Archive for Dog trainer

What Does Schooling to Become a Dog Trainer Entail?

This is a great question! If you want to become a professional dog trainer, your logical starting point is a school for dog trainers. But what does that mean? Currently, there is no standard curriculum for dog trainers, so you really have to do your research and find out what the school you are interested in is really teaching.

There is a whole body of knowledge about how animals learn – it’s called learning theory. We’ve been studying these principles for years (remember Pavlov and Skinner?). These are well established principles of learning and every dog training school should devote a significant portion of their curriculum to these learning principles.

It’s also important that a good school address business issues. Most people who become professional dog trainers will be in business for themselves. Now, the school doesn’t have to give you the equivalent of a business degree, but they should cover basics of how to set up and run a small business, professionalism and marketing.

Dog behavior is also a very important part of a good curriculum. There’s a lot of misinformation about dog behavior floating around – some of it is just plain wrong, some of it is not relevant to training. New trainers need to be able to critically assess behavior and make good decisions about how to go about changing that behavior. In order to do that, you need to understand both dog behavior and the principles of learning.

And, of course, how to train a dog is essential. But – I would hope EVERY school that trains dog trainers would have this component!

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

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I had the best time, yesterday! I gave the last lecture in a series presented at the University of Texas, Austin called “Wolf to Dog.” The series was comprised of the following topics:

  • The Nature of Wolves & Dogs
  • The Nature of Wolf Evolution
  • The Nature of Wolf Transformation to Dog
  • The Nature of Ice Age Human Hunters
  • The Nature of Hunter & Scavenger
  • Discussion with a Dog Behavior Consultant

I’m the Dog Behavior Consultant! We did actual case studies, using the attendees’ animals. We resolved simple problems such as the cat who wants the owner to scratch her ears and lift her onto the eating table; the Shih Tzu who jumps on people at the door, and runs away when called. It’s always great fun to use operant learning in order to change yourself and others – owners always think it’s about animal! The lady with the cat mentioned that this cat is not as smart as her other cat. I had to ask her which cat was really smarter – which cat is getting his ears scratched and being lifted onto the food table?

While resolving these problems, I was able to weave in basic information on dog behavior and learning principles. A good time was had by all! Although I don’t do much consulting anymore, I do enjoy these types of presentations, because they’re fun and you are able to help both people and dogs.

However, as a behavior consultant, don’t overestimate the good that reaching out to your community can do for your business. A presentation such as this reaches an affluent, well educated focus group – just the clientele we’re looking for. And, if they learn from your presentation and are impressed with your style and ability, they’ll spread the word.

Think about your market niche, find community groups that serve that niche and offer to do a presentation. These groups are often looking for speakers, so should welcome you with open arms!

If you do not feel comfortable speaking in front of an audience, consider joining a group such as Toastmasters. Toastmasters is a non-profit group which specializes in public speaking. They have many groups around the country – some are very business-like, while others are into having a good time – you should be able to find a group that suits your needs.

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Professional Dog Trainers Can Help Prevent Animal Hoarding

I subscribe to a news service which I browse through everyday. Today, there was a story about a woman whose property was deemed unfit for human habitation because of the number of dogs she had living in her house; additionally, the woman is being brought up on charges related to hoarding. When I clicked on the story, related story icons popped up on the same page. As a professional dog trainer, you can help dogs stay in their original homes through training and educating the public on dog behavior and responsible dog ownership.

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

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Present yourself as a professional!

One thing that will set you apart from others in your career as a dog trainer is to present yourself as a professional. Order yourself professionally printed marketing materials, from a company like vistaprint. Build a website that has a sharp, professional look that matches your new marketing materials.

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

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How long should it take you to become a professional dog trainer?

That’s a question with no straight-forward answer! The answer will depend on your background and previous animal experience, the quality of the dog training program you pursue, the type and quality of hands-on dog training experience you are able to gain, and your own natural skills and abilities. The following should help give you an idea of what you are looking at in terms of time in your journey to a career in dog training.

