How do I become a dog trainer?
To become a skilled professional dog trainer, you should expect that it will take a number of years as it would if you were studying to become a teacher or counselor. You will need book learning as well as practical hands-on experience. There is no quick, easy way to gain the understanding and experience necessary to become proficient. It takes time and dedication, as well as, a strong interest in helping people as well as dogs.
Here are some tips on how to further your education:
- Read! This will expose you to the theories and concepts of dog training. Select from different authors and subjects to get a variety of perspectives. Learn what methods are popular now as well as how dogs were trained from a historical perspective.
- If you are not already in dog class, get yourself back in an upper level class. This will sharpen your skills. If you do not have a dog right now, borrow a friend’s dog or put a shelter dog through classes. You will also gain the perspective of the student. What do you like about the class and what would you change?
- Set a goal with your own dog. This will help you to reach a level of proficiency in your area of interest that will give you insights helpful in working with others. It will also get you involved in the dog training community helping you establish contacts.
- Find a training school(s) and/or mentor that you like and volunteer in return for observing. Watch and learn. Find out how you can assist in classes. Get your feet wet.
- Go to your area animal shelter and volunteer to work with the dogs. There is nothing like experience with dogs you don’t know to teach you to be a great trainer.
- Go to LOTS of seminars and conferences on behavior and training. There are many options both in-person and virtual.
- Subscribe to magazines, blogs and user groups that discuss dog training and behavior.
- Consider joining a dog training club or professional organization.
- Go to dog trials and shows that feature performance events. Watching dogs compete can teach you about relationship dynamics, training techniques, breed specific behavior, body language and more.
- Learn about how to teach and manage people in groups. Your ability to connect and communicate with the owners will go a long way toward helping the dogs. Remember that you are teaching the person to train their dog.
- Consider going to an accredited college for teaching or animal behavior. It will not give you all the skills needed for becoming a competent dog training instructor but will give you a strong foundation.
- There are also many courses and schools to learn to become a professional dog trainer. Screen all carefully and make sure you agree with their training methods before you sign-up.
- Distance learning is another great way to also get information and learn from a variety of professionals. Many of the professional organizations as well as private businesses offer webinars and interactive learning.
- Plan to continue your education throughout your career. Staying current and getting new ideas is important in dog training and behavior.