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How to become a dog trainer: 5 things to begin with


Many people want to take up dog training as a career, and for a good reason. A dog trainer enjoys numerous benefits. S/he can spend most of their time with animals they adore and socialize with their owners. Most professionals in this field are self-employed. Thus, they can set their own schedule and decide how much they can earn. Another thing that attracts people to this occupation is no need to obtain a formal degree. Still, getting on the right track in this career is not easy. From this post, you’ll learn about the initial steps on the road to professional mastery in dog training.

Step #1: Interview yourself

Do you have what it takes? Reply to these questions truthfully.

Are you ready to work with animals?

Essential question. Even though your own pet is completely obedient, it may not mean much. Dogs significantly vary in their breeds, personalities, and behavioral problems. Living with one animal is not the same as working with many. Can you stand to the challenge?

Are you a ‘people person’?

Seems a strange question since we are talking about animals. However, you’ll actually have to work with people who bring their animals to be taught. Often, clients may even cause more trouble than their pets. Some may be lazy and ignore doing their homework only to claim that you’re not professional enough when the animal fails to obey commands. So, ask yourself if you can keep your emotions inside.

Are you self-disciplined and ready to learn a lot?

Not all people can work or study without someone standing next to them with a whip. Are you disciplined enough to acquire the valuable knowledge on your own, from books and other instructional materials?

Are you determined to go to the end?

1.5 – 2 years to your first client. A decade to be called an expert dog trainer. 20 years to acquire the guru status. Are your willing to cover so much distance to your goal?
If you’ve answered all those questions positively, the door is open.

running with a dog

Step # 2: Get the hang of things

You might be surprised, but most professionals in this field are completely self-taught. You should follow suit and start your career by reading books, watching instructional videos, and doing research to get insight into a dog’s psychology.

  1. Books. There are tons of books on proper dog training. By studying them, you can learn about any aspect of dealing with canines, starting from their food and ending with the most important behavioral patterns (aggression, barking, and others). Also, let your local vet or dog trainer recommend you some useful titles.
  2. Online resources. “How to become a dog trainer?” articles and videos can be easily found online in great numbers. Additionally, you can have a look at the websites of the most respectable organizations in the industry.
  3. Observations. Monitor your own dog’s behavior in different situations and apply what you’ve learned from books and online guides.

Step #3: Go back to school

While self-education is the principal method of acquiring theoretical knowledge, you may also consider attending one of the many dog training schools across the country.
One important thing to note is that there is no dog training program that grants a formal degree in the United States. Some colleges offer programs in animal psychology, though (usually 4 years in duration).
When choosing a school, make sure the instructors use ethical methods of treating animals. Also, the curriculum of a good school must include the following subjects:

  • Designing classes. Learn how to structure your training sessions correctly, as well as how to approach dogs’ owners.
  • Animal studies. Get familiar with important notions such as negative/positive punishment, negative/positive reinforcement, generalization, and others.
  • Dog behavior. Learn everything about body language, breeds, plus many other aspects.

dog trainer with a dog

Step #4: Acquire practical skills as a dog trainer

With so much knowledge under your belt, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get as much practice as you can. There are several ways to achieve that.

  1. Shelters. If there’s an animal shelter near your home, offer your services for free. Although you will do the work without payment, you will be dealing with different kinds of dogs under the supervision of experienced trainers on a daily basis. This is an efficient method of getting hands-on skills.
  2. Apprenticeship. Search for local dog trainers or ask your instructor at the dog school you’ve finished if a professional can take you on as an apprentice. You can even consider this option as an alternative to a training school. If no trainers agree to accept you, you may think of paying them for teaching you.

Step #5: Get certified

While professional certification (as well as licensing) for a dog trainer in the United States is not required, a certificate is always regarded as a valuable asset. One of the most respectable certification bodies is called The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT). To obtain their certificate, you must have worked minimum 2-3 weeks and passed an exam ($400 fee).

dog with a bag on its back

If you can’t live without dogs, joining the canine training industry is an excellent choice. However, be prepared to invest a good deal of time and finances upfront, taking the initial five steps we’ve described above.

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