TRAINERS WE RECOMMEND
There are so many good trainers out there with an array of talents, it's hard deciding which one I should suggest to people. I usually base it on either the dog's temperament or the goals the owner has in mind (i.e. some come to your house and deal with stressors there, some have a facility you can go to where you have stimuli you can work around, some do one-on-one in a secure location if the dog has a bite history, some train/certify therapy dogs, etc.) I'm going to do my best putting together this list knowing people will have a difference of opinion, but this is based on my experience (I will probably add more as time goes on.) I usually only suggest trainers that are reward-based trainers - all of these trainers below incorporate food drive in the beginning to some degree because food drive is critical to a dog's training foundation. So, here it goes in alphabetical order.
AGILITY CUES FOR YOU (CHRISTINA WAKEFIELD)
There are a ton of outstanding agility trainers in our area, this facility is one of them. But if you're interested in teaching your dog how to do Barn Hunt, this is THE place to check out! It's a lot harder than it looks, believe me, I tried it with Dolly. Christina's husband, Brian, watched Dolly after a couple attempts and pulls me aside. He tells me that Dolly is just one of those dogs that will probably be interested at first because the concept is new, but then give up once she realizes she can't actually touch/kill the rodents in their safe enclosures. That was incredibly insightful - that is exactly Dolly's temperament. I was thankful for his honestly because Dolly gets so car sick, it's a struggle to take her on long car rides across the bridge on a regular basis (for something she'll eventually not want to do). Gotta love trainers that can read a dog like that. Impressive. But if your dog has a strong nose, try a Barn Hunt class and see if you can get into this world of training. Or if you want to sign your dog up for agility, give them a call.
FEEDERS SUPPLY TRAINING LOCATIONS
If you're in the Louisville/Southern Indiana area, this is a fantastic place to go to get your dog involved in some group training. There are different levels of training classes, something for just about everybody. Prices are very easy on the budget, so if you try one class but didn't do your homework the first round, you can sign up for the same class for a second round and keep working on it until you get it down (there's nothing wrong with that. Some dogs/people need more time to grasp training, that is perfectly okay. DO NOT GIVE UP!) I haven't worked with any of the trainers in the Louisville area stores, but the New Albany/State Street store (which is quite spacious, a great place to take my fosters when I'm working with them) usually has Lucinda Schultz conducting classes. She's a field trial judge and a Canine Good Citizen evaluator; with all that experience, I could listen to Lucinda's hilarious dog stories for hours! Maybe on day she'll take a stab at standup comedy. Lucinda's best feature is she knows dogs aren't perfect, she will be the first to admit that her dogs aren't, either. That helps take the pressure off you and your dog. She doesn't walk into a room with her dogs like **BEHOLD!!!** You want a straight answer about dog behavior (or even human behavior, haha), Lucinda will give it. And often her response should be printed on a T-shirt.
K9 CONNECTION (TYLER MUTO)
I haven't met Tyler Muto yet, it's on my bucket list. I have to get the right dog at the right time to make a long trip to New York (I barely have time for a vacation.) He's the trainer's trainer. Love his YouTube channel, it's a wealth of information. I wanted to add him to the list because a lot of my Facebook followers across the country ask me training questions and I send them his videos in response. He explains things thoroughly, his insight is spot-on, and is matter-of-fact/non-emotional/non-egotistical in his response. I'm so glad he's a lot younger than me, that way he'll be around for a long time.
LOUISVILLE DOG WIZARD
Just look at the cover photo on their FB page of Patrick Messenger running with those dogs. HA! I signed up Toto (now Cooper) for one of Patrick's programs so I could learn how to use the remote trainer. People who have never been taught how to use the remote trainer typically make the loudest noise when it comes to trying to get them banned (and are often the ones stating rumors as fact without ever training a dog in their life). My response is, "have you ever taken a class on how to use one properly?" Their answer is always no. Toto to this day is off-leash trained at his adopter's house, they take him to the beach and he sticks close or recalls quickly, what an awesome dog. The adopters can contact Patrick at any time if they have questions, for the life of the dog. Nice feature! Patrick is a very patient, professional guy that will take on dogs headed for euthanasia and turn them into outstanding pets (love trainers who give back to their community). If he can do that for these dogs that even the rescues can't help, imagine what he can do for you. He has a warranty with his training (which I tell him is just plain nuts because people don't do the homework - I know because sometimes I don't get around to completing all the homework), so you have a safety net by choosing his company. OH, and they have pack walks! Those are reserved for his students only, so if your dog goes through his program you get to keep your dog's skills sharp along with other dog/handler teams (who have leash skills) that know the same routine/commands your dog knows. If you have a reactive or fearful dog, and you're a dedicated owner that commits to training the dog to keep it fresh in your/the dog's mind, this is the way to go. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram, lots of fun stuff going on over there.
