When a trainer tells you that his techniques are better than everyone else’s, and that he has access to “instinctual” wisdom or teachings that no-one else possesses

There are many good training techniques out there, but no one person has all the answers. If a trainer tells you that their method is the only one that will work, ask them to explain why. And never put up with someone who unprofessionally bad-mouths other trainers, particularly by name. A good trainer should have solid knowledge of many different training techniques and the science behind them, and they should be able to explain why they believe a particular method may work best for your dog. Remember that there are no “guarantees” when working to modify behaviour. 

When a trainer invalidates you and challenges your subjective perceptions.

A trainer invalidates you when they insist that your perception of things is simply not right. If a person consistently states that your way of seeing things is wrong, they are practicing emotional abuse. Each client has a unique set of circumstances and needs and relative emotions. You may not be a professional dog trainer with a solid understanding of dog psychology, but you ‘know your dog.’ A good trainer will be an active, compassionate listener who is able to help you translate your perceptions into actionable discernment, and coach you through a training and behaviour modification plan with the utmost respect for you as an individual. 

When a trainer uses extreme words such as ‘never’ or ‘always’ or insists on a rigid protocol that makes you uncomfortable.

There is room for flexibility in dog training, just as there is room for flexibility in life. While consistency is incredibly important in setting our dogs up to succeed, dogs are fallible and forgivable sentient beings just as humans are.  Be wary of the trainer who presents ‘one size fits all’ methods and gimmicks or who threatens your dog will ‘fail.’ A good trainer is a creative problem solver who will partner with you to create a plan that fits perfectly with your needs, expectations and level of commitment.