I get telephone calls now and then from people who want to volunteer or intern at my training facility. They want to learn how to train dogs. When I explain I do not have volunteers or interns, but I do offer a Trainers Course which will cost them money, they are no longer interested. If you want to learn a trade you have to be willing to sacrifice and pay for the education. Accountants pay to learn accounting and welders pay to go to trade schools. If you want the knowledge in my head that has taken me 30 years to accumulate, you have to pay for it, simple as that.
I was in police canine services for 21 years. I worked a lot of overtime and I made a good living. When I retired from policing I wanted to open a commercial kennel and train dogs. I prepared for my dream by paying my dues. I got a job working weekends at a veterinary hospital caring for the dogs that was in for boarding and recovery. Kennel helper is a minimum wage job. I didn’t do it for the money; I did it for the experience. I worked the night shift until 7am and then drove to the kennel to care for dogs. I learned how they ran their kennel operation and I took care of a lot of dogs which in turn taught me about dog behavior. So if you want to be a dog trainer get a job at a kennel, humane society, or veterinary office. The more dogs you work with the better you will be at reading their language. If you do not speak dog you will not be able to train them. The great dog trainers are experts at reading dog cues and communicating with dogs.
There is no law that requires a certification to be a dog trainer. Anyone can advertise they are a dog trainer. So, that should tell you there are a lot of people out there that have no business being dog trainers. I recently was speaking with a dog owner who was referred to me by another dog trainer. She stated the dog trainer said I was a behaviorist. Here is a perfect example of someone who probably should not be training dogs. I know there is not any animal behaviorist in my area except for Detroit which is on the other side of the state. The first step of becoming an animal behaviorist is a Master’s Degree from a University and from there a Doctorate Degree. So if someone claims to be a behaviorist, ask them if they have Doctorate Degree. Many dog trainers may claim to be dog behaviorist but are not, it’s false advertising to get your business. I am not a dog behaviorist.
There are online courses, two week workshops, books and DVD’s teaching people how to be dog trainers. I have read books and watched DVD’s and they do not work. You have to have hands on experience training and working with dogs. When I was a police canine officer I had the perfect opportunity to travel and learn from other professional dog trainers. I have spent my own money traveling and paying dog trainers to teach their expertise in dog training. The more seminars to go to the better you will be.
Patience is another key to being a good dog trainer. If you have anger management issues or a short fuse pick another profession. People are not going to refer customers to you if you are rough with their dog or treat the human part of the team in a demeaning way. I have found my business is growing by referrals. I do advertise but a well-trained dog and a satisfied customer is the best advertising you can get and it costs nothing.
So if you want to me a dog trainer get yourself a job as a kennel helper, vet tech, or doggie day care wrangler. Pay someone to teach you their way of training dogs. Try to find a job training dogs. If you have no experience training dogs you will have difficulty. When I am hiring I look for people that have experience working with dogs. I also look for personality. Are they positive people with good communication skills? If you are not good with the public I don’t want you working for me. That’s part of the gig; you must be good with the public.
I do promote from within as well. If an employee is good handling and reading dog behavior I promote them to assistant trainer. Another source I have used is past clients. My current trainer was a client. He trained with me for about a year and he’s compassionate about training. He did a great job with his dog; he’s professional and great with the public. He was retired and I needed to hire someone. It was a great fit.
If you are serious about training dogs professionally, be prepared to spend money. I have paid Cesar Milan, Robin MacFarlane, Oakland Police Academy, SitMeansSit, ATF and attended training seminars in Florida, Chicago, Ohio, and Michigan. If you are passionate and willing to work hard it can be a rewarding career. To succeed you have to be nice and get results. To get results you have to pay your dues.