Career in Dog Training

Dog training can be a deeply satisfying and rewarding profession. It all really depends on how suited you are for this type of career and how much work and effort you are willing to put into it.

For this career, you need the following -
  • A genuine liking for dogs.
  • A deep interest in working with dogs.
  • The ability to interact with dogs of different breeds, personalities and temperaments.
  • The ability to communicate well with different types of people.
  • The ability to assess a situation and adapt well to it.
  • Reasonably good health.
  • Plenty of patience and self-control.
  • Extensive knowledge of your profession and the willingness to keep learning.
Learning to train dogs:

Most professional dog trainers pick up their knowledge over the years by working with dogs, working with or under other trainers, attending seminars and conferences and reading up on the topic. Many people also enter the profession by volunteering to work with dogs at animal shelters and animal rescue centers.

Still others prefer to take the formal educational route and attend colleges offering Animal Behavior and Psychology Certification programs. These courses offer in depth study of the history of dog training, differences between teaching dogs and teaching other animals, different teaching methods, understanding dog behavior and dog psychology and so on. These lessons can be a good addition to the knowledge you may have picked up working in the field. Besides a certification can be very useful to your business, especially when it comes to attracting clients.

Before enrolling in any school, it is important that you make sure that their certification is legally valid and find out what kind of training methods they promote. It won't be in your interest to join a school without proper accreditation and where they use rough methods with the dogs to enforce commands .

There also seem to be many correspondence online courses, but personally, I don't think this is something you can learn without having an actual dog to work with. And as you are only going to get reading material online, you might as well invest your money into books instead of in a correspondence course.

Training is really about developing better communication channels with the dog and the ultimate aim should be to have a well-behaved pet that respects and trusts the owner. Keep in mind that different dogs have different teaching requirements - this is not a matter of one size fits all - and you must know how to assess a dog's personality and come up with a humane training program that suits that particular animal. I can't emphasize the word 'humane' enough; it's true that some dogs can be quite aggressive and need firm handling, but being harsh with the animal just defeats the whole purpose of training.

Aside from being able to communicate well with the dogs, you must also know how to handle the owners. People get dogs for various reasons:
  • Because they like dogs and always wanted one.
  • Because all the fashionable people have dogs and they want to be fashionable too.
  • Because they want a guard/protection animal.
  • Because they want the ego-kick of having a 'ferocious' animal that scares everyone in the neighborhood.
  • Because they visited the shelter and couldn't resist a particular pair of melting eyes.
And so on. Most of these dog owners may love their dogs alright, but, having little or scant knowledge about dog psychology, tend to attribute them with human characteristics and the result is a 'badly-behaved', or 'problem' dog that can be a nuisance or even a danger to everyone around; anyone who has seen dog bite victims will not scoff at the risk badly trained dogs can pose. But badly behaved or not, the dog is 'ours' and criticism of the pet may often be taken as a personal affront. So you need to be able to point out what they are doing wrong and suggest points of improvement with a good degree of diplomatic tact.

There is no dearth of untrained dogs and dog owners wanting well-behaved dogs, and the profession can be highly interesting as well as highly-paid. How lucrative it can be depends on your experience and past successes, and the effort and time you are willing to invest now. It helps to build up a good network of contacts in the pet industry - veterinarians, dog groomers and so on - who can recommend you and vice versa.

Then you must know how to competently run and manage your dog training business. Read up everything you can on legal, finance and tax issues and, oh yes, don't forget to meet up with your accountant annually.
By Sonal Panse
Published: 3/25/2008
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