When in Yakima, I was frequently asked by students where they could find the Manning style of dog training in other parts of the state. They wanted to refer family and friends to the right spot, or they were moving out of town and hoped to find good training elsewhere for future dogs.
Since my program was original, and Manning Dog Training was not "franchised," I was at a loss to tell them. But they needed some kind of helpful answer, so here's what I suggested--and still do--to people who are seeking out meaningful training for themselves and their dogs.
1. DO ask veterinarians. Call at least five to ask for trainer recommendations. They may be reluctant to opine as to who they think is "best," but you will hear the answers if you listen between the lines.
2. Go to parks where people walk their dogs. Observe the well-behaved dogs, and the people who seem to be in control. Ask these people where and to whom they went for dog training.
3. Listen to the chatter on your coffee breaks. If people are having real success with their dogs, they're going to be talking about it to their friends. You'll hear the same names pop up over and over again.
Get the picture? WORD OF MOUTH is the absolute best advertising for something like dog training. Listen to people who have been through the experience and can attest first-hand to the successes (or disasters) they experienced.
Do NOT rely on Yellow Pages ads, websites, or other commercial advertising media. These sources can supplement the information you gather first-hand, but they can't, by themselves, give you a realistic picture of what the training program entails. Anybody and his brother can put up a fancy website, affiliate themselves with a national club or store or even a university, or spend lots of bucks on newspaper, radio or television ads. But that doesn't mean they know what they're doing.
Do NOT rely on meaningless terms like "fully accredited," "licensed," or "professional." Anyone who takes money for services is a professional. And the rest of those accolades mean nothing, since licenses and certificates can be bought. There IS no accreditation for dog trainers required in most states, nor should there be. That's only more government inference in private enterprise. Again, your best insurance against getting "burned" is WORD OF MOUTH references from credible, real people like friends, family and coworkers.
Assuming you're looking for help with common, basic manners training, you should be looking for someone who has BEHAVIOR experience. A "dog trainer" who has learned from a book is not adequate. Ask how long the trainer has been practicing his craft, and ask for some numbers....what kinds of dogs, how many, what types of behavior problems, etc. This person need not have a degree in animal behavior (in fact, I have more faith in those who do NOT have the school training, but rather have years of hands-on experience, are good observers, and good communicators.) Remember, also, that the dog trainer is REALLY a "people trainer." So if he's not able to communicate well with YOU, it's not going to work.
Of course if you live in Central Washington, the choice is easy. Call Manning Dog Training at 574-4008 and talk to the real experts in person. If you're in Montana and need help, you can call me (Jan Manning) at 406-827-6385.