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The Best Dog Trainers in North Carolina of 2023

Merlin Noble photo

Merlin Noble

March 29, 2022

Dog Trainers

Welcome to the North Carolina Sniffspot top dog trainer list for 2023. This is a list of the top dog trainers in North Carolina based on votes from the Sniffspot community and the general public. Over 55,000 votes were used in compiling this list. We have only included the top trainers with sufficient votes and the trainers are ordered in terms of the number of votes received. Trainers that tied are ranked in reverse alphabetical order based on first name. All dog trainers on this list are positive reinforcement only, as defined by no force, fear, intimidation, or aversive methods used. To learn more about our dog trainer contest, feel free to view the dog trainer contest post.

Dog training is one of the most important activities someone can do with their dog. Many come to dog training through a specific issue they want addressed, anything from barking to separation anxiety. Some have adopted dogs from animal shelters with an abusive experience and some just have happy puppies looking for everyday life skills. Trainers can help with all kinds of specific skills and issues, from leash manners to territorial aggression to anxiety around skateboards to common puppy challenges. However, what many discover is that working with a trainer is actually a way for a pet owner to deepen their relationship with their dog. The enhanced communication skills that result can increase quality of life, be a rewarding experience, be a social experience and lead to more harmonious relationships. Knowing that one’s dog is having a happier life can dramatically improve peace of mind. As the saying goes: happy dog, happy life. And it extends further than just the dog, to the pet owners. Owner empowerment can actually improve the relationship between owners. And finding the right trainer can make all the difference in the experience.

This list is compiled by Sniffspot, which is the largest network of private dog parks for rent in the world. Each of the thousands of Sniffspot dog parks are hosted by locals on private land with 100% private bookings to maximize safety for guests and their dogs. Sniffspot offers various types of dog parks, including fenced, water parks, indoor dog parks, dog beaches and more. Sniffspot has worked closely with dog trainers to create safe spaces for dogs and our top trainer lists are a natural extension of that relationship. You can browse Sniffspot's local dog parks here.

The Best North Carolina Dog Trainers in 2023

Comora Tolliver

I help families navigate their world with the canine companions they love. I teach owners how to set their dogs up for success and reach their goals using humane, science based training strategies based on the individual. I also offer puppy, cgc, manners, and reactive dog classes.

Certifications: KPA CTP, Fear Free Certified, AKC EVALUATOR, Family Dog Mediator

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • In home training
  • Deaf dog training
  • Reactive dog training
  • Service dog training
  • Puppy training

More info about service provided: Private one on one, classes- reactive dog class, puppy basic under six months, puppy basics over 6 months, trick, CGC, advanced

Behavioral issue focus: Fear, reactivity, aggression

Training methods: Positive reinforcement based in science.

Why I became a dog trainer: To help people understand the dog in front of them and to guide and help them become a successful team.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Helping people understand how to let their dog live their best life!

My #1 dog training tip: Reward your dog for the things you like when you see them offer it!

Service areas: Hendersonville

Website: https://www.barkersanonymous.com


Caitlin Morrow

Caitlin Morrow, head trainer for Behavior Tails, achieved her first dog training credential in 2007. After spending over a 15 years working in Western North Carolina, Caitlin knows most of the local veterinarians and vet techs and comes highly recommended by other dog trainers, past clients and the veterinarian community.

Caitlin is a positive reinforcement based dog trainer that adheres to LIMA (Least Intrusive Minimally Aversive) policies and does not use correction based training methods. With the focus of training being the individual dog's needs we work to create harmonious living between all members of the household without the use of corrections or force to get results.

Certifications: CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA, Fear Free Certified Professional, Registered Vet Tech - NC, Service Dog Coach, mentor trainer for CATCH Academy & Animal Behavior College

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • Board and train
  • In home training
  • Reactive dog training
  • Service dog training
  • Off leash training
  • Puppy training

More info about service provided: Private training, group classes, drop off training, day training, obedience training, basic manners, potty training, puppy socialization, remedial socialization, therapy dog prep, service dog training, scent training, medical detection training, working with breeders for puppy selection, working with shelters for dog selections, fear & anxiety issues, dog-dog aggression issues, leash reactivity, resource guarding, new baby consultations and prep, trick dog classes

Behavioral issue focus: Aggression, Reactivity, Service Dog Training, Puppy Training, Basic Manners, Tricks

Training methods: Depending on what the issues are we will do an initial consultation to make a thorough evaluation of the situation and put a plan in place. For basic training with no problem behaviors being seen we dive straight into training. Written reports & summaries are given to behavior cases.

Why I became a dog trainer: I love learning and observing behavior in all species. I love helping people understand their dogs better and helping both dogs & people learn to communicate together.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Seeing how joyful both the person and the dog are as we work on improving their communication together. The transition to enjoying doing things together again and even just understanding each other.

My #1 dog training tip: Learn body language better. If you understand your dog's body language and learn to respect their choices you will open up a lot of new avenues that improve so many things.

Service areas: Haywood County, Buncombe County, Franklin County, Candler, Canton, Asheville, West Asheville, Waynesville, Balsam, Cruso, Sylva, Biltmore Lake

Website: https://www.BehaviorTailsLLC.com


Rebecca Gridley

What do you do when you have tried everything? It seems like things get better one day, but the next, things go two steps back. This struggle is something I have lived through and made me the trainer I am today. My own special needs rescue dogs had so many things going on.

What started as just some simple frustration behaviors at first became full-blown behavior. Everything that is touted as a solution, 'redirect here, click and treat for this', just didn't work. Between stress, exhaustion, and tears, I kept thinking, 'what the heck is going on, I have rehabbed so many other dogs over the years, but this is different!'

And this is where learning about our furry companions really begins.

In my over ten years as a vet tech and in my education (Masters in Physiology), some pieces stood out, but putting together this puzzle was tough. Over the past several years, I have spent time diving into everything I could, learning about the whole behavioral health picture for my dogs, and it was starting to make sense.

