Pay attention to how the trainer communicates with you and answers your questions.
How knowledgeable are they about your dog’s breed?
How familiar are they with your dog’s problems or your requests?
Years on the training field count big. If you came to me when I was in the business for a year, I had very limited information to give to you. It doesn’t mean a person is a bad person; it means they are an inexperienced trainer. They have a limited amount of knowledge.
Hands-on work experience is a good rule of thumb, but judge the attitude behind the experience as well. Does the trainer come across as a “know-it-all”? I’ve worked with thousands of dogs in 26 years. I’ve worked in ring sport, KNPV, Schutzhund, AKC, and I’ve worked with police departments and the military, but do I know it all? Absolutely not. There will always be a dog that challenges my knowledge. Look out for the know-it-all attitude. These trainers are hard to work with.
How about the person who comes across as abrasive–as if there’s something wrong with you? Anybody who’s been in this business a long time knows it takes patience–not only with the dogs but with the clients, too. It’s unacceptable for trainers to blame clients or specific dog breeds with statements such as, “Well, your dog’s just a Labrador. This is just how they are.” Or, ”Your dog is not getting the command because you don’t practice enough.” Certainly, some breeds are challenging, and some clients do not practice enough, but these statements from a trainer are a big red flag signaling that the trainer may have limited training abilities.