Pittsburgh dog owners have plenty of reputable trainers to choose from. In this blog post, I highlight 19 of the best Pittsburgh dog training pros with a focus on positive reinforcement methods. There are trainers who offer private in-home training, ones with facilities you can visit for group training and many who offer virtual consultation as well.
Whether you’re looking for basic obedience, puppy training or help with a behavior issue, one of these qualified trainers can help! I’ve also taken the time to explain different approaches to dog training so you can make an informed decision when picking who you’d like to work with.
Being a new dog parent comes with a lot of responsibility! And it can be overwhelming to keep track of everything you need to do for your dog. I know you’re concerned about feeding them the best food, how to pick pet insurance and socializing your dog. It’s a lot to think about! That’s why I tried my best in this post to explain how to pick the best dog trainer that fits your lifestyle and give you 19 options of great trainers to pick from.
How to Pick the Best Dog Trainer for You and Your Dog
As you search for the best Pittsburgh dog training experts, it’s important to research training methods. One of the most commonly referenced terms you’ll come across is “positive reinforcement training.” Sometimes this is also referred to as R+ or reward-based training. Based on tons of scientific and practical research over several decades, it is proven that reward-based training is the most effective way to train dogs. Here’s a lengthy article in Psychology Today if you want to learn more.
This blog post contains a list of 15 positive reinforcement dog trainers who offer in-home training, group classes, puppy training, behavior modification and more around the Southwestern PA area. Every trainer on this list was recommended to me by real Pittsburgh dog owners (and some are my own personal recommendation).
Below that list, I’ve also included a dog trainer who was recommended for this article by many people but is not an R+ trainer. They use balanced training methods. This blog post from the Canadian Dog Walkers Association does a good job of explaining the spectrum from Alpha, to Balanced to Positive reinforcement and Force-Free training styles.
What if you want to work with your dog on more advanced things like dog sports or therapy dog training? I got you covered! I listed a few local facilities that offer specialized training for sports like agility, scent work, flyball and other dog sports.
When you shop around for a dog trainer, it’s most important to you get to know your dog. Not everything will work for every dog because they each have their own personalities and experiences. In general, relationship-based positive reinforcement training is the most effective approach. You want your dog to have a happy, enriched and safe life. I encourage you to have a conversation with your dog trainer about the toolkit that can help you achieve that. Well-trained dogs are happier dogs.
Positive Reinforcement Dog Training in Pittsburgh
There are so many positive reinforcement dog trainers to pick from in the Pittsburgh area. Many of these trainers are also Fear Free certified. This certification shows that their training methods are designed to alleviate fear, anxiety, and stress and improve an animal’s emotional well-being.
With rewards-based training, it’s important to consider what kind of rewards your dog will respond to. A good trainer will be able to make suggestions. If your dog is highly food motivated, like my labradors, it might be easy for you to grab any old treat and train them.
But for other dogs, it might take a lot of experimenting to find the treat or item that your dog responds to. They might do anything for you in exchange for a little cheese, chicken, liver treats, something soft or something crunchy. There are even treat pouches that you can squeeze to give your dog a lick of something super delicious like chicken liver or sardines! I like the ones from Bark Pouch.
Some dogs might feel like the highest reward is their favorite toy, a ball or your praise and attention. All of the trainers below are qualified to help you figure out what kind of rewards your dog will be most responsive to.
The 15 positive reinforcement dog trainers below are listed in no particular order. They’re all wonderful and come recommended to me by real Pittsburgh dog owners.
Debby from Pawsitive Reactions was recommended to me by a friend. She specializes in private, in-home dog behavioral consultations and training, tailored specifically to you and your dog. Outdoor and virtual sessions may also be used. Debby will help you solve your training and behavior problems with kind and gentle dog-friendly methods. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and offers help with reactivity, aggression and multiple dog households.
FurEver Good Dog Training
If you’re looking for thoughtful, in-home or virtual one-on-one training, reach out to Sarah. According to my labrador mom friend Shannon, “Sarah took a lot of time to get to know us and offered great, positive reinforcement suggestions. She was really helpful and knowledgeable!” FurEver Good also offers dog walking and canine enrichment services.
The Dog Stop in the Strip District
This is my personal recommendation! I’ve been training my dog Lucy with Brett Reynolds since she was a puppy. Most recently, I worked with Brett in group training classes to get Lucy ready for her Therapy Dogs International certification test. I recommend Brett to anyone who asks me for a local dog trainer. He’s given me the skills to teach Lucy how to do all sorts of things. He has a very practical and calm approach to dog training. The Dog Stop in the Strip also offers daycare, boarding, dog grooming and a shop with a selection of food, treats and toys.
Happy Pets Training
Christine Flint is all about increasing the happiness in your household! Through in-home private lessons, she will coach you regarding your dog’s behavior problems, helping you solve them through positive reinforcement. Virtual and group sessions are also available. Christine came recommended to me by a friend.
