THINKING OF BECOMING A DOG TRAINER?
© Maggie Blutreich, CPDT
Over the years I have received countless inquiries from folks interested in becoming professional dog trainers. Some are involved in dog sports; others simply have a love for dogs or feel training dogs would be enjoyable or even lucrative. In these tough economic times when trying "something new" is appealing to many, I try to explain that an investment of both time and money in solid education is necessary. After all, one doesn't become an auto specialist by picking up a wrench. Sought after chefs have more to offer than a nice new set of pots. Attending educational seminars and putting together a good personal library for study can be first steps.
Just about everyone you meet will offer you advice on dog training. We may think we know all about dogs and enjoy TV nature programs offering us (sometimes questionable) information on canines, but there is no substitute for actual study -- good, old fashioned book learning. Here are just a few suggestions:
__Evolution of Canine Social Behavior__ by Roger Abrantes offers a detailed study of the evolution of canine social behavior and the various aspects involved in the development of single social behavior patterns.
__Dog Language: An Encyclopedia of Canine Behavior__ also by Roger Abrantes, seeks to explain why dogs do what they do and how we can express ourselves so dogs can understand us better.
__Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training__ (volume one) is Steven Lindsay's comprehensive introduction to the basic applied and scientific literature underlying effective treatment and training programs. Lindsay describes theoretical issues that impact learning and training in dogs in a clear readable style that's only a tad technical.
Lindsay's __Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training: Etiology and Assessment__ (volume two) covers behavioral assessment, fears and phobias, attachment, separation, aggressive behavior; territorial and social aggression, and more in an easy-to-read, informative style. Lindsay's third volume in this series is __Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training: Procedures and Protocols__.
__Dog: Behavior, Evolution and Cognition__ by Adam Miklosi is another must have. All the above titles are available from Amazon as well as www.dogwise.com.
Any dog trainer who doesn't know a Landseer from a Lowchen or mistakes a Bichon for a Beauceron can probably train all four to sit, but s/he won't be taken seriously by either clients or peers. In addition to attending as many dog shows as possible to learn about the various breeds and varieties recognized in this country there are a countless books and videos available, both breed specific and general. For example, how much do we all know about Plott Hounds, the state dog of North Carolina?
Perhaps the best single inclusive title is __The International Encyclopedia of Dogs__, edited by Anne Rogers Clark and Andrew H. Brace, published in 1995 by Howell Book House. This stunning collection presents every breed currently recognized by the American Kennel Club, the Canadian Kennel Club, the Kennel Club (Britain) and the Federation Cynologique Internationale.
Visit the American Kennel Club site at www.akc.org for general breed knowledge and contact information. You can obtain in-depth information from each breed's parent club secretary. To attend local events; visit www.pkc.org.
Become familiar with dog shows and sporting events in any area using a site like www.infodog.com for dates and locations.
No business can succeed without clients and credibility. Also from www.dogwise.com is __So, You Want to Be a Dog Trainer__ from my colleague, Nicole Wilde, which offers step-by-step advice for any aspiring dog trainer . What is it really like to work with dogs? and their owners? can you actually make a living training dogs? How to build your confidence, advertise, employ personal safety procedures and more.
You may be the greatest dog trainer around, but your people skills come first. Nicole Wilde reminds us with __It's Not the Dogs; It's the People!__ that you can "train" your human clients. She helps us learn to handle difficult personality types, from Argumentative Al to Bland Betty.
*JOIN THE PROFESSIONALS
The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (www.apdt.com) is a professional organization of individual trainers who are committed to becoming better trainers through education. APDT was founded in 1993 by Ian Dunbar DVM, Ph.D. The award-winning magazine, __Chronicle of the Dog__, is worth the membership fee. APDT is primarily an educational organization which encourages its members to make use of training methods that use the well researched techniques reinforcement and rewards, not intimidation or punishment, to achieve desired behavior.
*TRAIN YOUR OWN DOG
While that may seem obvious, I've received inquiries from folks who aspire to be dog trainers, but have never owned a dog. I encourage them to acquire a dog of their own or, if circumstances prevent that, they can train a friend or relative's dog to, at the very least, pass the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizenship Evaluation.
*GAIN HANDS-ON EXPERIENCE
If you know someone who trains professionally, you might enroll in that class and later ask to be taken on as an apprentice. These situations differ. At times the apprentice is expected to pay the trainer for the learning experience. Other situations involve the apprentice being paid a nominal sum for assisting.
Volunteering at your local shelter is almost always a win/win situation. The aspiring trainer gains experience; the dogs receive extra attention. Drop in at your local shelter to learn whether volunteers are needed.
The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers is an independent, international testing and certification program for professional dog trainers. The CCPDT certification program is based on humane training practices and the latest scientific knowledge related to dog training. Competence and continued growth in training practices are promoted through continuing certification of qualified professionals. (www.ccpdt.org)
*CONTINUE TO LEARN
Keep up with behavior science developments and literature on all fronts. Continue to build your library of books and DVD's. Most importantly, always remember that each dog you meet, each canine-human combination will have something to teach you. Training is a lot like landing an airplane. The end result depends on the approach!
See you at the dog shows; see you at the shelters!
Maggie Blutreich, lives just outside Charlotte, NC, is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, charter, professional member #30 of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, an American Kennel Club Canine Ambassador and Public Education Coordinator.