Who doesn’t love dogs? Our four-legged companions are furry and cute, loyal and loving. Spending more time with them is something that most of us wouldn’t balk at, so it probably makes sense to want to become a dog trainer.
While it might seem as simple as telling dogs what to do, there is far more to the process that makes it an undeniable skill if it is something that you can master.
You should probably also have an affinity for people as well. This is because, as much as dog training is about teaching the dogs, it is also about teaching the people who are bringing the dogs in. If you can’t interact with people, there’s a pretty good chance you won’t make it as a dog trainer.
1. Teach Yourself
Like nearly every vocation out there, one of the first steps after catching the training bug is to start by studying articles, books, DVDs and anything else you can get your hands on when it comes to the subject of training and animal behavior.
If you hope to become an effective dog trainer, the first thing that you need to be able to do is read and understand the body language of a dog. This allows you to get a beat on what kind of dog you are dealing with so that you can adjust your approach accordingly to achieve optimal results.
While learning on your own is certainly a great and recommended step – and there are a ton of books out there on the subject worth getting into – self-education will only go so far. Invest in a course with someone that has a lot more experience and you should begin to notice a substantial change in the way that you see and learn animal behavior.
2. Get Hands-on Experience
Like almost any other vocational path, there is a limit you will hit from simply learning about the subject at hand. Before long, the only way toward growth is to actually get involved in an apprenticeship-type scenario where you can learn in a more hands-on way.
This is because books can’t make up for actual, real-life experience. As you develop your skills and grow in the industry, you begin to harken back to your own experiences. Perhaps you deal with a dog that has a problem chewing on things. You remember a previous client who had the same issue and use that experience to help you solve the current problem.
A path such as this is completely common and the same applies to becoming a dog trainer. There are some training academies out there that even offer formal apprenticeships; there may be other instances where you learn under a local trainer as part of your experience.
However you slice it, you can’t begin to truly learn and grow as a dog trainer until you begin gathering that hands-on experience that helps us to grow in whatever it is we take on. If you don’t have an academy nearby, try volunteering at a local animal shelter.
Many shelters now have training programs in place where these volunteers are then instructed on how to train shelter dogs so that they become more adoptable. Simple things such as teaching a dog to wait all the way up to behavior modification, your local shelter can provide you with the kind of experiences that can really build up your skills as a dog trainer.
3. Dog Trainer School
Much the same as traditional vocations that require years of schooling before making the foray into that career path, becoming a dog trainer can be much the same. There are definitely some that feel as though going to dog-training school is a better alternative than learning on your own.
The thing to keep in mind is that there are so many dog-trainer schools out there, that it can be difficult to know if you are truly getting the type of education and experience that you need. There are many schools out there that profess to be “humane” in their way of discipline when they are anything but.
Do a bit of research on the schools available to you. There are many highly accredited schools out there that can actually be done in a virtual classroom. They offer training assessments as well as final exams, just as if you were going to a traditional school.
There are also certification programs out there that not only provide you with stringent training prior to getting your certification, but that will continue to assess you based on quality standards and will revoke that certificate if those standards are not met.
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Network
Another great way to learn is to get out to seminars, conferences, and workshops. These are not only a fantastic source of knowledge, but a great networking opportunity as well. These seminars and conferences can range from a couple of hours to a full week.
Finding the most accredited and well-reviewed seminars gives you the opportunity to get out and meet those who have been doing it the longest. You can pick the brain of industry professionals, learn how they got started, what their greatest suggestions are, and how to move forward toward becoming a trainer yourself.
These workshops are invaluable because not every training situation is the same. There may come a time when a real oddball scenario arises and something you learned in one of these conferences or seminars comes to mind.
The key to becoming a great dog trainer is to accept that it is a continuous learning process. New techniques will be developed, more will be learned about dog behavior and animal behavior in general, and trainers will develop new strategies for training even the most difficult of dogs.
Learning from others in the industry, particularly those with great track records, will only give you the further education that you need to be successful as a dog trainer for a long time to come. Don’t be afraid to grow and don’t be afraid to continue learning because it can be one of the most beneficial decisions you can make.
5. Getting Credentials
This is somewhat of a grey area in the world of dog training. As it stands, there is no government regulation of dog trainers here in the United States. Still, there are certainly a number of organizations out there through which you can earn accreditation. This will only help to further your dog training business should you decide to branch out on your own.
One of the most common certifications out there is the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. They offer the Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) certification. It is by no means easy to complete, but coming out with this certification can teach you a lot along the way and it will show peers and clients that you are committed to achieving the highest level of learning as a dog trainer.
Like the aforementioned learning paths, this accreditation will only help to further your knowledge and skills as a dog trainer. Taking any additional steps to do this will only make you a better and more valuable dog trainer along the way.
6. Getting in Business
This is also one of those grey areas where there is no definitive “best path.” There are so many avenues out there where dog trainers can practice that it is difficult to say that one is substantially better than the other.
The simple fact of the matter, however, is that there is a demand for dog training out there. This is especially true as dogs become more important to us as a society. More and more people adopt dogs, meaning more and more people need to train said dogs.
Deciding the best path for you is pretty much up to you. Perhaps getting started at a shelter or through a pet store is the best option. This allows you to accrue that valuable hands-on experience that is so important in any vocation without the stresses of running your own business.
Then, when you have been at it and feel good about your level of knowledge and success, you can move forward to opening your own program or school. Having a dedicated list of client referrals under your belt is a great idea; starting from scratch can be difficult, especially if you have no one to refer to as a testament to your skills.
Whatever path that you decide to take, keep your eyes and ears open and continue to learn along the way. That continued education will go a long way toward growing your skills as a dog trainer and will only help to improve your skills along the way.
Dog training is no walk in the park, but it is a field where the demand continues to grow. Being able to fill that need requires dedicated, passionate, dog-loving individuals to step forward and take matters into their own hands. Get on the path to becoming a dog trainer today.