Is your pup a Good Canine Citizen? Don’t worry, Pepper isn’t…yet. 

My wife and I are working on her puppy citizenship and recently had the opportunity to speak with Dianna Stearns of Capitol Area Dog Training and Behavior Consulting, LLC to gain insight into what a dog trainer does and how a pet benefits from well-rounded training.

What got you interested in becoming a dog trainer, and can you explain to our readers what those letters after your name mean?                     

”I have loved dogs ALL my life, and have raised/rescued 13 since my college days. After a couple of less than satisfying careers, I decided to finally pursue what I truly loved; working with people to help them understand their dogs, and help dogs understand their people. I became a dog trainer in 2002, and became nationally certified in training by taking the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers national board exam, in 2003. CPDT-KA stands for “Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed”, and requires 36 hours of Continuing Education credits, in current training study, to be renewed every 3 years.  In 2007, I completed additional study and was granted the designation of Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, which requires 40 hours of continuing education study in behavior, to be renewed every 5 years. As the Founder and President of the American Treibball Association, (501 (c)3, I hold the designation of CATT, Certified American Treibball Trainer. I am the author of the definitive training book on Treibball, “Get the Ball Rolling” available from Dogwise Publishing, and on”

What are the top 3 most asked questions from a new pet parent?                                                                                                                   

1) ”How do I stop my puppy from biting? 

2) How do I stop my dog from jumping up?

3) How do I get my dog to listen?”                                                                                                                 

How can a pet parent assure the trainer they’re hiring is a “good one”?

”Unfortunately, anyone can print up business cards and call themselves a dog trainer. A pet-parent looking for a reputable professional should do some research: Ask for their national credentials, ask who grants those credentials (research the organization), ask for any local references, and search the data banks of (Association of Professional Dog Trainers) and (International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants) for behavior professionals. You plug in your zip code and the database will give you profiles of reputable folks in your area.”

What is your advice to new pet parents on training?

”The sooner the better! Whether you have a new puppy that needs everything, a new adoptee with an unknown history, or an older dog that needs a “tune-up”, training YOU and your dog provides a structure for learning that will build a stronger relationship and give you both a much easier life.”

Why is training important, regardless of the size of your dog?

”All dogs, regardless of size, need training. How would you like to start a new job tomorrow with no job description, and a boss that doesn’t speak your language? That’s what most dogs face, and it’s a recipe for failure! Training is a dialogue and it reaps life-long benefits in a relationship with a species that doesn’t speak your language. Start the conversation as soon as you can.”

What’s the most rewarding part of your career?

”Watching my clients begin to truly appreciate their dogs for the marvelous, thinking, loving creatures they are. Once the pet-parents learn to communicate properly with their dog, they’re amazed at what their dogs can do. If I can open that door for them, it makes me smile from my heart.”

Training is important for building a relationship and bond with your dog. The stronger the bond, the easier it will be to train your dog.

For more info on local trainers and behaviorists, check out our full pet friendly guide to Gaithersburg, MD!