It turns out my special guy had undiagnosed pain for years. And the pain was leading to growing behavioral concerns.

Had I known then what I know now, we could have saved years of frustration, stress and struggle.

This has been the case for several of my client teams too!

Is every case pain related? No! But by understanding body language, how our dogs interact with space, sounds, and objects and how they problem solve even the simplest (but still frustrating) concerns like connected leash walking and prey drive, we can create a smarter (not harder) approach with choice and never using pain or fear

My goal, no, my mission is to help pet parents near and far connect with their dogs on a deeper level, understand the WHYs of a behavior, and gain hope and success in achieving goals.

If you want a trainer that will just tell you to click and treat or a quick single-session fix, that is not me. When we work together, we are going to get to know your companion on another level, and you'll grow the skills you need to observe, and problem-solve so that you can live your best life with your dog (or rabbit).

Certifications: Veterinary Behaviorist Recommended

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • In home training
  • Reactive dog training
  • Off leash training

More info about service provided: All teams start with a virtual Initial Consultation and from there we build a customized training plan. Most clients are virtual and in person is available in select areas.

Behavioral issue focus: We can work on connected leash walking and basic life skills but I also specialize in helping anxious/aggressive/and reactive dog teams as well as helping your pup learn about cooperative care such as enjoying vet visits, grooming, and medical care.

Training methods: Total Pet Training LLC. use a whole picture approach using only research backed and humane methods. We are 100% AVSAB humane practices compliant and focus on choice rich connection.

Why I became a dog trainer: It happened out of necessity to help my own and foster dogs.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Seeing teams connect, understand each other, and find joy with where they are makes our progress that much sweeter.

My #1 dog training tip: Look at the whole picture, the out of context matters.

Service areas: Raleigh/Cary/Durham/Chapel hill and surrounding areas in NC as well as Clarksville/Chase City, VA and ANYWHERE with internet (including internationally!)

Website: https://www.totalpetnc.com/


Sam Selim

I am a 35-Year Veteran of Corporate world, as a Global Technology Executive, and a Boyscout from Childhood. My love for the Outdoors, Wilderness, Animals and Travels - has always been at the center of my Core & Spirit. I have stood in the Front & Center of many "Impressive" Boardrooms... closing major deals.. but at the end of every day - my biggest joy was standing in the middle of a Forest, or my Pasture, with my dogs - and all the special bonfires with my Family.

Certifications: IAABC, ABC, Animal Behavior Science, Aggression & Reactivity, Behavior Modification Training

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • In home training
  • Protection/guard dog training
  • Reactive dog training
  • Off leash training
  • Puppy training
  • Agility training

More info about service provided: After 45 years of owning & training Dogs, and a few Horses - I have learned the Base Foundation of what Humans & Canines need for a lasting, respectful, & reliable "Connection". The Psychology & Mindsets needed, that transcend to results. I teach both, Human & Dog, to cultivate the "Protocol", of Communication - that Transcends any "general approach" out there today... it's a 360 approach, a "Process that leads to Progress" - everything is "Visible & Measureable" by all my clients. Any Dog, Any Owner, Any Stage - from Baseline Obedience, to advanced & versatile Obedience - Agility, Indoor/Outdoor, Distance Commands, Silent & Audible, Enrichment, Enjoyment & Tricks - for Family & Canine Fulfillment, Joy & Satisfaction - through Positive Reeinforcement - Dogs are "Wingless Angels"...

Behavioral issue focus: I work with all Breeds & Behaviorial Stages of Dog Maturity, Growth & Stability. Examples are - "Dog Reactivity", Human Reactivity, Anxiety, Manners, Resource Guarding, Aggression, Shyness, Pulling, Trauma, Biting, Socialization, with a focus on Desired Behavior Modification & Transformation.

Training methods: First things First! I conduct a client/dog session, that builds Discovery & INTAKE, through Observation - to establish a "Baseline" of accurate data points. I seek to gain an "untainted" picture of the "Raw Settings" & Triggers, Behaviors, current styles of communication, with a full video review, of base supporting analysis - with this, I develop a "Narrative of Findings", along with a path of recommendations- that bring visibility to desired outcomes. A Plan is then customized for the Client, that keeps the Dogs' full potential, and Enrichment as the focus, along with Cient needs and a Family centered & inclusive approach is constructed, discussed and shared. The plan is constructed in such a way that Client has full Visibility to Goals, Progress, and Preparation for "next session". The sessions are typically inclusive of all family members - to help cultivate "Unity" and "Cadence"...

Why I became a dog trainer: My Grandpa, had 2 German Shepherd Dogs, that would drag me under his bed when I was a baby infant, and care for me and protect me. These dogs would essentially "babysit" me, and bring toys under the bed. That's when my love for dogs was born.. I have always owned dogs since - I believe now, I help raise dogs, the same way they did for me. I can never be without dogs in my life. The rest of the journey was "Destiny"...

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: My favorite part, is seeing the "smiles" happen.. and the "Aha" moments by all the family members occur. Helping families realize that they all are "Gaurdians" of dogs - and that Fulfillment, Enrichment and Achievement, all work hand-in-hand.. helping them realize that dogs "smile" too - and when all these things come together - They all work through an "invisible" wall, and a higher sense of connection and bond.

My #1 dog training tip: My Tip, that I tell everyone, is that "Dogs are always learning"... but we, as humans, are NOT always teaching - and therefore, "Dogs learn what we are not teaching"... once they view it all this way, it becomes easier to cultivate the bond and the training.

Service areas: JOHNSTON COUNTY, Clayton & Surrounding Areas

Website: https://www.kata-k9.com


Diana Blanchard

Diana Blanchard has been involved with animals and animal rescue for her entire adult life. She is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner and has a Master's degree in nonprofit management. With her training and business skills combined, she has helped start and run multiple training centers, including her own company, Imagine Canine Academy. Teaching owners to bond with their dogs through training is her passion.

