1. How do you search for and then choose a trainer?
I start with word of mouth. My first trainer came to me that way. I also go by what I see of a trainer out on the trial field, which includes accomplishments and handling style. I won't go to a BIG NAME just because they're a big name and everyone else is doing it. I learned this from my horse showing days, when the woman I showed for had a dressage clinician come out reguarly and I was expected to attend (paid for by the woman I rode for). That particular clinician was an excellent dressage rider and I didn't dislike her, but we didn't click. She just set me on edge for some reason I can't explain. It wasn't a lack of skill or any specific behavior, but just the fact that we didn't click, and so I know I didn't learn as much from her as I could have had we had a connection, so to speak.
I've carried that over into working dogs. I've gone to trainers who wouldn't be considered big hats but who were good teachers and who clearly knew what the big picture was supposed to be, even if they weren't out winning everything in sight. Granted, one will likely outgrow such teachers, but that's okay, because it's when you're getting started that you really need the good teachers. Later, when you have something of a clue, you are more likely to get it when dealing with a really good handler who maybe isn't the best teacher, if you know what I mean.
And of course if the trainer is one whose values (toward dogs and livestock especially) don't meash with mine, then I won't even bother. If the training methods are ones I'd never use, I wouldn't bother. The one thing I won't do, no matter how successful the trainer, is compromise my own ethics when it comes to the animals I'm working with.
2. The dog world is small and... uh... talkative. After choosing a trainer how do you handle those people in your life who don't believe in that trainer/trainer's methods and criticize them to you?
Depending on who the person is and what their specific complaint is, I might engage them (i.e., tell my viewpoint) or I'll just ignore them. It is a small world and there's planty of backbiting. I particulary dislike when folks start throwing the blame and snide comments around, and really it just makes me wonder what underlying problem exists, which may have nothing to do with the actual training practices themselves (that is, one individual's personal issues with another).
That said, if the person doing the dissing is someone whom I respect and trust, then I'll probably listen, but I still will do my own research and decide for myself.
3. Do you believe that a person's personal life should influence your choice of a trainer? (i.e do you believe a person's choice to be a party animal outside of work would affect your choice?)
That depends. If what they do in their personal life doesn't go against my own moral and ethical standards then I don't really care. What's most important to me is how the behave in the context of working with me and my dog(s). But, for example, if I know that someone is routinely abusive to dogs or livestock, then I wouldn't touch them with a 10-foot pole. If the person is the greatest trainer on the planet, but has, say, defrauded people or behaved in a way I wouldn't want to be associated with, then no, I wouldn't consider them as a trainer.
If the person has different political beliefs, parties on the weekends (as long as they're not doing illegal stuff), or similar behaviors, it wouldn't really bother me unless it specifically affected our training relationship.
4. When you have a break through moment with your dog, do you feel that moment makes your connection stronger with that dog and makes the next step in training easier?
Hmmmm...I don't know that breakthrough moments necessarily improve my connection with a dog, but they probably improve my training relationship with that dog. Breakthrough moments to me imply that a struggle has ensued (for whatever reason) up to that point, and so in that sense, yes, breakthrough moments definitely improve the relationship (and maybe I'm just splitting hairs over the meaning of connection vs. relationship here), but my overall connection with a dog involves many different levels of interaction, and only one of those is training.
I do think when the dog (or human) has an aha! moment, it does refresh the relationship and probably makes the next steps easier simply because both of you gain a sense of accomplishment from the breakthrough and then can build on that.
5. Do you stick with just one trainer, or do you go to multiple sources for help?
I haven't had a regular trainer in years, but generally I would stick with one trainer and then go to clinics to expand my horizons, so to speak. I think trainers who insist that their students go nowhere else are deliberately limiting those students. In the beginning, especially, I think it's important to have consistency in training; at that point in a newbie's training life trying on a bunch of different trainers could just result in entirely too much confusion. But at some point it makes sense to expand one's horizons, and trying out different methods is one of the best ways of developing a method that works best for you. When you start making those excursions is pretty much an individual thing, but I think it makes sense for everyone to see what's (who's) out there and avail themselves of the trove of knowledge that exists. You just have to be sure enough about what you want to be able to discard the parts that don't work and keep those that do.