dog agility training

Career: how to become a dog trainer

All dog owners want a well-behaved and easy-going dog. This requires proper care, exercise, and of course training. If you have considered a career in dog training, a huge market for your services awaits! There are many opportunities to help others train their dogs. There are even charitable opportunities to help dogs and people with special needs. This can be a dog lover’s dream come true! But how do you navigate making the leap? Start your career as a professional dog trainer today with these tips.

Human clients

Dog training means teaching dogs and their people too. Your responsibility will be showing owners how to follow training procedures at home. Motivation is key here. You will have to ensure the owner understands how important it is.  They will have to do the supporting work at home with their dog. In the past, I worked with children in a behavior modification program. Connecting with parents wasn’t always easy. Sometimes, you have to know when to give a pep-talk but also when to let it go. Some people won’t ever do their homework, and you need to accept this. It can be challenging, but with good people skills and patience you will get through! Don’t give up when you are early in your journey. Your skills will grow over time.

Learn and practice

In the age of the internet, there is no shortage of information available on dog training. Youtube videos, ebooks, and blogs are full of dog training programs and tips. Don’t forget to think critically. Some practices will not be appropriate for all dogs. Unfortunately, some techniques are downright wrong. Examples include using punishment, and the worst: rubbing a dog’s nose in it when they have an accident. Let’s be clear, at best punishment doesn’t work, and at worst it induces damaging fears in dogs. Make sure all the information you are consuming is up to date and from a reputable source. Good sources of information include The Humane Society and American Kennel Club.

dog with male trainer

You may also want to seek out a mentor. Experienced dog trainers may have opportunities available for an apprenticeship. Check your network, family, and friends to see if anyone knows a trainer you can reach out to. If you do get in touch, take them to lunch, and ask them for their opinions. Discuss the challenges of their job, approach to dog training, and experience. A role model you look up to can help you stay motivated as you learn to become a dog trainer.

Consider registering in a professional dog training course or certification. Again, make sure it is from a reputable organization. Although a dog training license is not a requirement to work training dogs, formal certifications will help you to appear more professional. Investing in your education will also connect you to other dog trainers. Use everything you learn to train your pup, or the dog of a friend or family member. Teach them to master the things you would expect to teach a client’s dog. Once you have confidence in your skills, it’s time to get to work!

Get experience

After you have trained one dog, you will need to train different breeds and personalities. Learning about this will help you in your dog training career. Even if you have had many dogs over your lifetime, there is no way you have seen all types of behavior! Different dogs will have different training goals. For example, a puppy will need to obey simple commands and become house trained. A rescue dog or a dog with a health condition may have more complex needs.

vet clinic with puppy

To get started, offer your services for free. Local shelters and vets may need volunteers. This is a great way to gain experience with dogs with emotional or medical needs. Organizations for people with disabilities may also offer programs for dogs. They may need volunteers to help train seeing-eye dogs, therapy dogs, and emotional support animals. If you can offer dog training to family and friends for free, this is also a wonderful way to help your community.

Network

Networking is the key to success in any professional pursuit. Having a positive reputation will help you to find clients faster. To become a dog trainer, you will need to hang out with dog owners. Dog parks, animal charity events, and even chit-chat with pet shop staff are good places to start. Groomers, vets, dog walkers, and recreational groups may offer dog training services. Often, they will hire many trainers to work on their teams. Get to know these people in your neighborhood. Attend workshops and conferences related to dog training. Finally, join a professional organization. If you are in Canada, consider joining Canadian Association of Professional Dog Trainers. In the US, The Association of Professional Dog Trainers. Many professional organizations will host networking events and provide educational materials.

dog waiting for treat from woman in red vest

Get your first gig

There are two approaches you can take here. You can work towards building your own business, or work for a company.

 If you want to be a business owner, you will need to invest your time and money. You will have to put together brochures, a website, advertisements, and business cards. Anyone can call themselves a dog trainer. You will have to set yourself apart and show potential clients you are trustworthy. Highlight your certifications in your marketing materials.

If you want to work for a company, prepare for your job search. Be ready for interviews. Discuss your experience, educational journey, and any dog training certifications you may have. Put together a resume and check out online job boards and local hiring events. Leverage your personal network and take your time. Check the salaries of other dog trainers in your area with some online research. You know the drill! Ask questions. Make sure companies share your values and philosophical approach towards dog training.

Summary

If you want to become a dog trainer, get excited to work with people. The job will not only be about dogs but teaching and networking with dog owners too.  Be ready to self-educate, and consider investing in courses and certifications. Have patience on your journey. Make sure that you practice your skills, training your own dog, or a close friend or family member’s dog. Gain experience with as many dogs as possible of different personalities and needs. When you are ready, look for jobs or set up your own business. You will be able to improve the lives of dogs and dog owners with this new career!

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