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 Maine was $31,290 per year and $15.04 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 States Near Maine

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

New Hampshire

Merlin Noble photo

Merlin Noble

May 23, 2023

Dog Trainers

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