With an estimated 89 million dogs living in United States households alone, it's easy to see the need for professional dog trainers. Our beloved family pets, police dogs, service dogs, security dogs and even show dogs all benefit from training. Not only do the dogs benefit from training but the owners do as well. Learning how to command ones dog is important for the safety of the dog and those around the dog. Essentially as a dog trainer you are not only working with the animals but the human owners too by guiding them through the obedience training.
To date there are no state or federal requirements to qualify as a professional dog trainer. With only a few dog trainer schools most professional trainers are self-taught. An effective dog trainer will need to be patient with both animals and humans. A trainer must also be able to effectively communicate with both dogs and owners. Regarding the dogs, this communication will be verbal and nonverbal in the form or commands and interaction. Communication to the owners will be to instill consistency in the commands being taught as well as how to respond to the dog's behavior. Teaching just the dog will not be as effective unless the dog owners are following through with the same training practices on their own time.
Training is a process of repetition to change a behavior and this can take time and commitment from both the trainer and owner. A dog trainer may use a specific technique or a variety of training methods to produce the best training results. Training techniques to name just a few may include:
Dominance Training -In short this is the thought that dogs think and operate in a pack mentality. The alpha dog is the leader and all others follow behind. In a human to dog relationship this means the owner(s) should be the alpha leader. This method has been taught for many years but has recently been thought to actually create more anxiety and stress for the dog.
Positive Reinforcement -This dog training method works on the principal that you positively reward your dog when they follow commands or behave correctly. The positive reinforcement should come immediately following the dogs correct reaction. Rewards can be in the form of treats, praise, play time, petting or access to a toy.
Click Training -Click training for dogs is a form of positive reinforcement. This method uses a clicking device that is clicked when the dog performs the correct response or action. The dog will ideally over time make the connection of the clicker to good behavior. As with positive reinforcement the click should happen immediately after the dog has responded or acted accordingly. Rewards such as small treats, petting or play time can also follow the click for good behavior by the dog.
While the techniques listed above are just a few methods of training there are other professional training methods. A good trainer will also learn to identify if a specific method is not effective and will use a combination of training methods to accomplish the desired goal. Just as important on training correct behavior, learning how to correct bad behavior in a dog is key to proper dog training.
As mentioned above there is no requirements for certification or licensing to become a dog trainer. Although a dedicated professional dog trainer should work to continue their own education. A good place to start is by reading books related to animal behavior science. A thorough understanding of animal learning patterns, effects of positive and negative reinforcement in training, habitat conditions and dominance are great topics to explore.
Next consider working as an assistant dog trainer or ask to be an apprentice to a professional trainer. Hands on experience with the guidance of a professional dog trainer will provide for an excellent learning opportunity. Other options include working at your local animal shelter or veterinary clinic where you can both interact with the animals but also observe how other professionals handle dogs.
While there may not be any specific regulations to become a dog trainer, your employer may have such requirements. Some dog training jobs may require that you have completed the CCPCD or ADPT course. Bear in mind that these courses do not provide dog training certification but rather certify you have completed their training course. The benefits of these types of courses provide the trainer with additional animal and general business education related to the dog training field. Equally important would be continued higher education in an animal science field and ethology. Learning interpersonal communication skills and teaching techniques will all benefit an individual seeking a career as a dog trainer.
According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook the estimated national average income for an animal trainer is $23k per year. This is not specific to dog trainers but animal training as a whole. This field of work is also anticipated to continue to grow at a faster than average rate of 22% compared to other jobs and their average expected growth rate. Job opportunities will typically be in higher demand in more densely populated areas.
Providing dog training services is a well rewarding career. You are helping owners to learn to live with their animal companions so that both dog and human mutually benefit. In addition as a trainer you are not limited to working for a company that provides dog training. With some experience and a well-established network in the animal community, you can also start your own dog training company allowing you to further expand your career path and impart your knowledge to beginning trainers.