Diana has multiple canine athletes of her own and loves training and playing sports with them. In fact, she regularly competes in flyball, dock diving, and disc with her dogs. Diana and her husband are also proud members of That's So Fetch Flyball Club.

Certifications: KPA-CTP

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • Board and train
  • In home training
  • Deaf dog training
  • Reactive dog training
  • Service dog training
  • Off leash training
  • Puppy training

More info about service provided: We are a private training company that provides individualized services to our clients through private training, day training, and board and train. Everything we do is customized to our clients' needs.

Behavioral issue focus: Behavior modification is a large part of what we do, dealing with aggression and separation anxiety.

Training methods: Everything we do is customized to the individual client, so we create custom plans, work with the client to ensure success throughout the training, and help to support the client for as long as they need. Each student is different, but we typically start with an in-person or virtual session to get started on our game plan together.

Why I became a dog trainer: To help and support dog owners succeed with their dogs. Each student is like a puzzle to solve, and I really enjoy working with owners to support their relationship with their dogs.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: I love my students and seeing them grow and change throughout our time together.

My #1 dog training tip: What gets reinforced gets repeated! If you want something to happen more frequently with your dog, reinforce it.

Service areas: Piedmont Triad of North Carolina in person and anywhere for remote training

Website: https://imaginecanineacademy.com


Marsha Penner

I am behavioral neuroscientist with a specialization in
the neurobiology of learning and memory. My interest and research into how organisms learn and remember ultimately led me to the wonderful world of dog training, which I now does full-time.

I am the owner of Learning to Dog Training and Enrichment in Durham, where I do private lessons, group classes, and puppy school. I am certified through CCPDT, the Karen Pryor Academy, and I am a faculty advisor for the Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy.

Certifications:

KPA-CTP
CPDT-KA
FFCP

Services include:

  • Reactive dog training
  • Puppy training

More info about service provided:

Puppy School
Puppy Classes

Behavioral issue focus: Reactivity

Training methods: Training Plans
Enrichment Plans

Why I became a dog trainer: I love teaching and learning, and of course I love dogs. My hope is that I can make a positive impact on the lives of dogs and the people who love them!

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: I love watching dogs and their people establish or grow their relationship.

My #1 dog training tip: Always try and engage your sense of humor, even (or especially) when you find yourself in challenging situations with your dog.

Service areas: Durham

Website:  https://learningtodog.com/


Trish McMillan

Trish McMillan is a certified professional dog trainer (through CCPDT), certified dog behavior consultant and associate certified cat behavior consultant (through IAABC) who holds a Master's degree in Animal Behavior from the University of Exeter in England. She specializes in training and behavior modification work using positive reinforcement with dogs, cats, and horses.

During her seven years with the ASPCA, Trish gained a wide variety of experience in the field of animal behavior. For three years she was the director of the animal behavior department at the ASPCA's New York City shelter, helping staff, volunteers, and adopters work with animals and make great matches. Trish has also helped assess and rehabilitate animals from cruelty, hoarding, and dogfighting cases, as well as pets rescued from natural disasters.

In addition to writing for the ASPCA's Virtual Pet Behaviorist and other publications, she helped create and present several very popular webinars on dog and cat behavior and handling for the ASPCA Pro website. Trish also co-chairs the Shelter Behavior division of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants and runs an online shelter behavior mentorship through IAABC twice a year.

Prior to her work with the ASPCA, Trish managed dog daycares, volunteered in animal shelters, taught obedience classes, and worked with board-and-train dogs in her home. She has also trained and shown horses in various disciplines, and has been incorporating clicker training in her equine work for many years now. Trish has also worked with cats with behavior problems, and enjoys helping our feline friends have more enriched lives through clicker training as well. (Yes, cats can be trained!)Trish presents and consults nationally and internationally on canine, feline and equine behavior as well as on sheltering topics.

Certifications: certified professional dog trainer (through CCPDT), certified dog behavior consultant and associate certified cat behavior consultant (through IAABC) who holds a Master's degree in Animal Behavior from the University of Exeter in England

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • Reactive dog training

Website: https://trishmcmillan.com/


Kim Brophey

Kim Brophey, CDBC, CPDT-KA, is an applied ethologist and owner of The Dog Door Behavior Center in downtown Asheville, NC. Kim's 20-year commitment to Family Dog Mediation has been recognized both nationally and locally, awarded the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) Outstanding Trainer of the Year in 2009 and the Best Dog Trainer of WNC six years in a row.

She has lectured and taught courses at colleges, universities, and conferences on canine behavior, ethology, and welfare. Kim is a member of the International Society for Applied Ethology and the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, and is a past board member of the International Association and Animal Behavior Consultants and the Asheville Humane Society.

Kim's trademarked Dog L.E.G.S model is a groundbreaking new system for dog lovers to truly understand their dogs' behavior- distilling multiple scientific disciplines and established principles into a simple and accessible framework for pet dogs and their people like never before. Kim is launching a coordinated grassroots movement to facilitate a paradigm shift and market disruption in the pet industry through: her book MEET YOUR DOG- The Game-Changing Guide to Understanding Your Dog's Behavior, TEDx talk - The Problem with Treating a Dog Like a Pet, Canine Genetic Heritage Testing Software 'The Dog Key National Dog L.E.G.S. Association for pet industry businesses and organizations, L.E.G.S. Applied Ethology Family Dog Mediation Professional Course, and establishment of Asheville as the official Dog City, USA. She has become a powerful leading voice in the dog behavior and training industry internationally, with students all over the world.

Kim's vision is to facilitate a critical paradigm shift in our relationships with dogs- building bridges and inspiring others with comprehensive, practical science to redefine how we perceive, talk about, and treat our canine companions as a society.

