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The Best Dog Trainers in Virginia Beach, VA of 2023

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Merlin Noble

March 29, 2022

Dog Trainers

Welcome to the Virginia Beach, VA Sniffspot top dog trainer list for 2023. This is a list of the top dog trainers in Virginia Beach 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. This list is a subset of the broader Top Trainers in Virginia list. 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 sponsored 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 all 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 Virginia Beach, VA Dog Trainers in 2023

Thomi Gill

Hi! I'm Thomi

I can help with many common issues such as but not limited to:

Fear, Anxiety, Stress, Destruction, Chewing, Digging, Scratching, House Soiling, Reactivity, Jumping, Barking, Over-excitement, Rough Play, Nipping, and more!

Pet training isn't just about your pet. In fact, the most integral part of the training process is you. That's why we work together to make sure your training plan fits your lifestyle and is tailored to what you need

All pets have their own unique traits and mannerisms, and therefore require their own unique and specialized training. That's where I come in!

Whether it's for basic manners or more complex behavioral issues, I am focused on not only training your pet, but teaching you how to effectively communicate with them. This method of training is full of fun techniques that will give you and your pet a happier life together.

I am the only Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner in Hampton Roads! I am committed to ongoing education to stay up to date with the most recent knowledge to help you reach your goals!

Certifications: KPA-CTP

Services include:

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

More info about service provided: I provide private training in home and on site for reactivity, fear, anxiety aggression, and obedience.

Behavioral issue focus: I work with all behavioral issues.

Training methods: I am a rewards based trainer specializing in clicker/marker training.

Why I became a dog trainer: To help form a bridge between companion animals and their families.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Seeing relationships change when families learn more about dog communication.

My #1 dog training tip: Your dog is learning every time you interact. Knowing how to shape behavior in those interactions is more valuable than dedicated sessions.

Service areas: Serving Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Norfolk


Elizabeth Staley

Elizabeth has loved dogs her whole life. She grew up with a few mixed breeds but was given a Pomeranian in elementary school. A lack of knowledge lead to that dog being hit by a car when he slipped out of his harness. In Junior high a second Pomeranian joined the family and lived as a beloved pet until he was 15 years old.

Once Elizabeth moved out and was on her own she rescued a beagle mix named Bandit. Bandit LOVED people and kids and he became a therapy dog. That was Elizabeth's first 'real' experience with dog training. She then found the yin to her yang in a little Boston Terrier puppy named Rio. Rio introduced her to conformation and would become her Novice A (first) agility dog as well as her partner in therapy work and many other sports.

Rio also introduced her to many people, and Elizabeth fell in love with a Bernese Mountain Dog named Angel. Angel was Elizabeth's first obedience title holder and together they achieved multiple titles. Angel was NOTHING like Rio. Rio was always excited to work if work was 'fun'. Angel was a worrier. Training these two dogs taught Elizabeth so much in motivation and patience - it also introduced her to training methods that challenged her.

Elizabeth has trained and worked with many dogs and various breeds. She has taught group classes since 2010 and private lessons since 2014. She has been an AKC CGC/Trick dog evaluator since 2012, a Barn Hunt Association Judge since 2017 and an AKC Farm Dog Judge since 2018.

Eliazbeth's formal education is a BS in Exercise Physiology and a MS in Nutrition. She holds many certifications in those fields so in 2017 she decided that she should also hold a certification in her new career field. She sat for and passed the CPDT-KA test for dog trainers. Elizabeth has also attended multiple training camps and seminars to continue her education and remain current on training methods and behavior research.

Above all Elizabeth advocates for the dogs. She truly loves dogs and wants to see them in forever homes and thriving. She enjoys helping families and pets live their best lives together.

Certifications: CPDT-KA

Services include:

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

More info about service provided: I provide services for young and adult dogs. We focus on a better relationship between handler and dog through training. Group classes are available in obedience, agility, scent work and fitness. Private lessons are available for manners, obedience, reactivity, agility, barn hunt, scent work, tricks and conditioning. Board and Training for young dogs and sports available on a limited basis.

Behavioral issue focus: I work with reactive (not aggressive dogs) as well as sport dogs that may have issues with controlling their excitement or stress in various situations. I also work with dogs who need a training/job outlet for their energy.

Training methods: In home and private clients begin with a consult or sport intro session and are then given individual plans for private instruction (weekly, bi weekly, etc). Group classes are 4-6 weeks once a week.

Why I became a dog trainer: 2010

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: I love seeing the relationship between dog and handler grow and to see the pride both dog and handler experience when they are successful at a new or previously challenging behavior.

My #1 dog training tip: Be patient.

Service areas: Hampton, Smithfield, Newport News, Chesapeake, Zuni, Windsor, Norfolk


Andrea Marx

I started Freak on a Leash in 2015 because I am passionate about positive reinforcement training and teaching people the kindest ways of interacting with their dogs. I am a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) and the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT).

