3 Steps for Becoming a Dog Trainer

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3 Steps for Becoming a Dog Trainer

by Rodrigo Trigosso

-- Step # 1: Don't miss the theoretical framework --

Get some dog training books, videos and magazines to deepen your knowledge. Reading some books and watching some videos is a must, even if you are thinking to enroll in a training school. But be careful with what you read and watch. There are many bad books and videos on dog training.

After reading at least two or three books, and watching at least one video, decide on the best way to get practical skills for becoming a dog trainer. A good first step is to attend to dog training seminars and conferences. You are not going to get any handling skill in a dog training seminar, but you will be able to watch, ask and discuss some issues.

Since it is very unlikely that you learn all you need just by attending seminars and conferences, you also need to get hands-on experience.

-- Step # 2: Get hands-on experience --

To get hands-on experience, you may assist to a school for dog trainers in order to take a complete course. Of course, this option is only available if there's at least one dog trainer's school in your area. But be careful to choose a good school... not every training school is good.

On the other hand, if you have a degree on a related area (veterinary, biology, psychology, zoology, etc.) you could think to attend to a graduate program in animal behavior or experimental psychology. Just look for a program that provides hands-on experience, not only research experience (unless you're looking for a scientist career, of course).

There are also some college programs that offer undergraduate studies on animal behavior. These college programs may be a good choice if they offer hands-on experience.

What if you can't find a dog trainers' school or college/university program in your area? How can you become a dog trainer? Well, look for a canine club and enroll to practice any dog sport (schutzhund, agility, freestyle, etc.). This is a great way to get hands-on experience while you learn from experienced trainers. Of course, you are only going to train your dog, but you will learn a lot from the other trainers.

And what if you can't find a canine club in your area? Ok, there are some options to become a dog trainer under such circumstances:

- Volunteer at an animal shelter and go through the self-learning way. Volunteering is not going to provide you training skills, but it will help you to understand dog behavior and to gain experience with dogs. Moreover, you will be in contact with more experienced volunteers (not trainers) and handling dogs with several personalities (including many aggressive non-socialized dogs).

- Become the apprentice of an experienced dog trainer. This might be the best way to gain hands-on experience and become a dog trainer... if you are lucky to find a good professional trainer. This could be even better than attending schools for dog trainers.

- Hire a certified dog trainer to teach you. Hiring a professional dog trainer is a good option if you can't find a good trainer who gives you the chance to be his apprentice. It is also a good option if you don't have enough time to work as an apprentice or a volunteer. While this is not the best way to become a dog trainer, it is better than nothing.

- Take some distance courses on dog training and animal behavior. This should be your last choice because it is not a good one. You are not going to gain any hands-on skill through a distance course. Therefore, a distance course is not useful if you can't find the way to gain hands-on experience. However, a distance course can be a useful guide while you are volunteering at animal shelters or learning a dog sport (schutzhund, agility, etc.).

Besides the learning way you choose, keep updated in dog training techniques. Read a lot of books (not only the first three you bought), watch several videos and subscribe to dog training magazines. Moreover, study about animal training and behavior.

-- Step # 3: Get involved with dog people --

Get involved in canine activities and talk with vets, breeders, handlers, certified dog trainers, behaviorists, etc. You will learn a lot from these people. While they are not going to teach anything about dog training (with the obvious exception of trainers) you are going to learn a lot about dog care, health and nutrition. In addition, these people may be the perfect match to promote your future job.

Rodrigo Trigosso is a biologist and professional dog trainer. To learn more about how to become a dog trainer, visit his website, the Dog Training Tutorial, which provides objective and reliable information on dog training and behavior.

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