Certifications:

CPDT-KA
CDBC
LFDM

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • In home training
  • Deaf dog training
  • Reactive dog training
  • Puppy training

More info about service provided:

THE DOG DOOR is revolutionizing the dog behavior & training industry, breaking the mold of the outdated model of dog 'obedience' training with a ground-breaking new service model for the millions of dog loving families struggling with behavior problems & the dog behavior pros committed to helping them Family Dog Mediation.

Built upon decades of well-established behavioral science spanning multiple disciplines, the highly celebrated Dog L.E.G.S. Model of Applied Ethology behind Family Dog Mediation is changing the entire conversation in the dog behavior industry. This new service delivers unprecedented insights & interventions, integrating the full scope of relevant sciences for the benefit of dog families worldwide. And it does it more simply, practically, and enjoyably for everyone.

Behavioral issue focus: Aggression with people or dogs, Anxiety, fear, leash pulling, jumping, barking, emotional distress, difficulties with children, inter-dog issues, issues with cats living in the home, other common behavior problems

Training methods: The behavior consultation lasts about an hour and a half during which time Kim will be asking a series of questions, getting a thorough history, and details about all of the behaviors you've been seeing and in what contexts you're seeing those behaviors. From there she will be able to give you some insight about all of the different components contributing to those behaviors. From there she will be able to talk you about what steps to take going forward to mitigate those issues. At the end of the behavior consultation she will talk to you about whether or not she thinks follow up appointments would be necessary and if so, how many appointments she thinks it will take to reach all of your goals.

Why I became a dog trainer: A deep love for dogs, but more than that I wanted to help families understand why their dogs behave the way they do to help humans feel compassion for their pets and at the same time help dogs understand their humans.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Seeing the light bulb go off for families when they can see what the internal experience is for their dog.

My #1 dog training tip: Understanding changes everything.

Service areas: Asheville, NC and Western North Carolina as well as virtual training internationally

Website: https://www.dogdoorcanineservices.com/


Susan Krieg

After many years working with veterinarians, training facilities, grooming salons, and animal rescue organizations, in 2014 I opened Paws 4 Peace in Louisburg, North Carolina. My training techniques are derived from a holistic and compassionate perspective. I have found the use of positive approach training to be the most effective and creates long lasting results. Understanding the subtle nuances of canine communication is key to my success as a dog trainer.

Teaching people how to connect and communicate with their canine family members; assisting Veterans and others with disabilities regain and enjoy their lives with the help of Service Dogs, are incredibly rewarding.Training opportunities for me, have run the gamut from basic manners and obedience to Puppy Basics, Conformation, Agility, Rally-O, Distraction-Proofing, Canine Musical Freestyle, Aggressive Behavior, Emotional Challenges, and finally to Therapy and Service Dog Training and Certification.

I graduated from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor of Science and Masters of Education in Applied Behavioral Analysis in 2000 and 2001, respectively. In addition, I trained and mentored under Dr. Ian Dunbar, DVM, well-known for his positive animal training methodology. I also worked with Dr. Barbara Sherman, DVM of NC State University. I am a member of APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) and a certified Evaluator with the AKC (American Kennel Club) for Canine Good Citizen, and STAR Puppy Evaluation (Socialization, Training, Activity, & Responsible Owner).

Career opportunities provided me with an interesting background. I worked my way through college grooming and training dogs. I owned a successful 12-year business in Ohio, taught Special Education, worked as lead trainer/behavioral consultant for several NC animal hospitals and rescue organizations. In 2010, I was honored to be invited by Dos Amigos to teach university-level classes to a group of veterinarians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and animal rescue groups at the University of Chile, Santiago, Chile. Dos Amigos is the only non-profit organization in Chile specializing in the training and placement of Therapy and Service dogs.

I have continued my teaching focus by creating public awareness by speaking to groups and holding in-service sessions for veterinarians, schools, corporations, organizations, and law enforcement.Avid animal lovers, my husband Mike and I have shared their home with dogs, cats, parrots, and rabbits. We currently live in central North Carolina with three cats, Service Dogs Gavin (a Leonberger), Lotus (a Border Collie), Bodhi (a Labrador Retriever), Trexie (an Australian Shepherd), and Gabriel (a Cocker Spaniel); however, that number could change at any moment, as we are actively involved in animal fostering and rescue. We enjoy the beach, working with our dogs, hiking, and watching football, especially when The Ohio State Buckeyes are winning!

Certifications: Trained and mentored under Dr. Ian Dunbar, DVM, well-known for his positive animal training methodology. I also worked with Dr. Barbara Sherman, DVM of NC State University. I am a member of APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers) and a certified Evaluator with the AKC (American Kennel Club) for Canine Good Citizen, and STAR Puppy Evaluation (Socialization, Training, Activity, & Responsible Owner).

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • Reactive dog training
  • Service dog training

Website: https://paws4peaceusa.com/


Joanne Ometz

My work centers on companion dogs and helping them live well in a human world. I have been educated through Turid Rugaas, the Karen Pryor professional course, and Suzanne Clothier's Treat/Retreat technique for dogs who are socially awkward with people. I also have a Masters Degree in Social Work. I am passionate about both my work and the many opportunities to learn and improve my knowledge and skills.

Certifications: CPDT-KA, Turid Rugaas Certified, MSW

Services include:

  • In home training
  • Reactive dog training
  • Service dog training
  • Puppy training

More info about service provided: Classes, private sessions, and dog day school (a weekday, all day positive reinforcement training program for dogs 8wks-2yrs).

Behavioral issue focus: Leash Reactivity, fearful dogs, jumping up, pulling, dogs who are socially awkward with people, family dog issues

Training methods: Force free, positive reinforcement. One of a handful of people in the US educated by Norwegian behaviorist Turid Rugaas. She was one of the first people to study canine body language and to incorporate it in to how she works with dogs. I bring my social work training and experience to my work with both people and dogs, along with an understanding of Polyvagal Theory and how we coregulate our nervous systems with our canine companions.