I am also a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Family Dog Mediator (, and Fear Free Certified Professional. My specialty is treating challenging behaviors like aggression, anxiety, and fear and I am thoroughly educated in treating problem behaviors safely and kindly. One of my highest priorities is ongoing education. I stay current on the latest science-based methods of training, allowing me to help you get the best results in the shortest amount of time.

Lasting behavior change takes patience and teamwork. Dogs are motivated by many things and we can find reinforcement that works; sometimes we just have to get creative! If crocodiles, dolphins, and wolves can be trained with rewards, why use painful devices on your best friend? I want you and your dog to live happily together, and I am confident I can help you reach your training goals!

Certifications: CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA, CDBC, FFCP, FDM

Services include:

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

More info about service provided: Group classes from puppy to Advanced obedience, Behavior modification and Manners In home training, Day training and some Board and train

Behavioral issue focus: aggression cases, reactivity, ocd, fear and anxiety

Training methods: reward based methods for behavior modification programs, manner programs

Why I became a dog trainer: Training dogs was fun for me right away, but once my own dogs started having behavior concerns like reactivity and aggression I really started to dig deep into behavior change.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Showing people how amazing their dogs can be. Making people happy with quick progress when they had no hope for their dog to get better.

My #1 dog training tip: Reinforce more than you think you should

Service areas: Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Moyock, Newport News, Yorktown, Hampton, Suffolk


Sarah Connor

I am a 26-year old Accredited Dog Trainer with a passion for helping dogs and their humans live their best lives together.

In September of 2018, I founded a dog walking and pet-sitting business that I dubbed "Barks and Rec." I had begun attending CATCH Canine Trainer's Academy the month before in pursuit of a dog training certification. For several months, I attended both a local university (for film & theatre) and CATCH as a full-time student for both schools. In January 2019, after feeling dissatisfied with how dogs were being handled at the establishment I worked at, I decided to hit "pause" on my university education and dedicate all of my focus to completing my program with CATCH.

In August 2019, I took a leap and quit my part-time job to pursue running Barks and Rec full-time. I graduated from CATCH Canine Trainer's Academy in March 2020, with a Certificate in Dog Training and Behavior.

I very quickly fell in love with dog training, but soon realized that my education did not equip her to work with more severe behavioral issues. With a strong desire to help the dogs that seemed "hopeless," I set out looking for another avenue of education to give myself the tools I needed to address more complex behavior cases.

In July 2020, I joined the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, and dove headfirst into the wealth of material that was provided to supporting members. Still, I wanted to learn more. I wanted to test my skills and further my knowledge in the field. So I decided to get accredited. After paying a fee and spending a grueling 60 days working on the extensive test, I passed with a score of 98 out of 100. I received my Accredited Dog Trainer (ADT) standing through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) on January 21, 2021.

I am continuing to further my education and knowledge in the field every day through seminars, conferences, reading the most up-to-date, science-backed materials, and more. Dog training is my passion, and I owe all of it to my boy, Duke.

Certifications: IAABC Accredited Dog Trainer; Graduate of CATCH Canine Trainer's Academy; Pet First Aid Certified

Services include:

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

More info about service provided: Basic Obedience; Behavior Modification; Puppy Training

Behavioral issue focus: Fear-Based Aggression; Reactivity; Generalized Anxiety; Separation-Related Behaviors; Noise Phobias/Sound Sensitivities; Situational Phobias; Resource Guarding

Training methods: I utilize a Force-Free, Positive Reinforcement training approach. My methodology is based off of up-to-date scientific research and the belief that all individuals (human or dog) have a right to learn in an intimidation-free setting.

Why I became a dog trainer:

Duke is the reason I decided to pursue dog training as a career. Duke was six months old when my family adopted him on December 31, 2014. Duke was terrified of everything, and despite his emaciated frame, he was so shut down that he didn't even want the hot dogs that were offered to him during the shelter visit. I promised Duke that I would do whatever it took to help him learn to love life again. This spurred my journey into studying canine psychology and behavior, and unknown to myself at the time, opened the door to a whole new career. It is because of Duke that I am where I am today.

On December 16, 2020, Duke crossed the Rainbow Bridge. He began having complications with his prostate in October, and despite all the effort to save him, his health continued to decline. He's missed more than words can possibly express, but his legacy will live on forever. Because of Duke, I have dedicated my life to helping dogs just like him.

Service areas: Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, North Suffolk


Crystal Partain

With almost 2 decades of hands on experience in veterinary hospitals, local shelters and rescues, Crystal has been working with pets and their people to improve their lives together in many different settings. She received a dual bachelors degrees in biology and psychology, from Old Dominion University in 2009. Clients will often joke that she is their dogs therapist during their sessions together.

