How Can I Become a Dog Trainer?

I receive many inquiries as to how you can become a professional dog trainer. There are many facets to this industry, and many ways to become educated in the field, so I thought I would write a bit about what I have learned and things that could have assisted me better in my own personal training.

What qualifies a person to state that he or she is a professional trainer? Well in honesty, anyone can make such a claim. There are many self-professed trainers out there with minimal experience. The proof lies with how well he or she handles various dogs, behavior issues, and how well he or she can recognize and treat such issues.

There are a number of professional dog training organizations out there that you can join. Such organizations can assist in promoting your business, allow you to use the specific organization’s initials after your name, offer seminars and encourage you to become certified in their schooling.

Technically there is no real “certification” for professional trainers, but some of these organizations promote their own designed certifications, where you are required to take tests and once you have passed, they offer you specific entitlements and initials you may use after your name. These organizations also offer continuing education courses, that may further your learning. Some of these groups also offer mentor programs, where you can work with an established trainer, and ask advice as well as inquire about proper business practices, insurance, and liability issues.

The downside of some of these companies is you can pay a yearly fee to join and just utilize the company’s name. It does not prove that you should be considered a professional, though some of these organizations require letters of reference from other training professionals along with videotapes of your teaching classes, handling untrained dogs, as well as having to be referred to the organization by another established member. There are also specific schools in various states that offer training along with multiple courses in the canine industry.

If you should choose to follow any of these avenues of education, there are numerous questions you should ask.

Some schools are well established in years, but sadly the teaching practices and curriculums are just as old. Others have very current teaching styles but only teach one particular training method. Many of these schools out there are lacking in resources, the textbooks are outdated, methods are not current, and some even have the line “train our way or the highway.” We all know that dogs are individuals, they learn at different rates of speed, they develop at different paces and once you are in the field, you will need to be adept at working with the various dogs and owners out there. What may work for one will not always work for the other, and having excellent people skills is going to be a huge bonus.

If the school offers a number of courses, ask how many of them are currently active and have recent graduates. You want to be certain that the school can support the teaching required of the classes they tote. Be wary of those schools that state they are “state-accredited” as there are no accredited dog training schools.

There are a number of online classes one can take to even further educate. I highly recommend investigating the variety of courses available. However, some of these classes are not from “accredited” universities, (meaning, “recognition or approval of an educational institution by an official agency, association, or ministry of education as maintaining satisfactory standards. Accreditation affects the transferability of the institution’s qualifications into further study or employment.”) Some of these organizations do offer college-style courses that are thorough, and taught by degreed university professionals in various fields such as psychology, nutrition, behaviorism, ethology, and athleticism.

The course work is designed in a semester format, and the learning is very comprehensive, offering excellent modern and current teaching practices, along with standards that are much higher than most accredited universities.

In my opinion, getting hands-on experience with another professional is most crucial. You can read and learn anything from a book, but seeing the behaviors “live” and learning to handle them is going to offer you the best education. I highly recommend you mentor with someone who is already an established professional trainer. You can observe the trainer in many formats as well as learn techniques that are not found in a particular book but are often used in the field. Depending on what kind of training field you desire, will guide you in the direction of a trainer to mentor under.  Most importantly, ask tons of questions. No question is too small or insignificant, and your mentor will only appreciate your desire to learn more.

In addition, there are numerous group and chat lists out there for professionals and non-professionals alike that offer advice and great business practices as well as benefiting from other professionals who are earning a living training.  You may also want to join a dog club or obedience club so you can attend meetings and network.

By LynnWhittaker
Bow Wow U

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