Pivotal Dog Training
This local company offers in-home dog training programs for puppies, basic obedience and manners, behavior modification, new parents, and more. Their approach is to teach dogs to be good decision-makers, and teach owners how to communicate with their dogs. One of my friends recommends working with Greg.
Barb Levenson Dog Training
Ask anyone in the East End of Pittsburgh about dog trainers and Barb Levenson’s name will surely come up. Barb offers basic obedience, AKC Canine Good Citizen training, behavioral solutions, Puppy Kindergarten, agility training and more. These group classes are held at her 12,000-square-foot facility in Oakmont.
Success Just Clicks
Owner Tena Parker has been working with dogs for over 15 years and has a ton of certifications and qualifications to back up her positive reinforcement training methods. At her facility in Spring Garden (on the North Side) you can take group classes on basic or advanced manners, agility, scent work and more. Tena also offers reactive dog training classes.
North Pittsburgh Animal Behavior
Through the guidance of owner Beth McGonigal, known as Aunt Beth, the trainers at this facility teach force free, science based, positive reinforcement training methods. If you’re looking to train your dog alongside kids, NBAB use family-friendly techniques and are advocates for the involvement of children in the dog training process. Their facility is in Gibsonia.
All Together Better
Andrew is a fear free certified trainer who offers in-person training, virtual consults and supervised playtime. At his facility, there are also puppy play sessions if you have a new pup. Another unique thing offered at All Together Better is a grooming training session. Grooming can be very stressful for a lot of dogs. Fear free certified groomer Courtney will guide you through the grooming process with safety and your dog’s emotional state in mind.
Misty Pines is a large facility near Wexford that offers dog boarding, cat boarding, dog training, canine behavioral consultations, dog daycare, and grooming. They also have a 25 acre dog park that includes a fenced-in yard with agility obstacles, 3 miles of wooded trails and a pond for swimming and dock diving. Misty Pines has great group training classes and also offers a 2 week board and train called Dog Boot Camp to boost your dog’s training. My dog Lucy, and my previous dog Lola, went through Misty Pines’ boot camp.
Spotted Paw Behavioral Services
Amanda offers private in-home behavioral consulting specific to fit the needs of your dog, cat, or parrot. She’s experienced to help you and your pup with everything from resource guarding and separation anxiety to general manners. If you have a multi-species house, Amanda would be a great trainer since she also works with cats and birds. A 5% discount is given on consultations & pet training programs for pets from a rescue or shelter.
Moon Walkers Pet Services
Lead by Andrea Lamping CPDT-KA at a facility in Emsworth, Moon Walkers offers a wide variety of dog training services including their Momentum Day School. You can send your dog to “school” where each day they will learn new skills, practice safe play and work on daily lessons like loose leash walking, grooming, scent work, agility and more. They also offer in-person group puppy classes, private lessons at your home or their facility and virtual classes.
Lisa Bartel Dog Training
Dog trainer Lisa Bartel is encourages humans to understand a dog should have a personality and won’t be a “robot dog”. She helps pet parents educate, advocate, and guide their lifelong companions! Lisa is also a Certified Canine Enrichment Technician and brings canine enrichment lessons to all of her in-home private training sessions or group classes held at Animal Friends. Lisa can also prepare your dog for the CGC and Therapy Dog evaluations.
>> If you’re looking for even more resources to find trainers, pet care providers and veterinarians around Pittsburgh, check out the Alliance of Modern Pet Professionals Pittsburgh website. Many of the trainers I’ve listed here are included in their directory.
Affordable R+ Dog Training in Pittsburgh
If you’re looking for dog training on a budget, group classes are more affordable than one-on-one dog training. Many of the trainers listed above offer group classes at their facilities or outdoors. Another great option is to check out the training classes offered at our local animal shelters. HAR and Animal Friends have great facilities and experienced trainers to help you with your pets.
Humane Animal Rescue of Pittsburgh
The dog training methods they teach at both locations (East End and North Side) are R+, force-free and relationship-based. Making dog training affordable to the community is a key part of their mission. They even have a partnership with The Proper Pit Bull to offer scholarships for pit bull-type dogs.
This animal shelter in the North Hills also offers positive reinforcement-based dog training group classes. An interesting new class they offer is about dogs with leash reactivity (the first one is being held on November 6, 2022). This is a class for people to learn about their dogs behavior. Leash-reactive dogs are those who overreact to typical things in the environment– dogs, people, animals, cars – while on a walk. This class will give your ideas to manage and begin to modify your dog’s reactive behavior. I love that this class teaches dog body language and will help you to understand your dog’s emotional state (aka, the cause of their reactivity).
