Dog training is a fantastic career. It is the best career, in our opinion. A career as a dog trainer not only erases the Monday morning blues, it transforms those feelings into passion. In the role of a dog trainer, we save dogs from losing their homes. We teach dog owners why their dogs act a certain way and assist them in improving behavior. When a dog owner reaches out to a dog trainer, they are usually desperate.
A career in dog training should not be taken lightly. In that role we help increase the bond between humans and their dogs. We also strive to prevent dogs from being surrendered by exacerbated dog owners.
To help you decide if you want to pursue a career as a dog trainer, we’ve provided nine things to consider before pursuing a career in dog training.
Love dogs: In order to feel passionate about your work, you must love the subjects. In this case dogs are an important focus. Dog trainers love dogs and care about their well being. Dog training is not about the money, it is about helping dogs and their family.
People Orientated: You may notice I did not refer to dogs as our “primary” focus in the above paragraph. That is because dogs are only one important aspect of this job. The equally important factor are the dog owners. You likely hear people in the dog industry claim they work with animals because they don’t enjoy spending time with people. That may be the case in many canine careers, but not dog training. Professional dog trainers effectively communicate and work with dog owners. Training humans is equally as important as training dogs. It is often the most difficult part of our job. Your job is not done if the dog only responds to the trainer. This is especially important if you start a board-and-train business.
Compassion: We love dogs and want a perfect world for our canine clients. Often, human error is to blame for negative dog behavior. Placing blame does not win any points for you or the dog you’re hired to train. Dog trainers must show compassion toward dog owners. They are often upset and confused as to their dog’s behavior. Most human clients have not studied dog behavior. Beyond teaching basic commands, they do not know how to utilize those commands to solve canine behavior. They may not pick up on techniques as quick or effortlessly as we’d like. Dog trainers explain canine behavior to human clients and show them how to solve issues that cause stress to their dog.
Be Available. Dog trainers understand that we must work outside the normal 9 to 5 work day. In order to help dogs and their owners, we are available when the family is home. While we do work during the day, our busiest hours are in the evenings and on weekends. This is a fantastic perk for dog trainers building their new business, because it enables us to build our client list without giving up a steady paycheck from our day job.
Flexibility: Unlike people, dogs learn differently. Dog trainers must be open to learning and using different techniques that appeal to the different learning styles of dogs. What method works for one dog, doesn’t necessarily work for all dogs. There is no such thing as giving up. A pet peeve of mine is when someone claims “a dog cannot learn”. In reality, most of the time, the trainer or the family, lacks flexibility in their training style to help that dog learn. Cookie-cutter dog training will only get you so far when working with dogs. Good trainers have studied different techniques and approaches to dog training. They think outside the box in order to successfully teach commands to dogs.
Education: In order to fill your trainer’s toolbox with different techniques, you must study the craft. It is one thing to teach commands to a dog. It is another to understand how they think. To understand how one small change in training style can make the difference between the dog succeeding and failing. While there are currently no requirements for dog trainers to obtain a formal education, a proper education in dog training provides you with an academic foundation, as well as hands-on training skills. Dog training is not a spectator sport. It is not something you can learn by simply watching videos or reading about it. You need to study the canine mind and then practice techniques on hundreds of dogs in order to understand how to successfully train them.
Hands-on Experience and Continued Education: We are frequently asked if completing a course in dog training enables people to start their own dog training business. The educational skill certainly prepares you to work with dogs. Schools that provide both an education and hands-on training will bring you closer to working as a dog trainer. New dog trainers work several hundred hours training dogs before they are considered professional, skilled dog trainers. The more you work with dogs, the stronger your skillset.
Dog training is no different than working in a classroom or in the courtroom. You need experience. A diploma or certification is not the end of your journey. That simply means an organization has certified your current skillset. Dog trainers who attend seminars, read reliable literature and remain up-to-date with canine behavior are often more successful than those with no, or little, education. I was once advised to keep learning, because those who fail to update their stale methods will eventually become prehistoric. We all know what happened to dinosaurs.
Cognitive and physical demands: In order to remain fresh and up-to-date in this craft, gain knowledge in animal behavior and practical teaching skills. Dog trainers understand and recognize canine calming skills and body language. Dog trainers have compassion, flexibility, excellent communication skills and empathy. You also want to stay mentally and physically sharp because dog training requires us to work on the floor, bend, squat, run, move quickly, handle strong dogs and remain alert.
Don’t mind being dirty: Dog trainers understand that they may leave a lesson with scratches and cuts. We are slobbered on, peed on, have smelly, dirty hands from using dog treats and sometimes our clothing gets ruined. A little dirt is a minor inconvenience when you are helping dogs remain in their homes.
A career as a professional dog trainer takes time to accomplish. Training your own dog is the first step in this career, but certainly not the only step. Neither is stringing a series of letters after your name through different certification processes. That said, certification does indicate that you have studied the craft and take your career seriously. To ensure you received a quality education, make sure the school or organization providing that certification, also provides hands-on experience and mentorship.
Dog owners want a trainer with considerable knowledge, skill and accomplishments. It is worth repeating again that dog training is not a spectator sport, which means it cannot be solely taught in a book or on screen. Treat this career as any other. Educate and repeatedly practice your skill with different breeds, varying age levels and different temperaments.
In our next blog post we will discuss dog training salaries and how you can financially turn dog training into a full time career. In the meantime, we will leave you with this information:
“According to a pet owners survey, there were approximately 89.7 million dogs owned in the United States in 2017. This is an increase of over 20 million since the beginning of the survey period in 2000, when around 68 million dogs were owned in the United States.“. Statista.com
I am eager to provide the results for 2020, according to Statista. Each year the desire for well-behaved dogs increases. Even during Covid lockdown, dog owners desperately sought dog training. Dog trainers resorted to online training services just to meet the demand. Our workload has been off the charts ever since we returned to work last summer. It doesn’t appear that dog training will slow down in the foreseeable future. Now is the time to stop considering a career in dog training. It is time to act and accomplish that goal.
ISCDT is here to help you get started with our affordable online program or shadow programs. We do not believe a quality education depends on how much money is in your bank account. Everyone deserves the opportunity to receive a quality education and work in a career they love. We strive to turn out educated dog trainers with hands-on experience at an affordable price. Visit ISCDT.com to learn how we can help you.
Featured image – Credit: POOYAN-ESHTIAGHI-unsplash