What do you Need to be a Professional Dog Trainer?

By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. March 7, 2017
What do you Need to be a Professional Dog Trainer?

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Have you ever thought about working with dogs? Would you like to become a dog trainer? In this AnimalWised article you will discover the requirements to be a dog trainer, the time required to achieve this, the steps you can follow and some additional tips.

Before looking into your options to train dogs professionally, you need to know what are the requirements to be a good trainer. It is not only about knowing a lot about dogs; you also have to know about human relations, sales and marketing.

What do you need to be a professional dog trainer? Read on to find out!

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What is a professional dog trainer like?

If you want to become a professional dog trainer it would be advisable that you:

  • Love dogs. If you do not love dogs, you will be better off with a different career.
  • Feel a passion for working with dogs, not only living with them.
  • Interact well with people and feel comfortable working with them. As a dog trainer, you will have to work with humans even more than with their dogs. In fact, owners tend to be more problematic than their dogs.
  • Treat everyone with respect, kindness and confidence. Never be arrogant towards people who do not have much knowledge about dogs.
  • Have skills to teach people. Many trainers are not able to pass on their knowledge to the people who hire them. As a result, they end up training dogs that respond only to the trainer and not to their owners.
  • Understand that violence and abuse have no place in animal training.
  • Have an excellent sense of humor and quite a lot of patience.
  • Have a strong sense of ethics.
  • Be calm and positive. It should not be easy for you to lose your nerve; you should take negative situations as passing issues.
  • Never underestimate the skills and knowledge of other trainers, even if they use techniques that you consider inappropriate.

In addition to these features, which you may already have or will acquire slowly, you need to develop other knowledge and skills as you learn:

  • Know many dog training techniques, even if you do not use them all. This will help you recognize the advantages and disadvantages of each technique and consciously select the ones you use.
  • Keep learning new techniques and skills, even when you have become an expert trainer.
  • Gain a solid knowledge on learning theories.
  • Gain a solid knowledge on animal behavior, not only dogs.
  • Develop critical thinking. This will help you recognize more easily what is useful for you and what isn't. This is especially important when you learn about a new technique: read a lot, but don't believe everything you read.
  • Develop creative thinking. One of the most important features of the best dog trainers is that they are able to solve new problems with actions never tested before.
  • Learn about marketing, advertising and finance. No need to do a Masters in Business Administration, but you need to have basic knowledge on how to run a business.
  • Learn to plan and to follow through. You will have to plan your training sessions, the courses you give, payment dates, etc.
  • Learn about nutrition and a dog's health. Pay close attention regarding matters of canine first aid.
What do you Need to be a Professional Dog Trainer? - What is a professional dog trainer like?

How long does it take to become a professional dog trainer?

If you think that you meet some of the requirements described above and you can develop the others, you have to think about whether you are willing to persevere during the time it takes to become a professional dog trainer.

On average, you will need between 3 and 5 years of experience before becoming a good novice trainer. After 10 years you can consider yourself an expert, as with almost any activity. However, the "great masters" of dog training usually have 20 or more years of experience. Obviously, these times are relative and can vary greatly depending on how much of a relationship you had with dogs beforehand.

What do you Need to be a Professional Dog Trainer? - How long does it take to become a professional dog trainer?

How to become a professional dog trainer

First of all, to become a professional dog trainer it is advisable to get books, videos and magazines about dog training to learn about the matter in more depth. It is important to inform yourself well, even if you plan to enroll in a school of trainers. After learning the theory, you should decide on the best way to learn the practical skills.

A good first step is to attend seminars, workshops and conferences on the subject. Although you will not get much practice, you will at least be able to ask questions and discuss. After getting to know the subject, you can attend a full course in a school for trainers. This is the best option if there are any schools near where you live. Be careful when you choose your school, as not all of them use respectful methods for the animals. Here you can learn more about what is a dog training course like.

If you are a professional in a related area, such as veterinary medicine, biology, psychology, animal husbandry, etc, you can take a postgraduate course in animal behavior or related disciplines. Ideally, look for a practical program that does not only target research (unless you want to go into academia, of course). Some of these programs offer scholarships, so do not discard this option just because it is not available in your city.

Not all towns have dog training courses, conferences or seminars available. If that is your case, look for a kennel club and start practicing a dog sport such as Agility or Freestyle. What if there are no kennel clubs? Well, other options include:

  • Volunteer at a dog shelter and learn by yourself. The experience you get there, along with the advice you get from other volunteers, will help you better understand dog behavior. You will have to supplement hands-on learning with some theory from books and videos, though.
  • Become an apprentice to a professional dog trainer. This is the best way to learn if you choose the trainer well. It may even be better than going to a school for trainers.
  • Hire a professional trainer to teach you. This is very useful if you cannot find a trainer that will take you on as an apprentice or if you do not have enough time to work as an apprentice, but it can be quite expensive.
  • Take a distance learning course in dog training. There are many online courses that teach dog training. With these courses you cannot learn practical skills, but you can make inquiries. If you choose this option you will have to gain practical experience on your own, perhaps volunteering or participating in dog sports. This is not the best option, so only consider it as an addition to other alternatives.

Beyond the option you choose to become a professional dog trainer, you must update your knowledge constantly. Read many books, watch a lot of videos and subscribe to more than one magazine about dogs. Don't forget to learn about animal behavior in general, not only about dogs.

What do you Need to be a Professional Dog Trainer? - How to become a professional dog trainer

A very useful tip to become a dog trainer is that you network with people involved in canine activities. Interact with breeders, trainers, handlers, veterinarians, etc. You will learn many tricks during the conversations that you have with these people and the activities you do together.

What do you Need to be a Professional Dog Trainer? -

If you want to read similar articles to What do you Need to be a Professional Dog Trainer?, we recommend you visit our Advanced education category.

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