Your own background and animal experience: If you want to be a dog trainer, you will need to gain experience in handling dogs and recognizing signals and signs canines give off with their body language.  If you have spent several years working with dogs in a shelter or working as a kennel technician or groomer, you may have a jump on your competition in terms of your comfort level with dogs, handling ability, recognition of canine body language and more. There are several companies or franchises that hire and train people that have a background in the corporate world with no background at all in dog training. Although these candidates may very well use their skills as an attorney, accountant, business manager, marketing expert, etc. in their careers as dog trainers, if they want to become the best professional dog trainers they can be, they will need to gain a great deal of experience working with dogs before they can really succeed as a professional dog trainer. Although some people coming from a corporate background will have volunteer or other experience with dogs, sadly, many of the companies or franchises that hire people with no background in working with dogs provide as little as THREE WEEKS of training before turning them out to work as professional dog trainers!

The quality of the dog training program you pursue: Not all dog trainer educational programs are created equally. When you choose a program to give you the education you need to be a dog trainer, look for a dog training program that is based on science and teaches you the underlying sciences of learning theory and ethology rather than just giving you a handful of recipes to deal with different scenarios. If you understand the science that underlies dog training, you won’t run into trouble if none of the typical recipes work for a particular dog. You’ll have the knowledge and depth to modify your training approach to specific dogs and specific dog owners.

The type and quality of hands-on experience: After you learn the science of dog training, it is important to master the physical skills necessary to excel in the field of dog training. Volunteering to work in a shelter or kennel will give you the variety you need – you’ll work with a wide range of breeds, mixes, and ages of dogs. In addition to that, you’ll want to work with a professional dog trainer who can give you feedback about your timing, criteria setting, delivery of reinforcements, and handling ability. You can do this by working as an apprentice to another trainer, choosing a dog training course that includes either hands-on or video feedback work with a professional, or taking dog training classes with a number of different dogs from different trainers in your area. You will also need to practice your group class and instruction skills. Teaching people and running both private and group lessons take skill and practice. The best way to gain this skill is to work as an apprentice with an experienced dog trainer. Having a mentor that you can call on to ask questions and talk to about cases is also important.

If a program promises you that you will be able to become a professional dog trainer in a very short period of time with no hands-on experience or mentoring, be wary! You need a program that takes a commitment of time and energy and that offers you mentoring and feedback on your physical skill as well as an education in the science of dog training. Don’t settle for less!
If you’d like to learn more about how to become a dog trainer, please visit

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When Beginning Your Dog Trainer Career, Avoid the Trap of Under-valuing Yourself and Your Services

It’s very common for trainers just starting out in their dog trainer career to under-price their services, thinking that will bring them more business. However, this technique may very well backfire on you! There are two types of price shoppers. Customer A is looking for the cheapest price; customer B is looking for the price range.

Think about which customer you would rather work with. Client A is looking for a bargain; these clients are often demanding, have unrealistic expectations, and get angry when you don’t meet their every demand. Client B is trying to find out what the going rate is for trainers in their area; they are generally more realistic in their expectations. Which client would you rather work with? And – more importantly, which client is more likely to spread good word of mouth, and to whom?

Under-pricing your services not only brings in the wrong client, it may actually lose you customers. If people are price shopping to determine the going rate and you are priced toward the bottom of the range, there will be a lot of potential clients who feel you are not as qualified as those in the middle- to high-end of the range.

Don’t fall into this trap – if you have completed your training to be a trainer, are beginning your dog training career, and feel you are qualified to receive money for your services, then price yourself in the mid-range. If you feel you are as qualified (or more qualified) than most of your completion, price yourself in the high-range. You’ll find yourself attracting a more desirable clientele.

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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Rate of Reinforcement – Separating the Good Trainers From the Great Trainers!

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