There are fewer careers that I can name that free you from the office cubicle while providing virtually unlimited potential for personal fulfillment and professional achievement than Dog Training and Pet Care. Dog Training and Pet Care is a field that will constantly challenge you intellectually and can provide you the opportunity to create a truly balanced joyous life.
Once you’ve determined that you want to be a professional dog trainer you need to do some research to find out the pros and cons of the various training philosophies and methodologies currently used. Dog Training methods and philosophies vary from trainer to trainer and school to school. Training philosophies go from the outdated and disproved “Alpha Roll” type coercive methods to the scientific based methods derived from modern studies of Learning Theory and Behavior. You can research various training philosophies and the current methods by visiting the following websites:
http://www.nadoi.org/ The National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors was founded in 1965 to promote modern, humane training methods and at the same time elevate the standards of the profession. NADOI is not only the oldest group of its kind in the world, it is the only professional organization to require that all applicants demonstrate proficiency in their craft, as tested and measured by their peers, before membership is granted. NADOI members are found all across the USA and in many foreign countries.
http://www.ccpdt.org/ The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) is an international testing and certification program for professional pet dog trainers. The CCPDT’s certification program is based on humane training practices and the latest scientific knowledge related to dog training. Competence and continued growth in training practices is promoted through the recertification of qualified professionals.
http://www.apdt.com/ The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) is a professional organization of individual dog trainers who are committed to becoming better trainers through education. The APDT offers individual pet dog trainers a respected and concerted voice in the dog world by promoting professional trainers to the veterinary profession and to increase public awareness of dog friendly training techniques.
http://www.888dogsmith.com/ The DogSmith exists to enhance the lives of pets and their owners by improving their relationship and the quality of the life they share, through providing professional support and training to pet dog owners, supporting and assisting humane societies, animal shelters and rescue organizations to minimize the number of unwanted animals and offering affordable and professional care to family pets so that pet ownership is never a burden.
Once you’ve done your research on training methods and philosophies you will need to decide if you want to learn in a concentrated full time program or if you want to learn and gain experience part time. You can gather the necessary skills by a combination of self study academics with extensive practical experience working for another trainer whose methods you respect or would you prefer to attend formal training through an established curriculum. There is no degree required to become a dog trainer, but you should attain both “book knowledge” and hands-on experience before offering your services to the public. Read books, attend seminars, watch DVDs. Get as much practical experience as possible by mentoring under another trainer and volunteering to work at your local shelter or with rescue groups. Shelter/rescue work is a great way to get practical experience with dogs of various breeds and temperament.
Don’t forget though that most of a professional dog trainer’s work involves training other people how to train and communicate with their dog. Consider whether you enjoy working with people as well as dogs. Many people get into the profession of dog training without realizing that what dog trainers do is really to train people to train dogs. You must have patience and empathy, and be as good coaching your human clients (lots of positive reinforcement!) as you are with your dogs.
Finally, is your goal to work for another training school in an established business or is your dream to start your own training and pet care business? One of the great possibilities of starting your own dog training business is that you can work out of your own home so start up costs are minimal. If you plan to start your own business you can be a sole entity or part of a franchise system.
You will probably start out by training part-time while working another job. Whether you can make a living as a full-time trainer depends on how many classes/sessions you are able to schedule in a week, how much demand there is for trainers in your geographic area, and whether you offer other additional services such as boarding, board-and-train or other pet care services.
And there is plenty of room to specialize if your interests are agility competition, obedience, rally, fly ball, assistance dogs or simply pet dogs. And don’t forget the growing interest in training cats, birds, horses, donkeys or any of the animals found more and more frequently on “hobby” farms around the country.
The challenges are endless as is the learning. But if you have the burning desire to work with animals and if you love meeting new people, analyzing problems and developing programs that may keep a dog from being given up to a shelter then you have what it takes to become a successful professional dog trainer.