Why I became a dog trainer: I started in 2009, when I got a little rescue named Sadie. I took a class with a wonderful trainer who taught me to use a clicker. I went on to start the Gateway Dog Club because I wanted to keep training with other folks, and ended up teaching at the meetings. loved it so much I decided to make it my life's work.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Seeing folks start to understand their dogs better and teaching them how to help their dogs live better in a human world. The light in the dog's eyes when they 'get' what you want them to do, and then they choose to do it again!

My #1 dog training tip: Be patient and only give the cue once. If your dog doesn't comply, use that as information. Were there too many distractions? Is your dog tired or scared? What do you need to do to set your dog up for success?

Service areas: Durham, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough,

Website: https://www.durhamdogtrainingcenter.com


Lisa Waggoner

Lisa Lyle Waggoner is a passionate advocate for humane, science-based, force-free dog training. She's the author of The Original Rocket Recall: Teach Your Dog to Come. She is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed, a Pat Miller Certified Trainer-Level 2, Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer, and a faculty member of the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training and Behavior.

Lisa is the founder of Cold Nose College, a labor of love that has blossomed into a world-renowned center of education for both dog owners and professional trainers. She's well-known for her clear, compassionate, and engaging teaching skills and is dedicated to helping dogs and their owners form a strong bond and enjoy their lives together.

Lisa is also actively involved as a professional trainer in the RESCUED jail dog program ('Saving Detainees and Dogs One Life at a Time), at the Colwell Probation Detention center in Georgia. She is a two-time recipient of the Volunteer of the Year Award by the Georgia Department of Corrections.

She lives in western North Carolina in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and shares her life with her best friend, husband, and business partner, Brad, and their two Australian Shepherds, Cody and Cailie. When not working, you'll find her cooking, gardening, playing old-time banjo, and wandering with gratitude throughout their rural acreage known as Blue Moon Hollow always with dogs by her side.

Certifications: Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed, Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer, Pat Miller Certified Trainer Lever 2

Services include:

  • Off leash training
  • Puppy training

More info about service provided: We help you with behavior and training issues for puppies and dogs. Some possible topics that can be covered in a virtual session include:

Training techniques and instruction on typical obedience behaviors
Cooperative vet care to help your animal at the vet's office or with needed daily at-home medical treatments Pre- and post-adoption counseling
Planning for your puppy's 'coming home' success, including housetraining and how to prevent puppy nipping and biting

Common dog behavior problems such as house training, barking, digging, chewing, pulling on leash, jumping on people, and destructive behavior
Serious dog behavior issues such as separation anxiety and some forms of aggression. Aggression cases are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Behavioral issue focus: Separation Anxiety, Fear, Reactivity and Aggression

Training methods:

No fancy or expensive technology needed to do a virtual session. If you have a computer with a webcam or a smartphone or tablet and an internet connection, you're set! We use free, easy-to-download video chat software, such as Zoom.us.

We'll walk you through the entire process so don't worry if you're technically challenged' we make the process painless and enjoyable we promise!

When you purchase an Initial Consult Session, you'll be directed to the trainer's calendar and can schedule a time and date that's convenient for you and your family. We can even have more than one webcam on the session so household members can call in from other locations. We have worked with clients all over the U.S. and internationally.

After we discuss your case, depending on your goals and your pet's needs, we'll design a custom training package for you and schedule future sessions.

Why I became a dog trainer: To help others learn there was a way to train their dogs without using aversive techniques.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Building trust, understanding and lasting relationships between clients and their dogs.

My #1 dog training tip: Building a relationship with your dog before embarking on a training journey.

Service areas: Our virtual training spans the globe

Website: https://www.coldnosecollege.com


Shannon Burch

After spending 10 years in the equine training industry, Shannon made the transition to dog training in 2014. She saw a great need for educated trainers with powerful and accessible tools for everyday dog owners to communicate with their pets. She holds certification from the Animal Behavior College (ABCDT) and is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA).

Shannon has a passion for animal behavior and learning theory, keeping up to date on the most cutting-edge and modern techniques for dog training founded in the science of Animal Behavior, utilizing 100% positive reinforcement, force free methods. She studied hundreds of dogs, learning about canine body language, interspecies communication, and play behaviors.

Today, her focus lies in education, teaching people about their dogs, achieving their goals with compassion, empathy, and knowledge. Shannon is a registered Canine Good Citizen (CGC) Evaluator with the AKC, a member of the Pet Professional Guild, certified in canine CPR and First Aid through DogSafe, supporting member of the IAABC, and regularly volunteers her time at local animal shelters facilitating play groups and behavior evaluations.

Originally from West Chester, Pennsylvania, Shannon graduated from James Madison University with a degree in English. When not training dogs she enjoys diving into a good book, exploring nature with her family, going for a run, and baking delicious treats for loved ones.

Certifications: She holds certification from the Animal Behavior College (ABCDT) and is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA).

Services include:

  • Board and train
  • In home training
  • Puppy training

Service areas: Charlotte, Lake Wylie, Belmont, Gastonia, and Fort Mill areas

Website: https://www.embarknc.com/


Liz Machaffie

My goal is to bring you and your dog more joy and less stress!

My education level means you're getting top-notch, humane help. I've earned a Master's degree in dog and cat behavior. (And a Bachelor's in Animal Behavior.) This is what I've wanted to do since I was 12, and I wanted the best education I could get.

I love dogs AND people! You deserve compassion and understanding just as much as your dog does. (No judgements here on what training you've tried before or what you did when you got stressed!)

My dogs and I have earned Canine Good Citizen certificates, a therapy dog certification, DMWYD and AKC Trick Dog titles, and a Cooperative Care Certificate! We also train for Rally-FrEe, disc, and musical freestyle!