Balanced Dog Trainers in Pittsburgh
As an average dog owner, you might have never heard the term “balanced training.” This is different from positive reinforcement, rewards-based, and force-free training. It employs tools such as electronic fences, ecollars, prong collars or other methods that teach your dog not to do something because they want to avoid the negative consequences. The balanced trainer may use tools like this in addition to positive rewards. This is why it’s called balanced.
Please note that you should never use tools like an electronic collar or invisible fence without being thoroughly trained by a professional on how to use them safely. In fact, I believe all dog training tools should come with instructions. Even a flat collar can be dangerous if you use it incorrectly.
Within balanced training, there are distinctions. A LIMA-balanced trainer uses methods that are Least Invasive, Minimally Aversive. This article explains the four quadrants of dog training. When you’re looking for a dog trainer you should be able to ask them about all of this and they should be open to sharing with you what their approach is and why they do it.
Say It Once Dog Training
Michelle McGraw and the whole team at Say It Once came highly recommended when I reached out to my local dog friends. My friend Alyssa says that Michelle, “is phenomenal, patient and has totally transformed myself and my dog!”. Others commented that she has amazing positivity, sensitivity and passion for working with dogs and their people. They offer in-home private training sessions around the Pittsburgh area (and now Nashville, TN, too).
Specialty Dog Trainers in Southwestern PA
Do you have basic obedience figured out but still want to find a way to train and learn alongside your dog? Training for dog sports or special skills is a great way for you and your dog to bond. Personally, I’ve trained my dog Lucy up to an Intermediate Trick Dog level and love taking my other dog Burt to Barn Hunt clinics and trials. It took me about 15 years of having dogs to get into this specialized training, and I wish I had discovered it sooner!
These are some great specialty Pittsburgh dog training facilities for you to check out.
Splash ‘n Dash K9 Sports
Splash ‘n Dash K9 Sports is a dog training club located in Plum. They provide a place to learn about all aspects of canine sports by providing quality instruction, sanctioned canine sporting events, seminars, and dog related curriculum. Sign up for a class to learn about agility, flyball, treibball, scent work or dog tricks.
Xcel Canine Training in
At this facility in Bethel Park they offer group classes and private training for scent work, agility, conformation, trick dog and more. This is where Lucy and I did the Therapy Dogs International evaluation. The night I was there for the test there was an agility class going on and it seemed like a great group of people having a lot of fun with their dogs.
K9 Sports Academy
This facility located north of Pittsburgh offers obedience classes in addition to training for dog sports such as Agility, Barn Hunt, Dock Diving, Nosework, Mondio and Protection work. I’ve been to a Barn Hunt Trial here with Burt. The best way to find out about classes being offered is on the K9 Sports Academy and Happy Trails Training Facebook pages. From what I can see, they’re working on adding a pool for dog diving and other dog water sports!
Frequently Asked Questions about Dog Training Classes
What are the certifications for dog trainers?
Technically, dog trainers are not required by law to be certified in order to provide dog training services. There are many wonderful people out there who are not certified. However, being certified shows that someone has studied and had their dog training skills and knowledge tested. The most common certification comes from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. They are the organization that awards the letters CPDT-KA after so many dog trainers’ names. CPDT-KA stands for Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed.
Dog trainers can also be Fear Free Certified. This is a certification that shows this person has the skills to alleviate fear, anxiety, and stress and improve an animal’s emotional well-being.
You should choose the dog trainer who is right for you after you’ve asked them questions about their experience and how it fits with you and your dog’s needs.
What does r+ dog training mean?
R+ dog training is another way of saying positive reinforcement training. This is a scientifically proven most effective way to train your dog. You can read more about the scientific studies, or jump to an article in Time magazine that does a great job of translating those studies into something regular people can understand.
How much does it cost to train your dog?
Dog training ranges from $15 for virtual classes to over $100 per hour for private in-home training. Many facilities offer discounts on class packs which can save you money and also ensure that you and your dog consistently go to the training classes.
What articles and resources can I read to learn more about dog training?
I asked many professional dog trainers in my petpreneur group for recommendations on where to learn about the science behind rewards-based dog training. These are the links they shared with me. Thank you Ruth from A-Z Dogs, Alix from Fetch for Me Human, and Lori from Off Leash Milwaukee.
The Four Quadrants of Dog Training
Companion Animal Psychology
Time Magazine article on the Science of Dog Training
Dog Training Positive Reinforcement by Oxford Paws
Pavlov’s Dogs and Classical Conditioning
American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior Position on Humane Training
Looking for more great content about Pittsburgh dogs? Check out these posts:
12 Best Off-Leash Dog Parks in Pittsburgh
24-Hour and Emergency Vets in Pittsburgh (save this list!)
Over 25 Things to Do with your Dog in the Burgh
The Best Dog Friendly AirBnBs in PIttsburgh
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