by Niki Tudge

Many people working professionally in the pet care industry have different letters or alphabet soup as I term it behind their names, in their email signature and on their business cards. There is a selection of colleges, online schools and professional workshops that will issue credentials to pet care professionals. These credentials vary and range from credentials for dog training, pet care and/or dog behavior counseling.

If you are thinking of becoming a pet care professional or opening your own pet care and dog training business it is important that you have a solid theoretical background in a selection of topics. You will need hours of hands on skill training for both dogs and humans and you will need to align yourself with an organization with supports your continued growth and has an invested interest in your success. A strong business mentor is a huge asset to any small business. You will also need a selection of business skills to support your operational skills. Marketing skills are crucial so you can strategically position your business and deliver your products and services to your clients. A basic understanding of business finance is also critical to the success of a small business, you need to make sound financial decisions and remain solvent.

One of the most important questions you must answer is whether you want to be a dog trainer, a behavior counselor, a pet care provider or a pet care expert who can offer a wide array of services across all three disciplines.  As an  individual thinking of moving into the pet care business this is a critical question as a huge number of your clients will require both dog training expertise and behavior counseling knowledge.

Dog Trainers can help their clients build  dog obedience behavior repertoires. Training  involves teaching a dog  new skills such as teaching a ‘sit/stay’ to prevent the dog from begging at the table or teaching the dog to ‘come’ when the owner wants the dog to return to them.  Behavior Counseling is when you work with a client to change an existing problematic behavior; you teach the dog an alternative response to a set of circumstances.

 Many behavioral problems present themselves with some element of fear often exhibited as an emotional response such as anxiety, anger or frustration. Fear is a very normal “self protective” response for dogs. In order for dogs to survive they have to be good at adapting to and reacting to dangerous situations.  Fear in dogs is either innate fear, which means it, has an evolutionary significance such as a fear of loud noises, strangers, isolation or fire or the fear is ontogenic with means it has been learned through experiences.  Changing a problematic behavior, a conditioned emotional response requires an understanding of learning theory and a selection of behavior change protocols.

A national survey completed in 1996 by Goodloe and Borchelt found that fear is the common emotional factor motivating a dog’s behavior. Fear is elicited by a variety of unconditioned and conditioned stimuli like any other form of emotional arousal and reflex actions. This is one of the key reasons why aggression in dogs cannot be handled with aggression by humans. If the underlying factor of the dogs aggression is fear then being rough handed or using other methods that elicit fear in the dog only compound the problem.

The results of the survey conducted by Goodloe and Borchelt showed that from a pool of 2018 dogs,: 38% said their dogs showed some fear toward loud noises, 22% reported fear toward unfamiliar adults, 33% were fearful toward unfamiliar children and 14% exhibited fear toward unfamiliar and non threatening dog. Because of this if you are considering a career in dog training you need to look at options that educate you and support your growth as a dog trainer and a behavior counselor. Your clients will appreciate it and your bottom line will benefit.

Talk to the DogSmith about any behavioral problems you may have or learn how you can become a DogSmith Dog Trainer or Behavior Consultant