Certifications: MS, CPDT-KA

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • Puppy training

More info about service provided: Aggression, Fear, Anxiety

Service areas: NC Triangle

Website: https://www.animal-insight.com/


Heather Polechio

Heather is a native of the Asheville area and shares her home in Asheville, NC with her four dogs, Cosmo, a 15 yr old German Shepherd mix, Sage, a 10 yr old American Bulldog, Otchot, a 9 year old Shiloh Shepherd and Molly, a 3 year old Jack Russell Terrier, who keeps her on her game!

Heather was an honors graduate in 2009 from the California based, San Francisco Academy for Dog Trainers and Behavior Counseling where she gained a formal education in the field of Canine Behavior and the principles of Scientific Learning Theory.

Heather has received a Nationally recognized Certificated Training Credential (CPDT-KA), as well as being a professional member of one of the largest dog training organizations in the country, The Association of Professional Dog Trainers.Heather has been awarded best of WNC 2017 and 2018.As well as serving as one of five Professional Behavior Team members of the nationally held, Camp Unleashed off leash Dog Camps, Heather also proudly served as the Head Trainer for three years with an Asheville based Canine Behavior Consulting and Training company, The Dog Door, before opening her private practice, Asheville Mindful Mutz Training and Behavior Consulting.

Heather has a passion for animal welfare & rescue organization involvement and is honored to be offered the opportunity to do ongoing educational community presentations, lectures as well as staff training programs for some of the areas non-profit animal welfare groups and shelters. Heather was honored in 2012 to be nominated as a candidate, and later approved to become a registered trainer with the nationally recognized No-Kill animal sanctuary Best Friends, based out of Utah.Heather annually attends national conferences, such as the Association for Professional Dog Trainers as well as The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, to maintain educational and scientific advances continually being made in the field of canine behavior and cognition studies.

Certifications: CPDT-KA, CTC, FPPE, Licensed Educator

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • Reactive dog training

Website: https://mindfulmutz.com


Michele Godlevski

Michele Godlevski
ACDBC, CBCC-KA, C.C. CPDT-KA, B.S
Founder and Owner of Teamworks Dog Training
Associate Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (ACDBC),
Certified Behavior Consultant (Canine) - Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA), SFSPCA Academy Certified Canine Behavior Counselor (CC),
Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT – KA), National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors Endorsements (N.A.D.O.I.) in Manners & Agility Instruction, 32 Championship Level Titles in Agility including ADCH-B, MACH-4, C-ATCH-8, LAA, Titled in Barn Hunt RATCHx4, Titled in Scent Work SWE, Titled Canine Scent Sport CCSS-L3, Titled in Rally RE, Titled in Competition Obedience CD, U-CD, Novice Tricks Title, Bachelor of Science in Biology & Genetic Engineering, Author of 4 dog training books (Group Class Training Director, Agility Classes, Scent Work Classes, In Board Training Director, Behavior Consultations)

Certifications: Certified Canine Behavior Consultant, Certified Professional Dog Trainer

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • Board and train
  • In home training
  • Deaf dog training
  • Reactive dog training
  • Puppy training
  • Agility training

More info about service provided: Group classes - Puppy, Manners, Therapy Dog, Agility, Scent Work, Barn Hunt, Rally. Private Lessons, Behavior Consultations, Doggie Dayschool, Board & Train. Dog Sports - Agility, Scent Work, Barn Hunt, Rally, Dock Diving.

Behavioral issue focus: All types of aggression and fear issues as well as adolescent and puppy issues.

Training methods: Humane, non-aversive, positive reinforcement-based methods.

Why I became a dog trainer: To help keep dogs out of the shelters

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Helping people understand dog behavior

My #1 dog training tip: Allowing dogs to bark at the front window can lead to stranger and dog aggression. See my book, The Sentry Dog

Service areas: Raleigh, Wake Forest, Youngsville, Knightdale, Louisburg

Website: https://www.teamworksdogtraining.org/home/


Trish Ryan

Passionate. Patient. Positive. Pet-lover. These are just a few of the characteristics that describe me. I know each dog is different, and I'll work with yours to give them the specific guidance through proven positive methods. Whether you're thinking about getting a new furry friend or already have one I provide the tools to set you and your pup up for success.

Certifications: PMCT, Fear Free Professional

Services include:

  • In home training
  • Reactive dog training
  • Puppy training

More info about service provided: Day Training, in home sessions, classes, play and train

Behavioral issue focus: Fear, reactivity

Training methods: Fear Free, Force Free, Positive Reinforcement Training

Why I became a dog trainer: Have always been an animal lover

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Seeing success for both the dog and their family

My #1 dog training tip: Less is More

Service areas: Horry County SC, Brunswick County NC

Website: https://www.forpawdrive.com


Cheryl Connolly

Force free, fear free positive reinforcement only trainer.

Certifications: Karen Pryor CTP, Fear Free, ABC-DT.

Services include:

  • Board and train
  • In home training
  • Deaf dog training
  • Service dog training
  • Puppy training
  • Agility training

More info about service provided: Force free, fear free reward based training in your home or in public spaces, small group classes. Specialty in puppies and basic obedience and problem solving nuisance behaviors. We coach you to work with your dog or we can directly train your dogs.

Behavioral issue focus: Jumping, barking, digging, counter surfing, leash reactivity or pulling, puppy biting, potty training

Training methods: Start with a consultation where we set a plan together based on your goals.

Why I became a dog trainer: I love dogs and want to teach people how to best meet their needs using kindness

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Seeing Ah ha moments when behaviors click

My #1 dog training tip: Listen to what your dog is trying to tell you

Service areas: South Charlotte, Union County

Website: https://indiantraildogtraining.com


Gloria Schmidt

Gloria Schmidt is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and Fear Free Certified Pet Professional (Elite Level).

Prior to becoming a professional dog trainer, Gloria graduated with a degree in chemistry from UNC-Chapel Hill. She enjoyed her five years at the lab bench - especially when contributing to drug discovery research at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. While there, she helped declare a clinical candidate with the FDA and co-authored seven journal articles for various pediatric diseases.

