Archive for January 2011

Where are your credentials?

One thing that is often sorely missing from professional dog trainers‘ websites is an About Us page or a page that describes their background and credentials. When you begin your dog training career, it’s important to build credentials that you can count on. Begin by attending a dog training school that will get you the scientific knowledge you need to be a professional dog trainer. Next, work with other dog trainers to gain experience or have a mentor whom you can discuss cases and issues with, as we do in our weekly phone calls with our dog training students. After that, work towards earning an independent certification, such as the CPDT-KA designation. Last, make sure that you are continuing your education on an annual basis.

All of this information should then be readily and easily available for your potential clients on your website. Use an About Us page to describe your credentials and background and to describe your training methodologies, any professional organizations you belong to, and the continuing education that you engage in each year.

If you’d like to learn more about how to become a dog trainer, please visit

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The phone call column!

Twice a week, we meet by phone with our professional dog training students and discuss case studies or questions they’ve developed as they work their way through our dog training curriculum. We’re going to start highlighting some of these discussions here on the blog so that our readers can get a sense of what our professional dog training students experience on their road to a career in dog training!

For example, last week, we talked about resource guarding in dogs. This turned into a discussion about the differences between operant and respondent behavior. Often, dogs are engaging in both operant and respondent learning and operant and respondent behaviors. A top-notch professional dog trainer must be able to articulate and recognize the differences. If you want to become a professional dog trainer, you need to be able to put both operant and respondent learning into action!

Keep an eye out for future Phone Call Columns!

If you’d like to learn more about how to become a dog trainer, please visit

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How cool is my dog? Well – he’s training me (with a low rate of reinforcement)!

We humans are soooo superior. We think we are so smart; we can teach our dogs to do so many things like sitting pretty, begging, closing the door. But have you ever thought about how many things your dog trains you to do? My dog is such a good trainer, I sometimes think he should be an instructor in my professional dog trainer course!

A short list of things your dog has taught you might consist of:

  • Opening the back door on cue (my dog, Jimmy Joe, walks back and forth between me and the door)
  • Feeding dinner on cue (JJ walks back and forth from the kitchen to me and looks at me with ears perked and head tilted)
  • Playing with the plush toy on cue (all he has to do is pick it up and bring it to me)
  • Petting on cue (a little nose nudge usually does it)

But the coolest of all is howling! Every evening when I stop working, have eaten my dinner and sit down to read or watch TV, Jimmy Joe cues me to howl with him.

He’s got me trained, I howl every evening, but I keep trying to get it on video and for some reason I’m not prepared. I hate to admit that I’m like every typical owner; I know he’s going to do it – he does it every night under the same circumstances. But do I have my Flip at the ready? No! He starts cuing me, and I think “Dang – where’s my camera?”

If we want to get technical, I think it’s a rate of reinforcement

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problem. Because we only do this once a day, my ROR is pretty low – once every 24 hours. But, I’m getting better. I’m starting to actually keep the camera on the end table; now I just have to remember to turn it on and aim it before Jimmy Joe starts cuing me.

The good news is that I actually have a short clip for you to watch – it’s not the best example, and if I ever catch a better clip, I’ll post it. I know that I have a strong bias and think my dog is the cutest, cleverest dog in the world, but I hope you enjoy this clip as much as I do.

If you’d like to learn more about how to become a dog trainer, please visit

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Certified Dog Trainer Certificate – How Can I Purchase One

While searching for keywords, I ran across this phrase. I am shocked and appalled that someone is actually searching the Internet for “How to Purchase a Certified Dog Trainer Certificate!” I would hope that no one who cares about dogs would think that simply purchasing a certificate qualifies them to become a professional dog trainer. I hope that the person using this phrase really meant to search for something like “what does schooling to become a dog trainer entail?” Or “what’s involved in becoming a certified dog trainer?”

Because the dog industry is not regulated and currently has no uniformly accepted standards, anyone can hang out their shingle and call themselves a professional dog trainer. One of my personal (and professional) goals is to help professionalize our industry – which includes comprehensive education and standardized testing for professional dog trainers.

In the last 50 years, our society has changed drastically. When I was a kid my mother would go to work, my brother and I would go to school, and my dog Spot would roam the neighborhood. This was pretty normal for most dogs, at that time. This practice provided them with the opportunity to socialize and learn how to live in their world, as well as providing ample mental enrichment and physical exercise. Today parents go to work, kids go to school, and dogs stay indoors (often in a crate or other confined area) or in the back yard.  There are both good and bad consequences to both of these scenarios.

