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The Best Dog Trainers in Rhode Island of 2023

Merlin Noble photo

Merlin Noble

March 29, 2022

Dog Trainers

Welcome to the Rhode Island Sniffspot top dog trainer list for 2023. This is a list of the top dog trainers in Rhode Island 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. 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 compiled 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 100% 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 Rhode Island Dog Trainers in 2023

Jen Reynolds

I have been training since 2007, first working at a retail pet store before obtaining my Bachelor's degree in Animal Science with a focus on Animal Behavior. My main passion is working with rescue dogs, and I was the behavior department head for the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for 7 years. I currently work with many local rescues and shelters to help their dogs be ready for adoption. In addition to rescue experience, I was the RI state representative for NEADs and also worked with the RI state police search and rescue and cadaver team. I have been training people and their dogs inside their homes since 2014.

Certifications: B.S., CPDT-KA, AKC CGC Evaluator

Services include:

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

More info about service provided: We offer group classes for obedience through AKC CGC certification, as well as outdoor adventure classes. We also offer a wide variety of in-home services for basic needs, behavior modification, separation anxiety, etc. Day training services are also available and conducted at an owner's home.

Behavioral issue focus: Leash reactivity, household aggression between dogs, resource guarding, separation anxiety, generalized anxiety, arousal and impulse control issues.

Training methods: We train using positive reinforcement training methods, we do not utlize pinch, prong or shock collars. We offer behavior consultations if needed and typically start in-home training programs with a package of 4 lessons. Additional sessions needed are purchased one at a time.

Why I became a dog trainer: I had a dog and person reactive dog and I needed to find a way to help her, it grew into my passion, and I wanted to help other people.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Seeing the improvements with dogs and helping owners live the lives they want to with their pups.

My #1 dog training tip: Be patient! Changing behaviors takes time, but it is worth it in the end!

Service areas: All of Rhode Island and Southern Massachusetts


Kristen Noel

Kristen is an internationally Certified Behavior Consultant Canine (CBCC-KA) and Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT). The CCPDT is the only independent, standardized certification for dog training professionals that confirms and awards credentials based upon a rigorous examination and thorough verification of the skills and knowledge a professional has attained through education and experience. The CCPDT is unlike certificate programs, which can be offered by any individual or organization and award certificates upon graduation.

Kristen is one of the first 50 internationally Certified Family Dog Mediators (FDM) through industry expert and Applied Animal Ethologist Kim Brophey. Family dog mediation is dedicated to bridging the gap between people and dogs, between the sciences, between the history of humans and dogs and our modern dog world.

Kristen is one of four Fear Free Certified Professionals (FFCP) Trainers in Rhode Island and a Canine Training Professional (CTP) with The Pet Professional Guild- the organization for force free pet professionals. She is also certified by the American Kennel Club as a Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Instructor and Evaluator, STAR Puppy Instructor and Evaluator and AKC Trick Dog Evaluator. She is a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), the international Initiative for Force-Free Dog Training and the AKC Dog Training Community. She has completed instruction in Suzanne Clothier's Treat-Retreat certificate course and Dr. Amy Cook's 'Play Way! For Reactivity and Aggression Challenges!'

Kristen has completed the Aggression in Dogs Master Course by Michael Shikashio (CDBC) and attended the 3-day Aggression in Dogs Conference in 2022.

Kristen has also earned the Canine Good Citizen title with her dog, Ryder, as well as Novice and Intermediate Trick Dog titles (TKN and TKI). She is also certified in Pet CPR & First Aid through the Pet Emergency Education program.

Certifications: BA CBCC-KA FDM CPDT-KA FFCP CTP; Certified Behavior Consultant, Certified Family Dog Mediator, Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Fear Free Certified Professional, Canine Training Professional

Services include:

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

More info about service provided: Services provided: Private Behavior Consulting for all forms of behavior modification except separation anxiety, Family Dog Mediation, Obedience Training, Training Classes (Beginner/STAR Puppy, Basic, Puppy Socialization, Out & About), Canine Good Citizen, Puppy Socialization Sessions (1:1 with puppy and trainer), Potty Training, training sessions can be held at our training center in East Greenwich or in home.

