Becoming a Professional Dog Trainer
If you’re interested in how to become a dog trainer, this article will tell you everything you need to know to get started. Just remember that being a dog trainer requires lots of patience and a skill at dealing with people as well as animals.
While you don’t need a college degree to get into the dog training profession, there are a wide array of seminars, books and classes available. It’s recommended that you learn everything you can, and even poor resources will usually contain a few bits of wisdom.
I recommend the following methods on how to become a dog trainer:
Work At A Shelter
If you want to get some hands-on experience working with a wide array of dogs, trying volunteering at a local animal shelter. You’ll be exposed to every breed possible (and the popular “mutt”), as well as dogs of varying temperaments. This is an excellent way to do some good in the community and find out if dog training might be right for you.
Serve As An Apprentice
If you serve as an apprentice under an already established dog trainer, you’ll be in a position to learn a great deal. Besides learning practical tricks of the trade, you’ll also pick up tips for the business side of dog training.
Another positive aspect to apprenticeship is the possibility of meeting future clients. Even if your teacher makes you sign a non-complete clause (saying you won’t steal their clients), you should still be able to get references from the people you meet.
It won’t all be fun and games, however. You’ll get stuck doing the work that the established animal trainer doesn’t want to do. Of course, you’ll be doing those chores when you start your own dog training business, anyway (at least until you find your own apprentice). In the end, just think of it as “paying your dues.”
Go To School
If you want a more structured environment than the apprenticeship, you might wish to consider some form of dog training school. These courses can run anywhere from one to twelve weeks, and you’ll learn a wide range of techniques and philosophies.
While you might only deal with one dog trainer during an apprenticeship, taking a class will allow you to work with several. This will enable you to adapt to all manner of situations which might arise during dog training. You’ll also learn a greater range of techniques for use in your dog training business.
Another added bonus is networking. You’ll meet lots of other prospective dog trainers in class, and their knowledge and friendship can prove valuable in the future. Plus you’ll have someone to seek advice from if you ever deal with a dog training case which has you stumped.
If you’re interested in an animal behavior program from an accredited university, you might try one of the following:
- Tufts University (Boston, Massachusetts)
- Geulph University (Ontario, Canada)
- Cornell University (Ithica, New York)
Dog Training Seminars and Workshops
Most dog training workshops and conferences last anywhere from one to four days. On average, they cost around $30 to $50 per day.
This is an excellent way to increase your knowledge of dog training without having to commit to long-term classes. It is generally recommended that a dog trainer should have several dozen workshops and seminars under their belt.
Some of the areas of study include:
- Crate training and housetraining
- History of breeds
- Handling skills
- How to evaluate a dog
- Protection training
Starting Your Business
Once you’ve received enough dog training instruction, it’s time to take the plunge and start your own business. While being a professional dog trainer can be rewarding, keep in mind that there’s also a tedious business side to it.
You’ll need to start by contacting an accountant. They will be able to instruct you on the ins and outs of how to start a business in your state. This can include things such as incorporating, becoming insured and tax numbers.
Once you’ve got the tedious stuff out of the way, it’s time to decide where you’ll conduct your business. A couple of options are available.
- Work in public – In this case, the dog trainer meets the client (and the dog) in a public place or at the client’s home. The dog will likely feel more comfortable in this environment, and that may make your job a little easier. Also, it can serve to generate some free publicity for your dog training service, especially if you’re conducting business in a park or someplace similar.
- Work out of a store – Instead of hauling your equipment all around town, your customers and their pets come to you. The biggest obstacle with this option is being able to rent or buy the facility. If you’re dealing with a landlord, there’s always the possibility of increased rent or your lease not being renewed.
Join The Pros
Joining a professional dog training organization can be a great help to your business. First, it gives you access to contacts from across the country (and their combined experience). You may also be able to get a discount on your insurance in certain cases.
They also notify members when any legislation is proposed which could hurt the dog training industry. When this happens, letters are written and calls are made in an effort to defeat the legislation and ensure the dog training business continues to run smoothly.