In the good ol’ days dogs:
Pros Cons
self socialized were hit by cars
had plenty of mental enrichment were injured in dog fights
had plenty of physical activity were shot by irate neighbors
generally learned good house manners generally lived short lives
were shot or euthanized if they had behavior problems
Today’s Dogs:
Pros Cons
are well-cared for, physically don’t get enough exercise
are beloved and pampered pets are bored out of their minds
generally live longer lives are improperly socialized
owners’ are more likely to seek professional help for behavior problems are often aggressive with other dogs and humans
are generally unruly
Often don’t learn good house manners
Are more likely to have separation issues

The point of this chart is to illustrate that the problems we see with dogs today are much more complex than the problems of 50, or even 20, years ago. Owners are less willing to give up their dog simply because it has behavior problems and will go to the expense and trouble of hiring a consultant.

However, because the problems are more complex, consultants need more formal education. Aggression and anxiety are high-stakes problems and if you don’t know what you’re doing, you risk serious injury to people and dogs, potential death to other household pets (and occasionally, but rarely, humans), and death to the dog displaying these problem behaviors. Even with less serious behaviors such as housetraining, jumping up and digging, if the problems are not resolved the dog often ends up in a shelter.

To sum up, I hope everyone who cares about dogs will encourage professionals to become certified professional dog trainers, and to always continue educating themselves. The scientific community is doing fascinating and wonderful things in the areas of behavior and cognition, and we are learning more and more about dogs every day!

Two organizations certifying dog trainers that I recommend are the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers ( and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (

If you’d like to learn more about how to become a dog trainer, please visit

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Dogs Having Fun!

I saw this video on Facebook this morning, and laughed out loud! These dogs should start a dog training school to teach other dogs how to have fun!

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Dog Aggression Experts – What Does That Mean To Our Clients?

I was talking to one of my trainer friends today, and she told me that a client she was working with had informed her that when the client went on vacation she was going to board her dog with a “dog aggression expert.” My trainer friend said this somewhat ironically, because she also specializes in dog aggression – in fact, she teaches other trainers how to work with aggressive dogs! Additionally, this “dog aggression expert” is in a town several hours away. Granted, she was not originally called in for an aggression issue with this dog, but her clients didn’t even ask if she works with aggression.

After our conversation, I started thinking about this. It occurred to me that when a client goes to another trainer who is a “dog aggression expert,” it seems to me that it’s almost always a man. Why is this? Does the public automatically assume that men are better qualified to deal with aggression? Or do men market themselves better than women?  (As an aside, I once held an in-depth marketing course and 75% of the attendees were men – in an industry that is 90% women!)

In discussing this with my friend, I asked her why she thought this was, and she brought up some good points. The first was that she often gets the impression that, because she does prophylactic training such as puppy classes, clients sometimes think she’s a “trainer” vs. a “behavior consultant” or “dog aggression expert.” She also thinks that, if they don’t originally come to you for aggression they find it hard to change their vision of what you do. And, finally, she’s pretty sure that price played a part – at least in this latest incident. The “dog aggression expert” charges $400 per week for a board and train, whereas my friend charges $600 per week with a three-week minimum for an aggression-related board and train.

After this discussion, I decided to do just a little research. First, I Googled the term “dog aggression expert ‘city’.”  I chose the 10 largest cities in the U.S.  I only looked at the first page (first 10 listings), and I only included sites of trainers – i.e., no informational sites, directories, franchise sites, sites outside the specified area, repeats, etc. Based solely on gender, the results were a tie! There were a total of 17 men and 17 women trainers in the top ten listings for the ten largest cities in the U.S.  Interesting. . .

Next, I looked at the sites of five female trainers that I know do primarily aggression; I looked at their home page and the page(s) that describe their aggression-related services. Only one used the phrase “dog aggression expert,” and she only used it once, that I could find.

Finally, the thing that struck me when Googling “dog aggression expert” was the photos. So, I went back and did another count. There were four sites with pictures depicting aggression and/or bites; a couple of those sites had extremely graphic pictures, and one site’s pictures were quite mild. But, they were all businesses owned by men. Is this meaningful? I don’t know – tell me what you think.

If you’d like to learn more about how to become a dog trainer, please visit

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Raising Canine, LLC & Susan Smith – Introduction & Biography

Since this is my first blog on this site, I thought I’d start with an introduction. My name is Susan Smith and I am the owner of Raising Canine, LLC, which provides education and services to dog professionals. As a professional dog trainer and behavior consultant, I look at the places where dog behavior and human lifestyle, love of dogs and conducting business meet most often:

  • business in general
  • client compliance in particular
  • current trends
  • theory and practical application
  • time management
  • planning and goals

Through my emphasis on professionalism and fascination with behavior, I provide professional dog trainers with a comprehensive but incisive review of contemporary dog training, its foundations, current state, and future trends – and strategies for applying theoretical knowledge in the field.