In 2017, Gloria decided she was ready to get out of the (lab) rat race. She began working as a veterinary nurse for two years while simultaneously developing her professional dog training skills. Although she no longer actively runs chemistry experiments, she carries over that analytical thinking to each dog and owner who crosses her path.

Gloria developed a strong interest in cooperative care while working as a veterinary nurse - her long term goal is to bridge the communication gap between veterinary clinics, dog trainers, and owners. She also enjoys helping owners understand 'the why' behind a dog's behavior so that everyone can be set up for success during training sessions.

When not with clients, Gloria enjoys living her best Hobbit life with her husband John, border-collie pup Jackson, and fierce cat Penny. On the average day, you will find her curled up with the pets by the fireplace, sipping a cup of coffee, and immersed in a book (most likely about dog behavior). On the more adventurous days, you will find her downhill skiing or SCUBA diving with John.

Certifications: CPDT-KA, Elite Fear Free Professional

Services include:

  • In home training
  • Puppy training

More info about service provided: I do virtual and in-home private training lessons. Topics I am most passionate about include: cooperative care at the vet clinic, basic manners, puppy socialization, distraction training, pre-dog counseling, and family/children interactions.

Behavioral issue focus: I work with on a range of behavior issues: desensitization with vet visits, reactive dogs, nervous dogs, and many others. I enjoy working with the owner and vet to determine the best approach for each individual dog.

Training methods: I use a least invasive, minimally intrusive (LIMA) approach with all dogs. I typically use luring, capturing, and shaping to train behaviors. I prefer force free training over any other kind of methods. Since each owner/dog is an individual, I accomplish this training method by doing a consultation with the owners to discuss our plan moving forward. After the consultation, I prefer to complete a series of private training lessons in the environment where the dog's behavior is happening to see maximum results. I prefer for the owner to be present so that they can learn how to properly do the training themselves.

Why I became a dog trainer: Dogs excite me. The animal-human bond fascinates me. I enjoy helping owners and dogs learn how to communicate with one another. I love seeing an owner's eyes light up when they understand 'why' a certain behavior happens. I love seeing a dog get excited when they realize they are understood by a human.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: There is nothing more fun than watching an owner get excited about their dog's training. I love when owners ask, 'Why?'

My #1 dog training tip: Always carry treats and a dog squeaker. You will be ready for any training opportunity that's waiting around the corner.

Service areas: Cary, NC; Apex, NC; Raleigh, NC

Website: https://alldogsnc.com/


Emily Greene

There's no doubt, even from an early age, that I was destined to work with animals in a professional setting.

I've been very fortunate to have opportunities that allowed me to learn more about animals and how to work with them. In college, I shadowed an accelerant dog trainer and also volunteered at an animal sanctuary with hybrid wolves, dingos, and many other animals. I also had the amazing opportunity to become an educational assistant for the Eco-Bus in Greensboro where I helped teach children and adults about various types of creatures including birds, insects, reptiles, and much more.

Once I graduated college, I started working as a dog trainer for PetSmart where I thoroughly enjoyed teaching and coaching humans how to live harmoniously with their pets. Then, I moved to the Queen City where I found a dog training home at Zoom Room Charlotte where my love for reactivity, aggression and other common behavioral concerns came to light. After Zoom Room closed, I had an amazing opportunity to start my own business and Free Will Animal Training was born.

At home, I live a pretty awesome life with my introverted Labrador mix, Jack and my social butterfly Coonhound mix, Pete. I adopted Jack and Pete from the Humane Society of Charlotte where I volunteer on a weekly basis.

Certifications: Family Dog Mediator

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • In home training
  • Reactive dog training

More info about service provided: We provide behavioral training for dogs and families who are struggling with concerns such as human-directed aggression, dog-directed aggression, handling anxiety, fear, separation anxiety, leash reactivity, multi-dog household aggression, and more

Behavioral issue focus: We work with behavioral concerns including aggression, reactivity, separation-related concerns, etc

Training methods: We are rewards-based, force-free trainers. We do not utilize punishment-based tactics nor do we use correction collars (e-collars, prong collars, etc.) We begin with a 90minute counseling session to collect information about the dog's health, day-to-day routines, exercise regimen, sleeping and eating habits, and more. Then, we schedule 30min or 1hour coaching sessions to teach families how to manage and work with their dogs to resolve and/or reduce behavioral concerns.

Why I became a dog trainer: Ever since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to work with animals in some capacity. Later in life, I was an undecided major in college which meant I was required to take a career exploration course. In this course, I took a variety of personality quizzes which narrowed down three careers that suited me the best: Attorney, Therapist, and Dog Trainer. I did a presentation on dog training, shadowed a local dog trainer, and fell in love with the idea of becoming one someday.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: I love helping people see their dog in a different light. We are so programmed to believe that animals/pets should act a certain way or have a certain temperament, but every animal is an individual. Helping people see how unique and special their dogs are and to also help them understand what their dog is going through is such a joy to experience.

My #1 dog training tip: Be kind.

Service areas: Greater Charlotte, NC area and globally via remote training

Website: https://www.freewillanimaltraining.com


Tina Hamlin

Animals have always played a significant role in my life. I began working with dogs and horses at a young age. I became fascinated by their behaviors and worked to nurture mutually beneficial relationships based upon positive encounters and outcomes.

My goal is to share that passion and philosophy with other dogs and their people. I am particularly interested in dogs who struggle in challenging environments and dogs who struggle with behavioral issues. I was primarily self-taught initially. Thankfully I have had the great opportunity to become a part of the Whole Dog Institute staff and be mentored by a Pat Miller Certified Trainer who truly has been a defining role model.

Currently my behavior and training credentials include CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer Knowledge Assessed), CBCC-KA (Certified Dog Behavior Consultant Knowledge Assessed), and I am a PMCT (Pat Miller Certified Trainer) Level 3. My focus of continued learning is canine behavior with a focus on fear, anxiety, and aggression and behavioral issues.

