top of page

In B.C., dog training is unregulated. Here’s what you need to know

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

BC SPCA-recommended AnimalKind dog trainer Sarah from Yaletown Dog Training gives her tips on finding the right trainer for your pup.

A quick web search of 'dog trainers in Vancouver' shows the many pages of results dog owners have to sift through when choosing a trainer for their pup.

With so many choices, it's not always easy to identify the best trainer for you but it's important to put in the research as, as it stands, dog training is unregulated in the province.

“In B.C., dog training is unregulated, and anyone can call themselves a dog trainer, regardless of their education, knowledge or experience," explains Nicole Fenwick, Manager, Research & Standards at BC SPCA.

"This makes it hard for dog guardians to know whether the trainer they chose will use humane, effective training methods instead of outdated techniques that cause fear and pain to their dogs.

"AnimalKind accredits trainers who use positive, reward-based methods so dog guardians can have peace of mind when they choose a BC SPCA-recommended AnimalKind trainer.”

One AnimalKind trainer who knows the importance of choosing the right dog trainer for you and your pup is Sarah Pennington, owner of Yaletown Dog Training.

With over 7 years in the industry, and a certification from a 2 year professional course in the science of animal learning and training under her belt, Sarah gives her advice on what to look out for when choosing a dog trainer - and it's more straight forward than you may think.

"Ask them! Don't be afraid to ask a trainer what methods they use," explains Sarah, a strong advocate of positive reinforcement and a humane, science-based approach to dog training.

Sarah teaching a puppy class in Yaletown
Sarah teaching a puppy class in Yaletown

"It's widely known that a humane approach and positive reinforcement is safe and effective, without the negative side effects associated with outdated techniques. Dogs are wonderful, complex creatures. Aggression is very often fear-based, so it's important to work on the fear by teaching them to associate the scary thing with good things instead of punishing them," she continues.

“In order to help your dog, reward them for what they do right. If you want to see more of a behaviour, then reward it with a tasty treat. There is never a need to use painful methods or to yell at your dog. This can cause fear.

Sarah also stresses that research is key to ensuring you find a trainer who uses humane science-based methods.. "Do your research and read through their website before booking with them. Look for the words 'positive reinforcement', 'reward-based methods' or 'humane training methods' on their website, it should be clear to see," she explains.

She also recommends looking out for a trainer's credentials or affiliations on their website, as they should be listed.

"They are many wonderful trainers out there, especially in Vancouver and they are easy to spot. For example, look for accredited AnimalKind trainers or graduates from the Academy of Dog Trainers, Karen Pryor Academy or Victoria Stilwell Academy to name a few. You can also look for Fear Free certification and members to the Pet Professional Guild. Both of those organizations are committed to positive reinforcement methods. This will ensure that they have put the work in to really understand how to work with, and bring the best out in your dog," adds Sarah, a graduate and faculty member of the Academy for Dog Trainers .

But what if you have already chosen a trainer and you're not happy with their methods?

"Step in and say you aren't happy!," explains Sarah. "It's never too late. If you are in a class and are uncomfortable with what you see, step in and tell them that you aren't comfortable with what they are doing."

The BC SPCA website also provides the following points to look out for when choosing a trainer:

Choose dog trainers who:

  • train with rewards like treats, food and play

  • use humane, science-based methods

  • make training fun for you and your dog

  • encourage you to watch or participate in training

  • explain dog behaviour and body language

  • have small class sizes (four to six dogs per trainer)

  • work with veterinarians to help you care for your dog

  • act professionally, and treat you and your dog with respect

Avoid dog trainers who:

  • use punishment like shouting, pushing, hitting or leash corrections

  • use shock, prong or choke collars

  • refuse to let you watch or participate

  • refuse to use treats or food rewards

  • talk about “dominance” or “alphas”

  • give medical advice or diagnoses

  • guarantee training results

  • make you feel uncomfortable, or make your dog scared or unhappy

For more information on how to choose the right trainer, Sarah highly recommends a blog written by Zazie Todd, PhD. Check it out here.


Join Sarah and us at this weekend's Sunday Strolls in Yaletown

This weekend, PawSwap is hosting a second Sunday Strolls in Yaletown - a safe way to reunite with fellow dog owners, enjoy some of Vancouver's finest coffee and pizza, and treat our pups at the same time.

This entirely outdoor, physically distanced activity, in Partnership Sciué Italian Bakery Caffé, is taking place this Sunday, July 26, and promises great coffee as well as delicious pizza that both you and your pup can enjoy - and PawSwap has invited Sarah along to answer any questions you may have about your dog, including leash pulling, leash reactivity, housetraining, and more.

Beginning at Sciué Caffé in Yaletown, this activity will start off with a fresh cup of drip coffee and pizza (for the humans and doggos), followed by a guided 15 minute walk with accredited BCSPCA AnimalKind dog trainer Sarah Pennington. Ending at Coopers Park, the dogs can play around and connect more with each other while owners can get top training tips from Sarah.

Also included in the $20 ticket price is a swag bag full of treats from local Canadian companies including Barking Babies, Earth Rated and We Love Van (+$35 value), put together with love by the PawSwap team.

Hand sanitizer and tape markers to ensure distancing in line-ups will be present on the day and all COVID-19 safety guidelines will be adhered to.

As this is a small group activity of below 25 people, tickets are expected to sell out fast. So if you're ready to safely reunite with the dog community, make sure to get your ticket today.


When: Sunday July 26, 2020, 11:00AM – 1:00PM

Where: Sciué Italian Bakery Caffé

126 Davie St

Vancouver, BC V6Z 2V4

Price: $20.00 - An optional $5.00 can be added at checkout, which will be donated to the AnimalKind BCSPCA under your name.

Tickets: Available here



bottom of page