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Becoming a Dog Trainer

By David13676 @dogspired

Becoming a dog trainerIt usually starts with a dog. For me that dog was Juno, an unruly, biting, chewing, pulling, Golden Retriever puppy. My vet told me I needed to get into a training class with her right away, or she’d “walk all over me.” I did get into a class, several in fact. And, it turns out, Juno ended up running my life anyway.

Some of us just get hooked – on the dog, on the learning, on the fun – on all of it. If you’re already hooked, and you’re thinking about becoming a professional dog trainer, here are some guidelines.

Learn about learning; and keep learning more. There is good solid science behind how all animals learn (even human animals). Dog trainers today have to know that science backwards and forwards. You can’t make it in the market these days if you don’t know your stuff. But, don’t be scared off by the word “science.” If you’re already into training you’re going to love it. It’s like opening up a box and discovering how your dog thinks, and makes decisions, and learns to make better choices. Amazing stuff!

Trainers train. Book learning is great, and super important. But there’s no substitute for putting your knowledge in action. Get out there and work with a dog – lots of dogs. Start with your own. That’s what I did.

Work with a mentor. Good dog training is about sharp timing and well-practiced mechanical skills. It always helps to have an experienced trainer watch you train. Don’t be embarrassed. We all started somewhere. Mentors are also excellent people to talk about dogs with (your friends are probably getting tired of it). Who better to help you fine-tune your scientific knowledge (it’s called Learning Theory) and your practical skills?

Start teaching. The best way to solidify learning is to teach. Share your new knowledge and skills with others. How about starting out by working with some rescue dogs? Help your friend train his dog. Work with your mom and her dog. Don’t keep all the magic to yourself. Professional dog trainers teach people (that’s most of what we do), and you need to get good at it. Practice. And remember this: be kind to the people you are teaching (as kind as you are to dogs). Be patient. Repeat the lessons and show them over and over again how to get it right. You didn’t learn all this training stuff in a day either.

For me it started with a Golden Retriever Puppy. Juno changed my life, that’s for sure. Of course, she was just the beginning. I learned about the well-tested science of learning from the amazing dog training educators at the San Francisco SPCA Academy for Dog Trainers. And I’ve kept studying, and practicing, and teaching others. Now, I’m working with one of my mentors from the Academy to develop other trainers, people as excited about being a dog trainer as I am. It’s the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done.

Juno’s long since gone, but her picture is still hangs in my office. It all started with a dog, just like it does for most of us trainers. We make great teams – people and dogs. Sometimes it seems like no adventure is too challenging. Dream. Learn. Practice. Teach.

Change the World.


Michael Baugh CDBC, CPDT-KSA teaches dog training in Houston and Katy, TX. He also teaches people interested in becoming a dog trainer through the Dog Training Internship Academy.

~ Courtesy of Houston Chronicle

Tags: dog careers, dog jobs, dog training, working with dogs

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