The airing of many television shows tackling dog training and behavior problems have generated an increased interest in the dog training field with many people wondering what it ultimately takes to become a dog trainer. If you are interested in becoming a dog trainer, you may be unsure on how to get started and may be wondering where to get your education. There are many different types of schools when it comes to getting an education in the dog training field, and the most reputable ones require several hours of hands-on education.
Training Dogs or Training People?
First and foremost, it’s important to recognize what is actually involved in this line of profession. It’s a common misconception to imagine dog trainers playing with puppies and training impressive tricks for most of the day. Yes, there is a place for those activities, but most of the work involved in this field encompasses training the owners more than the dogs.
Training the dog is ultimately the easiest part of the job. Indeed, once you know what to do, it’ll be quite easy to have a dog sit or lie down on command. Training the owners instead requires a different approach. You’ll need to learn more about different learning styles. Some humans learn best by watching you train their dog; others learn better if they do the exercise themselves, others instead are good listeners. To be a good trainer, you’ll need to be effective in accommodating all different learning styles and customizing your classes to an individual level.
On top of that, you’ll need to be a good observer. You need to be fast in catching common mistakes dog owners make in training their dogs. You’ll need to be a good listener by showing empathy and support and providing guidance when you notice they are encountering issues. At the same time, you’ll need to be firm and polite to ensure the owners understand the importance of always being consistent and to prevent them from making the same mistakes over and over. Last but not least, you’ll need to have good social skills, be able to explain things in layman terms and have lots of patience as you may often need to be repetitive. It’s not the easiest job on earth!
Important Career Perspectives
There are many important considerations to keep in mind before embarking in a dog training career. As with other lines of work, starting a business may require an initial financial investment. You may have to attend an expensive course, and afterward, you will need to consider where you will be holding classes. Some trainers rent a facility, others purchase a structure in a central location and others more use areas such as parks or other public facilities.
Business licenses and other permits may be needed depending on where you plan to establish your business. It’s very important to find out about laws and zoning restrictions in your area. On top of that, you will need some type of liability insurance that protects you from costly expenses. Common insurance policies for dog trainers are offered by Mourer and Foster’s Kennel Pro Program and Business Insurers of the Carolinas.
How to Stick Out from the Crowd
Not many people are aware of the fact that virtually anyone can call himself a trainer. Indeed, there are currently no federal or state certification requirements that regulate this industry. Anybody can just print new business cards and start giving classes. While this may seem like good news as it would suggest a certain ease in entering the industry, this has proven problematic in many ways with issues ranging from lack of professionalism, minimal experience up to serious liability issues.
If you are serious about this business, you need to study how dogs learn, how to train people and will need several hours of hand-on experience under the belt. While there are several online courses promising to turn you into a successful trainer, many of them teach the bare minimum and fail to provide you with what you need the most: that is, hands-on experience.
So how to stick out from the crowd? Volunteering for your local animal shelter, walking dogs and putting obedience titles on your dog can be a good start, but you may also want to kick your education up a notch. If that’s the case, there are several certification programs and schools prospective dog trainers can attend. Following are some programs.
Schools and Certification Programs for Aspiring Dog Trainers
This certification requires several hours of experience along with reference letters from clients, colleagues and veterinarians. An extensive test tackling training equipment, ethology, husbandry, learning theory, business practices and ethics must be passed to earn certification.
It is a wonderful school offering a 6-month course that combines online learning along with hands on lessons taught by some of the most respected professionals in the field. Several other courses are held for those who want to further expand their horizons.
The owner Pat Miller offers several apprentice programs for those who want to embark on a dog training career. The methodology taught is based on powerful positive reinforcement training.
Jean Donaldson's self-study course offering a comprehensive science-based curriculum. Students of this program take on average anywhere between one and three years to complete it.
While this program is not for those planning on becoming a dog trainer, Victoria Stilwell offers the possibility to embark on a successful dog training career focusing on the powerful method of positive reinforcement for established trainers. Her Positively Dog Training program aims to build a team of the best trainers across the world who share the same reward-based philosophies.
Tips for Helping Aspiring Candidates Gain More Experience
Students who want to become a top-notch trainer may have to wait some time to enroll either because they need to accumulate some money for their investment or need to acquire hours of studentship before being eligible to join a certification program. This is a good time to invest in some basic education. Following are some ideas on how to gain some more experience.
- To jump start your career, you may want to get accustomed with dog training terminology and with some basics on how animals learn. Reading some books is a good way to get a grasp on these important topics. Following are some great reads for aspiring dog trainers.
- Don’t Shoot the Dog by Karen Pryor
- Excel-Erated Learning by Pamela Reid
- The Culture Clash by Jean Donaldson
- Coaching People to Train Their Dogs by Terry Ryan
- So you Want to Become a Dog Trainer by Nicole Wilde
- Some certification programs require some hours under your belt before enrolling. You can get some hours by volunteering for your local animal shelter, or even better, you may want to find a dog trainer willing to mentor you. Some training centers may mentor you in exchange for some volunteer work. Enrolling your dog in classes can also be helpful so you can get an idea of how classes are run. Putting titles on your dog is another great way to improve your handling skills while gaining more experience.
- Attend seminars and webinars that tackle anything related to dog training and dog behavior. The APDT (Association of Professional Dog Trainers) holds a yearly conference in different States with many wonderful speakers. You can also join the Association of Professional Dog Trainers. You do not need to be a professional dog trainer to join as they have different levels of membership. Membership provides access to many helpful resources, webinars and other helpful information for those interesting in keeping up with the latest training trends.
- Get accustomed with different training techniques. Nowadays, positive reinforcement training is the biggest trend. Clicker training and force-free behavior modification techniques offer science-based, humane methods that are safer than the old fashioned, balanced methods of decades ago.
- Learn more about the different classes trainers hold and specialties they can focus on. Will you specialize in basic obedience or are you also interested in advanced training? Will you also offer behavior consultations for owners of dogs with behavioral problems? Nowadays there are many specialties. Puppy socialization classes, basic obedience classes, intermediate classes and advanced classes are the most common. Other trainers may want to specialize in a particular discipline. Agility, Rally Obedience, Canine Musical Freestyle, Nose work, Service Dog Training, Field Trial Training, Detection Work Training, Search and Rescue Training are just a few examples.
Getting in education in the dog training field doesn’t end though with certification. Indeed, the field is always evolving as new studies are put in and new techniques are being developed. Indeed, a reputable trainer will work on continuing his education by attending seminars, conferences and exchanging thoughts and techniques with other trainers. This is something you want to consider if you want to stick out the crowd and offer top-of-the-notch training for your clients.