Behavioral issue focus: I specialize in working with puppies under 6 months old; I most frequently focus on proper socialization and behavior problems caused by fear, anxiety and stress at a young age. My passion is catching and preventing behavior concerns from turning into aggression.

Training methods: I am a Fear Free Certified Professional (FFCP)- my methods are exclusively force and fear free. Each private training program begins with a 2 hour Behavior Assessment. This Assessment is both an introduction and evaluation that includes a detailed history-taking to inform my work with the family, introductory recommendations, initial prognosis, formulation of an individualized training plan and familiarization with my methods. This Assessment is followed by resources and a comprehensive Behavior Report. After the assessment clients may enter into my Private Training Program, which begins with 4 one-hour working lessons and can continue with single lessons as the client needs.

Why I became a dog trainer:

I grew up in the sticks of Foster-Glocester where they actually did go to school but they didn't: walk their dogs, train their dogs or pick up after their dogs. The transition from growing up in the country on 18 acres of land to her first job in the 'city' forever changed her idea of what a pet dog was. While waiting for her first job interview at Petsmart, I remember wandering over to the store's training ring to watch the class. It was there that I realized dog training was a 'real job' that I could make into a career.

I have come a long way from the makeshift backyard agility courses I would design for my aging Jack Russell Terrier; I have now spent more than half my life learning, building and enhancing my skills in the industry.

This is more than a side job or a hobby- it is all I have ever done; my past, present and future are dedicated to the hundreds of clients and dogs I have worked with and continue to serve every day. My experiences in this industry, both good and bad, have shaped and continue to strengthen my decision to provide behavior consultation services to the public as my career.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: My favorite part of being a trainer is using my knowledge as a Certified Behavior Consultant and Family Dog Mediator to help families understand their dogs in ways that traditional obedience training falls short of. We have come such a long way from "sit, down and stay" - I enjoy teaching the ethology, psychology and ethical aspects of owning dogs in our modern world.

My #1 dog training tip: It depends

Service areas: Rhode Island


Kelsey Shank

Kelsey is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island, where she studied psychology and sociology including Applied Behavior Analysis. She worked with individuals with special needs for 10 years before she expanded her interest in behavior to canines. Starting as a foster, she began working closely with a local rescue organization where she held the position of Training Coordinator.

Her two high energy, large breed rescue dogs Jaxson and Cher, each have behavioral concerns of their own, that have needed intensive training and environmental management. Kelsey has a unique first-hand understanding of the needs of fearful, anxious and reactive dogs as these are some of the needs of her own dogs. Kelsey has continued to expand her education to provide the most up to date methods and care for her clients. Kelsey has completed Aggression in Dogs Master course, attended conferences such as Aggression in Dogs and APDT, she is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through the CCPDT, was one of the first 50 trainers to attain the Family Dog Mediation certification, holds certifications in Fit Dog, CGC, Canine Enrichment, and Reactivity.

Certifications: CCPDT-KA, FDM, Certified Reactivity Specialist, AKC CGC Evaluator, AKC Fit Dog Instructor

Services include:

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

More info about service provided: Semi-private classes at-center including AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy, AKC Fit Dog, Basic Manners, Reactivity Club, and more. Private lessons in-home (location dependent), at-center or virtually for dogs of all ages- although my specialty is reactivity, I also take cases involving fear, cooperative care, leash skills, recall, polite greetings, trick training, enrichment consultations, and more.

Behavioral issue focus: My passion is reactivity cases but I also take on cases where the dog is diagnosed with anxiety, displaying fear-based behaviors including aggression, relationship building, confidence building, exercise, resource guarding

Training methods: Always force free, relationship-based positive reinforcement training methods. I focus on communication between guardian and dog so that their bond strengthens and fears subside. I focus on teaching coping skills to help you and your pup navigate our modern world together successfully. Private lessons begin with a 2 hour behavior assessment followed by a package of 4 1-hour private sessions with guardian and pup. Additional lessons can be added on as well. Semi-Private classes begin with an in-person tour and evaluation followed by 1- hour sessions once a week for 5 weeks; there may be up to 5 dogs in the class total.

