Look for trainers who use positive reinforcement for good behavior rather than punishment for unacceptable behavior.
Observe an obedience class without your pet. Are the dogs and people having a good time? Talk with some of the participants after the class. If someone will not let you sit in on a class, do not enroll.
Do not allow trainers to work with your dog unless they tell you beforehand exactly what they plan to do.
Do not be afraid to tell a trainer to stop if she or he does something (or tells you to do something) to your dog that you do not feel comfortable with.
Avoid trainers who offer guarantees. Such trainers are either ignoring or do not understand the complexities of animal behavior.
Avoid trainers who object to using food as a training reward. Food is one of the best ways to motivate a dog.
Avoid trainers who insist on using a choke chain. Head collars are humane alternatives to choke chains and pinch collars.
If you believe your dog has been subjected to cruel treatment by a trainer, get the names and phone numbers of witnesses. Take your dog to your veterinarian immediately for a complete physical examination. Tell them that the results of the examination may be used as evidence in a court case so that your veterinarian will document the procedures with that in mind.