In 2012, she passed the Certification for Professional Dog Trainers exam and began to train professionally shortly after. She is a perpetual student and always improving training skills with her own dogs, taking classes or attending seminars that allow her to help your dogs with the most effective and current methods!

Crystal currently has 5 dogs, who are all continuously teaching her to be a better advocate for the dogs she works with. Opal, a rescued Boxer mix, is the namesake for The Freckled Paw. She has taught Crystal the most about living with challenging dogs, while working through her separation anxiety, stranger danger, and dog selective behaviors. We lost Opal in June of 2019, and will forever be The Freckled Paw.

Certifications: CPDT-KA

Services include:

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

More info about service provided: Giving a Proven Path to a better life with your dog

Behavioral issue focus: Reactivity and Aggression

Training methods: Offering Kind and Pragmatic training for the pet parents

Why I became a dog trainer: To help pet parents have an easier life with their dogs

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Watching the dogs "get it"

My #1 dog training tip: Feed your dog

Service areas: Hampton Roads Virginia and Northeast North Carolina


Karen Adams

After spending 30 years as a biology professor and training dogs all my life, I began teaching professionally. My experience with dogs ranges from owning a sled dog kennel in Michigan, training for the show, obedience, and Rally rings, and teaching classes for local obedience clubs.

I specialize in changing mouthy, rambunctious puppies and out-of-control adolescent dogs into calm and well-mannered pups. I love teaching loose leash walking since it is an area where many dog owners struggle. I am available for private in-home training and also teach Canine Good Citizen and Basic Manners classes. Holding small group classes in outdoor public spaces gives dogs lots of practice in responding well around real world distractions, a highly practical life skill.

I live in Chesapeake with my two Irish Wolfhounds, Echo and Siren, and two retired greyhounds from the track. Spending time training with positive reinforcement methods builds a very strong bond between you and your dog, which makes for happy people and happy dogs!

Services include:

  • In home training
  • Puppy training

More info about service provided: Basic Manners, Puppy training and Canine Good Citizen

Behavioral issue focus: house training, mouthing, jumping

Training methods: positive reinforcement training

Why I became a dog trainer: Started teaching obedience classes at a local obedience training club and was asked to help take private clients by the founder of Freak On A Leash dog training Andrea Marx and I haven't looked back since. Teaching dogs and their people makes me happy.

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: Building relationships of trust between dogs and their people.

My #1 dog training tip: Find the right reinforcer for every dog.

Service areas: Chesapeake, VA


Cheryl Shomo

I am a Certified Professional Dog Trainer through CCPDT and Fear Free Certified. I've loved animals from as early as I can remember and have a long background in various dog sports. In 2009 I was exposed to the field of applied behavior analysis - opening my eyes to the science of learning and gaining a deeper understanding of positive reinforcement training.

I enjoy helping people and their dogs through the process of training and socialization, changing maladaptive behaviors, and helping dogs of all ages learn the skills they need to live a full life. I also enjoy volunteering my time with service dogs in training and shelter animals. I regularly continue my education in all things behavior modification!

Certifications: CPDT-KA

Services include:

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

More info about service provided: Offering a variety of group classes as well as private in-home training and day training, covering everything from basic manners and obedience training for puppies and adults to behavior modification for issues such as fear and anxiety, reactivity, and aggression. Training programs are tailored to your individual dog and unique family dynamics.

Behavioral issue focus: Basic manners training, fear/anxiety/phobias, reactivity, resource guarding, aggression

Training methods: Positive reinforcement and fear free training methods

Why I became a dog trainer: I enjoy helping people and their dogs through the process of training and socialization, changing maladaptive behaviors, and helping dogs of all ages learn the skills they need to live a full life!

My favorite part of being a dog trainer: I enjoy helping people and their dogs through the process of training and socialization, changing maladaptive behaviors, and helping dogs of all ages learn the skills they need to live a full life!

Service areas: Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Norfolk and surrounding Hampton Roads


Sniffspot Virginia Beach Top Trainer Frequently Asked Questions

How are Virginia Beach dog trainers selected for this list?

These are the top dog trainers in Virginia Beach 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 Virginia Beach 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 Virginia Beach?

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 Virginia Beach 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 Virginia Beach cost?

Virginia Beach 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 Virginia Beach dog trainer. How can I get listed here?

As long as you have a training facility or do in person training in Virginia Beach 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 Virginia Beach?

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 Virginia was $35,742 per year and $17.18 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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See The Best Dog Trainers In Other Virginia Cities

Ordered alphabetically, only included cities where there is enough data to compile a list

Langley, VA
Newport News, VA
Norfolk, VA
Richmond, VA

See The Best Dog Trainers In Other States Near Virginia

Ordered alphabetically, only included cities where there is enough data to compile a list

North Carolina

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Merlin Noble photo

Merlin Noble

March 29, 2022

Dog Trainers

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