Why I became a dog trainer: 2019

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Helping my clients and their pups live safe, happy, and healthy lives together by building their social relationships, communication and enrichment.

My #1 dog training tip: Dogs learn in "do's" not "don'ts"- communication is key.

Service areas: At-Center in East Greenwich, RI; In-Home within 10 miles of training center; Virtual


Casey Hallenbeck

I am the owner and creator of For the Love of Dogs in Lincoln, RI.
I have worked with puppies, adult dogs, energetic dogs, calm dogs, and almost everything in between. I have been a Certified Professional Dog Trainer for 3 years.

I am committed to continuing my education to best help my clients get the most up to date information possible.
I currently have 2 dogs of my own, Cooper (the face of For the Love of Dogs), and Olive!

Certifications: CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assesser)
FFCT (Fear Free Certified Trainer)
DN-CET (DogNostics Certified Enrichment Technician)

Services include:

  • Puppy training

More info about service provided:

Distracted Dog Group Class
Capturing Calmness Group Class
Private Lessons
Puppy Manners Group Class
Puppy Playgroups
Day Camp
We specialize in enrichment and cooperative care with our Fear Free Groomer and Trainer.

Behavioral issue focus:

I work with higher energy dogs to help teach them how to self regulate and I teach their owners how to fulfill their needs in a sustainable way.
I also work with dogs who are nervous with handling for grooming and vet care. I help the dogs build confidence and become comfortable with those procedures and environments.
We also specialize in socializing puppies to become confident adult dogs.

Training methods:

We use force and fear free methods only.
We are committed to continuing our education on positive reinforcement training practices. We use treats and other rewards, clickers or verbal marker words, and comfortable, well-fitted harnesses.

Why I became a dog trainer:

In early high school, I started teaching my 12 year old dachshund fun and cute tricks and learned that a dog of any age can learn new things with positive reinforcement.
I fell in love with the science behind the training. Being able to help relieve people of their stress due to their dog's behaviors was a big drive in this career path, not just my love of dogs!

My favorite part of being a dog trainer:

My favorite part of being a dog trainer is helping my clients!
Being able to relieve them of their stress and give them back some peace in their home with humane training methods, makes me feel wonderful!
I love being able to see progress in both my clients and their dogs and being a part of their journey

My #1 dog training tip: My biggest tip is to have fun!
Training that is fun is more likely to keep both you and your dog engaged and making more progress!

Service areas: Lincoln, Cumberland, Smithfield, Pawtucket, Providence


Jo Ferraris

Jo graduated from the University of Rhode Island with a BS in Animal Science Pre-Veterinary Track. She is also a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Professional Trainer, Certified Nose Work Instructor, and Fear Free Trainer.

Jo has been training dogs on a professional level since 2013. She has worked with hundreds of dogs of varying ages and breeds and can apply these previous experiences to provide you with excellent coaching. She loves coaching people to train their dogs!

Her commitment to continuing education ensures you will receive the most up-to-date, positive, science-based training methods.

She is actively competing in both agility and K9 Nose Work. Her competition experience will bring you an insider's view into the competitive sport of K9 Nose Work ensuring you are prepared for your journey.

Prior to dog training, she worked as a veterinary and pharmacy technician. Those are demanding jobs that require precision, attention to detail, and the ability to multitask which are all skills that carry over to dog training as well. These are skills she will use to help you on your journey with your dog.

She lives in South County with her wonderful husband, 4 children, 8 dogs, cats, sheep, goats, chickens, hedgehog, and snake!

Certifications: BS Animal Science, KPA CTP, CNWI, FFCP Trainer

Services include:

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

More info about service provided: Manners, K9 Nose Work, Agility, Reactivity, Aggression, Day Training, Day Care, and Board & Train.

Behavioral issue focus: Reactivity & Aggression

Training methods: Clicker Training!

