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How to Become a Dog Trainer
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The biggest get-togethers for dog trainers — and anyone interested in dog training — are ClickerExpo (clicker expo.com) and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers conference (apdt.com). ClickerExpo is held twice each year at various locations across the country and features three days of speakers as well as hands-on “learning labs” (yes, you can bring your well-behaved dog!). The APDT conference takes place annually in a different city, lasts five days and features many of the top trainers and researchers in the field.

 

There are also numerous smaller workshops and seminars held all over the world every month of the year. Positively Trained and PuppyWorks are two companies that organize and host educational events for professional as well as amateur trainers. The Yahoo! list “DogSeminars” is a great resource for finding seminars in your area.

 

Lesson Five: Make your own path

And then there are the approximately bazillion other routes one might take to become a professional dog trainer. Laura Monaco Torelli, Director of Training at Animal Behavior Training Concepts in Chicago, Ill., began her career with marine mammals in Ken Ramirez’s trainer program at the Shedd Aquarium and went on to work with zoo animals before becoming a dog trainer. Kristen VanNess, owner of A-Frame of Mind Dog Training in Granville, Ohio, learned to train dogs first as a 4-H club member, which led her to become more involved in dog projects as a 4-H advisor and eventually to co-found a 4-H kid-and-dog camp, Ohio 4-H Teen Dog Experience.

 

Lesson Six: Get credentialed

It’s a commonly lamented fact that anyone, at any time, can hang out a shingle declaring him- or herself a dog trainer, with nothing more invested in their services than a business card — and even that isn’t essential. But while it’s true that there is no government regulation of dog trainers in the United States, there are a number of organizations through which you can earn credentials. The most common is the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, which offers the Certified Professional Dog Trainer — Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) certification (ccpdt.org). Earning a CPDT-KA isn’t a cakewalk, but you’ll learn a lot along the way and your clients will understand that you are committed to a high level of learning.

 

Lesson Seven: Get in business

So, you’ve chosen your path, you’ve learned all there is to learn about training dogs (yeah, right!), and now you’re wondering, “How do I start, let alone run, a business?” Fortunately, Veronica Boutelle, former director of the SF/ SPCA Behavior and Training Department and author of How to Run a Dog Business, recognized a need among dog trainers, and founded dogTEC, providing business consulting services to dog professionals (dogtec.org).

 

It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together. If training dogs professionally interests you but you’re not sure about making the transition from whatever you’re doing now, take just one simple step toward your goal, and then take another: Read a book. Watch a DVD. Complete a class. If the bug catches you, you’ll know it, and you won’t be able to stop the momentum. And whatever you do, even after you’ve been training dogs for 30 years, don’t stop learning and improving your training skills. You can never know too much about dogs, and the world and its dogs need as many great trainers as they can get. 

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This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 62: Nov/Dec 2010
Kay Elliott is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner and owner of Handful of Hounds. She lives with two rambunctious rescued Rottweilers in Petaluma, Calif. handfulofhounds.com
CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Tug Dogs | May 1 2011 |

There are a rare few great schools in North America where you can learn how to become a successful dog trainer.

One of the best is Tug Dogs in Northern California. Visit www.teachtraintug.com to learn about the instructors, curricula, and program details!

Submitted by Bill Stavers | November 27 2011 |

Thanks for providing this information.
I can also recommend How Dogs Learn, New York, NY: Howell Book House, 1999, by Mary Burch, Ph.D., and Jon Bailey, Ph.D. They explain operant conditioning in accessible language to help dog owners solve canine problems and dog trainers improve their proficiency.
They also discuss punishment in rational terms and review the use of punishment over the past 50 years. In fact, they dedicate an entire six page chapter to overview to punishment.
As Bob Bailey is famous for saying: "Dog training is simple, but its not easy." Wrapping one's head around learning theory takes time and concentration; How Dogs Learn presents the essential elements in an articulate and readable manner. Highly recommended.
Thanks,
Bill Stavers
stavers@gmail.com
http://www.billstavers.com

Submitted by Caryl Wolff | August 19 2013 |

Nice article! The book that I recommend to all my clients is The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell. It really makes us look at how we act around dogs because what we intend and how they interpret what we do are oftentimes very different.

Caryl Wolff
http://www.DoggieManners.com

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