Growing as a dog trainer without a mentor can be tough, especially since the dog training field is lonely. Dog trainers often find themselves working alone with client dogs, without a colleague in sight. This makes it difficult to learn and grow as a dog trainer without a mentor.
When I started my business, I was in that exact position. I had no other trainer to bounce ideas off of or ask for help. We have a few tips to help to grow as a dog trainer without a mentor:
Reach out to a more experienced dog trainer
I made a huge mistake with a dog when I first started dog training. The client felt that I was not experienced enough and sought another trainer. Of course, I took this hard. It was devastating. The client explained what I had done wrong and told me the name of the new trainer he hired. I immediately called the other dog trainer and asked for guidance.
I explained my situation and then offered to pay him a small amount weekly if he would mentor me. He allow me to follow him to his training appointments and learn from him. This was a great deal for him and for me. He made some extra money and I had someone to follow and bounce ideas off of. I would have liked for a fellow trainer to do this for free, but that was not the case. It was impossible to find someone to help me without offering money in return.
If you cannot afford to pay a mentor, it is best to volunteer. We recommend going to your local shelter and asking if you can work with the dogs. Just walking the dogs, can increase your experience. A shelter likely has a trainer on staff to provide advice and guidance.
Books and Videos
Read books and watch videos of respected trainers. There is a ton of content online that you can view and improve your skills. Leerburg Dog Training has a ton of free videos that you can access. They also have online content that you pay for. Their prices are reasonable. Leerburg does a ton of work with Michael Ellis.
Many well-known trainers offer free content. Find a trainer that you like and trust. Make sure are on board with their methods and follow them on YouTube, Facebook, etc. You can learn a lot from these people and they often answer questions for free if you reach out.
Conferences and Seminars
There are many opportunities to attend dog training seminars and conferences. You just need to look online. There are groups on Facebook dedicated to advertising these opportunities. We belong to a group named “Dog Training Seminars” and they list a ton of upcoming events. The great thing about these events is you get to meet other trainers and build a network of people that you can turn to in times of doubt. I have met many other trainers this way and also learned a lot in the process.
There are various dog-training organizations that you can become a member of. They provide seminars for their paid members. Non-members can also attend.
School for Dog Trainers
Growing as a dog trainer without a mentor is difficult. Finding a mentor is is equally tough. If you find yourself unable to find a mentor, you can still become a successful trainer, you just have to put in the work.
Students enrolled in ISCDT’s dog training course are assigned a mentor. That mentor guides you throughout the course, answers questions relating to dog training and provides feedback.
ISCDT’s dog trainer course requires you to record videos of you working with dogs. When you submit each video, your mentor responds with feedback. Another great aspect of recording yourself training is the valuable insight you learn from watching yourself work with dogs. It is an excellent way of refining your skills.
Written by Jessica Freedman
ISCDT’s online program consists of 18 hands-on lessons, where students are required to work with dogs. Skill and ability is determined through a series of videos submitted to your personal ISCDT mentor. Students are also responsible for written homework assignments. In addition to the online program, we also offer one-and-two-week in-person shadow programs. To learn more about the courses we offer, visit ISCDT.com