Why I became a dog trainer: To help people understand and bring out the best in their dogs without cause harm or pain!

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Watching the "light bulb" moments when it all clicks together for the team in front of me and seeing them succeed!

My #1 dog training tip: Be kind to yourself and your dog!

Service areas: South County, Washington County


Alexandria Hawk

Originally from New York, I relocated to Rhode Island at the same time I started my career as a dog trainer. After graduating from Catch Canine Trainer Academy, I moved to Newport where I reside with my seven-year-old mixed breed, Ashley Pants. In addition to offering my services privately, I run group training classes at The Wiggle Room, Rumford Pet Express, and the Potter League for Animals.


CGC Evaluator

Services include:

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

More info about service provided:

Basic Obedience & Behavioral
Private Sessions & Group Class
Remote & In-Person

Behavioral issue focus: Reactivity
Body Handling
Resource Guarding

Training methods: Fear and Force Free, Scientific Methods

Why I became a dog trainer: To help people communicate and connect with their dogs. My motivator was hard-to-adopt shelter dogs with behavioral issues

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Helping improve dog's lives

My #1 dog training tip: Be patient and communicate through body language

Service areas: Newport, Middletown, Portsmouth, Tiverton, Fall River, South Kingstown, North Kingstown, Wakefield, Narragansett


Melissa "MJ" Viera

Meet Melissa "MJ" Viera, a dog training expert and instructor based out of Massachusetts who established MJ's Pet Training Academy in 2013. Her unique style of training classes combines creativity, drills, and games to provide a fun and effective learning experience for both human and pet students.

In addition to running her business, MJ breeds standard poodles with a focus on breeding dogs for both companionship and service dog roles, as well as conformation. She is committed to helping pets and people, including both hobbyists and professionals, by providing instruction that appeals to all learning styles and demonstrating techniques with her own dogs.

Certifications: CGG Evaluator, CTDI, AKC FIT Dog Instructor, APDT-member, WSDA, Temperament Test Evaluator

Services include:

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

More info about service provided: At MJ's Pet Training Academy, we provide group classes, workshops, day school, private coaching, and custom programs. Our trickovation allows dogs and their people to have fun while accomplishing their goals.

Behavioral issue focus: I work with a number of behavioral concerns and help dogs and people navigate areas such as aggressive behavior, reactivity, and fearfulness.

Training methods: Programs are tailored to the individual and include goal setting, demonstrations, coaching, games and feedback.

Why I became a dog trainer: This is my purpose and passion. I enjoy helping people and their best friends.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Working with people along with dogs, and providing coaching and innovative games is the most rewarding.

My #1 dog training tip: Make training and enrichment a part of your daily routine.

Service areas: Southcoast, Massachusetts and surrounding areas. Remote services also available


Carolyn Rancourt

I have been competing in agility for over 15 years and I have had 8 dogs in those years. I have been to agility nationals three times and competed in several different venues. I am a certified canine massage therapist and have studied canine behavior and gait analysis. I have a reputation in the community for finding what the issue is that a dog is having with their bodies and offer help or resources

Services include:

  • Puppy training
  • Agility training

More info about service provided: Agility training, puppy obedience, agility field rentals, agility seminars

Behavioral issue focus: distraction and recal training

Training methods: Positive training specifically for agility and non-competitive obedience

Why I became a dog trainer: There is nothing more gratifying than when the lightbulb goes off and your dog "gets it". Becoming a team with your dog and understanding each other in any performance sport is beautiful and it is the best feeling

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Continuing to learn how amazing dogs are and seeing a handler become confident in their training. Dog training is as much about the human as it is about the dog.

My #1 dog training tip: Keep connection with your dog.

Service areas: Rehoboth MA - Bristol county


Sniffspot Rhode Island Top Trainer Frequently Asked Questions

How are Rhode Island dog trainers selected for this list?

These are the top dog trainers in Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island?

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 Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island cost?

Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island dog trainer. How can I get listed here?

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

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 Rhode Island was $31,128 per year and $14.97 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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Merlin Noble photo

Merlin Noble

March 29, 2022

Dog Trainers

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