I am the co-author of Positive Gun Dogs: Clicker Training for Sporting Breeds, the first book published in the United States advocating positive methods for training bird dogs. I am also the author of many articles including Starting Your Own Dog Training Business and When to Ask for Help, which were published in the Association of Pet Dog Trainers’ The Dog Trainer’s Resource: The APDT Chronicle of the Dog Collection. I am a contributing author to the book “Top Tips From Top Trainers.” I have authored many other articles and book reviews, and am also the author of a column on learning and behavior for the APDT Chronicle of the Dog.


  • CPDT-KA from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers;
  • CDBC from the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants; and
  • CTC from the San Francisco SPCA.

Affiliations & Honorarium

  • Current member of the Review Panel Committee for the IAABC;
  • 2002-2010 – List Manager for the APDTlist;
  • Former Membership Coordinator for the IAABC;
  • Former member of the Board of Directors of the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers;
  • Past Chair of the APDT Member Relations and Communications Committee;
  • Past member of the APDT Sponsorship Committee;
  • 2004 APDT Member of the Year
  • 2009 DWAA (Dog Writers of America Award) Nominee for “A Learning Theory Primer” (APDT Chronicle of the Dog) in category “Magazine: subject related series

Susan’s Journey and Raising Canine’s Start

Susan Smith was born and raised in Alaska. At age 29, she decided it was time to experience the rest of the U.S., so she moved to Texas and opened a Mail Boxes Etc., USA franchise in Austin, Texas. The MBE store gave Susan a good, practical education in running a business.

In the early ‘90s, Susan decided it was time to do something else, so she began exploring her options. She had three criteria: ability to make a comfortable income, flexibility of scheduling and a sense of enjoyment and accomplishment within her work. She was able to eliminate most of the list she came up with through the “enjoyment” factor; however, dog training met all her criteria, so she decided to become a professional dog trainer.

She began apprenticing, reading and training. By 1996 she had sold her Mail Boxes business and was building her dog consulting business.

In 2002 she moved to upstate New York to start a sanctuary for unadoptable dogs for the Animal Haven shelter in Queens. Animal Haven had purchased a 30 acre farm and the goal was for the dogs to live in the house with a lifestyle as close to normal as possible with aggressive dogs.

Susan spent 3 years running the sanctuary for unadoptable dogs. All the dogs at the Sanctuary were aggressive except one which had extreme fear issues. The sanctuary was limited to 15 dogs and the dogs lived in the house with Susan. This was a most enlightening experience, and provided an intense crash course in understanding what clients experience when living with an aggressive dog!

After three years of getting the sanctuary up and running, Susan decided to return to Austin and started thinking about what she wanted to do when she returned. She began consulting with a business coach, defined her criteria and began thinking about what she wanted to accomplish. She came to the conclusion that she wanted to maintain her original three criteria (comfortable income, flexibility and enjoyment), and added the criteria of helping her chosen field become a viable and respected profession.

This led Susan to provide remote, science-based training, coaching and business education to trainers, as well as providing a variety of products to help trainers more efficiently run their business.

Raising Canine’s Growing Reputation

Raising Canine was the first business to provide a wide variety of remote educational courses and seminars to the professional dog training field. These courses provide high-quality, science-based information for training and consulting, as well as established principles for running a business.

Raising Canine has been able to attract quality speakers who, through remote media, are able to reach a wider audience for a very reasonable price. The remote courses are available live, recorded and on-line. Some courses are simply a lecture format, some are interactive, some require homework, and some are a combination of several media.

Raising Canine also has an on-line dog trainer school. This school is designed for those who wish to become a professional dog trainer, yet cannot spare the time to attend an in-person school. The professional dog trainer course provides in-depth education in the principles of learning and behavior, as well as the practical areas of training and running a dog consulting business. We’ll teach you everything you need to know to become a professional dog trainer from teaching a sit to working with noise sensitivity in dogs to calculating rate of reinforcement!

Raising Canine Today

Raising Canine’s goal has always been to provide quality education, products and services. We have solidified that goal through the creation of a dog training mission statement that keeps our goals in the forefront of our minds, at all times.

Today, Raising Canine is still the largest and best known remote education service within the animal community. We continue to provide cutting edge information to trainers and consultants, as well as dog owners.

Even today, with our vast understanding of behavior and learning, there is still much misunderstanding of this subject within the training world. Raising Canine feels that all animals should be treated humanely and with the most advanced techniques now available that is a viable option; it is our goal to disseminate that information to animal professionals.

Susan currently lives in Austin, Texas with her dog, Jimmy Joe, where she runs her Internet-based education and consulting business.

If you’d like to learn more about how to become a dog trainer, please visit

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