Certifications: CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, PMCT Level 3

Services include:

  • Aggressive dog training
  • In home training
  • Reactive dog training

More info about service provided: I provide force free fundamental obedience training in group and private settings. I also provide behavior modification training specific to reactivity, aggression, fear, and anxiety.

Behavioral issue focus: I primarily work with aggression, reactivity, fear and anxiety related behavioral issues.

Training methods: My training methods incorporate canine health, cooperative veterinary intervention if indicated, environmental management, behavior modification primarily through counterconditioning and desensitization, positive reinforcement and force free training interactions, appropriate exercise and enrichment.

Why I became a dog trainer: A true love of the relationship that can be shared with dogs and a desire to share that opportunity with other people and dogs.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Witnessing the successful building of a trusting relationship between human and dog and observing a truly joyful dog and human as they establish that relationship.

My #1 dog training tip: Accept your dog as the individual they are and have realistic goals for you and your dog.

Service areas: Durham County and Orange County


Sniffspot North Carolina Top Trainer Frequently Asked Questions

How are North Carolina dog trainers selected for this list?

These are the top dog trainers in North Carolina as selected by broad voting from the Sniffspot community and the general public. These trainers are expert dog trainers, who received votes from their delighted customers, due to their excellent dedication to customer service, excellent results and general care they exhibit for their clients. Many have worked with thousands of dogs and are highly experienced trainers.

How can I get in touch with dog trainers?

Each of the trainer profiles contains a link to their website. You can click through to their website where you can find more contact information.

Are these North Carolina dog trainers certified professionals?

Dog training is not regulated at the federal or state level, so there is no standard dog training certification and professional trainers are not required to be certified. However, certifications are important to show that a professional dog trainer has a standard of expertise to help train your dog. Each trainer’s certifications are listed on their profile.

What are the top certifications for Dog Trainers in North Carolina?

Some of the top certifications in the dog training industry are CPDT- KA, IAABC, Karen Pryor Academy - KPA certification, Jean Donaldson's Academy - CTC certification and Fear Free Certification. You can review the dog trainer certifications for each specific dog trainer on their profile on this page.

What methods are used in the dog training sessions?

There are many methods for teaching dogs and a lot of disagreement about the correct training approach. All of the North Carolina trainers included on this list use positive reinforcement training only, as defined by no force, fear, intimidation, or aversive methods used. This includes not using any specifically aversive approach to training or training aid, such as a prong or electronic dog training collar (also called remote dog training collar or shock collars). As for specific training programs and specialties, such as day training / doggie daycare or obedience training, you can see more information in each trainer’s profile.

Are dog training lessons in a training facility or are virtual options available?

Some dog trainers operate exclusively from a training facility, some do house calls and some offer video calls or other virtual options. There are pros and cons to each option and the most efficient behavioral training option depends on specific circumstances, for instance, what hours work best for you. A training center or training ranch can be a good option if your training plan requires facilities, training equipment or dedicated space. We recommend reaching out to the specific trainer you are interested in or browsing their website for more information.

Are dog training lessons private or in a group setting?

Every different circumstance of dog and owners may require a different setting, whether it’s housebreaking issues, anxiety issues, lack of proper socialization, food aggression or just bad habits. Each trainer has different offerings as far as whether they can offer clients a private training session or a group class. Trainers provide information about their private class and group class offerings in their profiles and you can browse their website for more information as well. It may make sense for your specific circumstance to reach out to the trainer to ask if they recommend group or private dog training classes. Some trainers also have a team of specialists that can provide even higher levels of service, or provide specialized sessions, such as pack walks.

How much does dog training in North Carolina cost?

North Carolina dog trainers have a wide range of costs for different services and phases of training. For instance behavioral modification that involves boarding is often more expensive than day training, and private lessons are generally more expensive than group lessons. Prices can also vary depending on specific behavioral issues. Lastly, some trainers have more overhead than others, We recommend first picking a trainer that provides the services that you are looking for, then reaching out to them to get up to date pricing.

Is training a dog good for the dog?

Yes! Training has many benefits for dogs. Whether with basic training skills or complex training techniques, going through behavior training with your dog can improve the bond that you share with them. Also, training can do a lot to improve the level of confidence enabling of a dog (and it can also help with building customer confidence!). Rather than being about exerting maximum control over them, it gives them more certainty that they understand how the world around them works. For instance, crate training can help a dog feel safe and at home in a crate vs fearful and uncertain. Dog training can teach important skills, such as leash control, potty training or a general level of obedience skills. And lastly, it’s just fun for the dog to learn life skills and for their family. Training can be very stimulating and enriching for a dog and serve them throughout their entire healthy life!

Can an aggressive dog be trained?

Yes! Any dog behavior can be worked on through training and coaching. Aggression in dogs is a serious issue, but it is also a term that is used very broadly. Many dogs that are thought to be aggressive are actually reactive, which is a different behavior altogether. A trainer can help you interpret signs of aggression, such as excessive barking, fear aggression and leash aggression, and type of aggression. If you believe you have a dog with aggressive behaviors, we recommend reaching out to one of your local top trainers to get their diagnosis and advice.

I am a North Carolina dog trainer. How can I get listed here?

As long as you have a training facility or do in person training in North Carolina you can be considered for this list. We update this list once per year, normally starting in January. Make sure to keep an eye on our social media and sign up for email updates with Sniffspot in order to be in the loop on the next round of nominations.

How much do dog trainers make in North Carolina?

Dog trainer earnings vary widely depending on many factors, such as whether a dog trainer is an employee or owns their own full-service professional dog training business. According to ZipRecruiter, the average dog trainer salary in North Carolina was $29,895 per year and $14.37 per hour. It is impossible to say how much a dog trainer can earn with a full-service professional dog training company, because the size and profitability of companies can vary widely.


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Merlin Noble

March 29, 2022

Dog Trainers

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