I'm not exactly sure how long I've known Matt, I'm going to guess fall of 2010. Someone once said to me, "Matt Duffy is the only trainer that will help an owner whose dog is trying to kill them." Needless to say I was intrigued. If I get a foster dog from an unknown situation and need a fresh pair of eyes, I have Matt evaluate it (he evaluates all foster dogs from all rescues for free - again, you gotta love trainers who give back to the community). The best thing about Matt is he can zero in on your learning style. If you're a cerebral learner, he has very detailed books you can follow. If you're a visual learner, he has his website with videos if you become a member and learn at your own pace. If you learn by doing (that's me), you can come into the facility and he can help you perfect your handling/training skills. Sometimes I get overwhelmed with thinking through a dog's behavior, and Matt dials me back with, "I'm going to give you one thing....focus on this one thing, and it will all fall in line." And it does every time. He's a great teacher, probably the best speaker you can find with loads of experience under his belt (he is hired by K-9 units across the country to clean up behaviors). He thinks faster than a dog, it's unreal. When he tells you what your dog is thinking in the moment, he's exactly right, and it's absolutely hilarious. His facility is the one that finished Cash's PTSD service dog training (he went through the Paws Behind Bars program at Luther Luckett prison dog program via Adopt Me Bluegrass Pet Rescue during phase 1) and he was placed through Dogs Helping Heroes with veteran John Wells. Matt is a "Canine Good Citizen" evaluator and has a variety of programs you can join. Lots of fun to be had with your dog with agility, hiking, scent work, obedience, service dog certification, etc.
WHO'S THE DOG TRAINING METHOD (SAM MALATESTA, CREATOR OF THE WHELPING BOX THEORY AND KLIENBROOK GERMAN SHEPHERDS)
I don't think I can sum Sam up into words. People have tried and failed. He was the first real dog behaviorist I met, going way back to 2004. He's the one that taught me how to pull a puppy mill dog out of the shadows and help them become a joyful dog for the first time in their life. I have the YouTube videos to prove it. My FB fans have watched me do it. Even though he owns a line of champion German Shepherds, he has spent years giving back to the Toronto Humane Society as well as rescue communities in Canada and the USA (that's how I met him). People call Sam a whisperer, but I think he's psychic. I call him when I'm completely lost (because he's very busy and hard to reach), he's heard me cry, an honest friend that will tell me the absolute truth as ugly as it is. He'll straighten me out when I need it, like when I called him because I couldn't get Pepper to stop barking. "STOP WORRYING ABOUT HIM AND LET HIM RELAX," he said. In an attention-grabbing low voice he points out, "you mean to tell me a shelter let a rescue that gets bothered by everything pull a dog that's gets bothered by everything?" I shut up after that. Pepper relaxed, just like he said he would in the exact timeframe he said he would. Sam is a drive-based trainer that believes in building the dog/handler bond by using his Whelping Box Theory, a rehab technique you won't see anywhere else. He takes a dog all the way back to the beginning, builds trust, incorporates all 4 drives along the way establishing a solid bond between a human and even the most screwball dog. Feral, puppy mill breeder, bait dog, dogs used for food in other countries....he's helped their owners make them into pets. I've attended several of his seminars and a couple camps and have seen him take head halters and prong collars off of dogs and throw them in the trash. One of his famous sayings is, "Your dog will look at you when you are worth looking at." I've seen a lot of tears when people can't get out of their own head to earn that right to be adored by a damaged dog. I've also seen some seriously twisted dogs turn into solid ambassador dogs. The bad news is, Sam doesn't do seminars anymore, but he might welcome a visit to his property in Canada if you can convince him you're not a kook (meaning, someone who truly wants to honor their dog and not their own ego). He's the type of person, who if you ask "do these pants make me look fat," he will say "yes." If you have a dog with crazy behavior that makes you cry at your desk at work, you are desperate for that kind of truth. Good news is his book is complete, hopefully it comes out soon. When it finally goes to print, I won't shut up about it.