By understanding how their dogs think and learn, pet owners can be trained to effectively communicate with them. Dog trainers teach people these skills. Dog trainers who use positive training techniques, such as food, play, attention, or praise, and educate people about dog behavior and care, help enhance the bond between dog and owner and allow responsible pet owners to safely and humanely control their dog's behavior.
Apprenticing to a professional dog trainer is one way to gain experience as a dog trainer. It is important to choose a qualified trainer who uses humane methods and equipment. Enrolling in a dog-training academy is another, less recommended, way.
College courses in psychology, teaching, animal behavior, animal science, or veterinary technology may be helpful.
There are many humane training techniques, but there is no standardized training or licensing of dog trainers. Both the Delta Society and American Humane have published guidelines for humane dog training, which are available to the public. The Guide to Humane Dog Training manual can be ordered through AH. The Delta Society's book, Professional Standards for Dog Trainers can be ordered for a fee via phone at 425-226-7357or viewed for free on their Web site.
Other ways to learn about dog training and behavior include: attending seminars, workshops, and conferences; reading current dog training books and magazines; attending training classes as a spectator; and joining professional dog trainer associations to network. It generally takes 3-5 years of study and hands-on dog training and handling to become a good novice trainer, and keeping current on new knowledge in dog training and behavior is an on-going pursuit.
Dog trainers may teach owners how to have their dog achieve desirable behaviors, such as walking on a leash or coming when called, as well as how to discourage undesirable common behaviors, such as jumping on people or digging in the garden. They may help owners solve more complex behavioral problems. They may advise potential pet owners on selecting a dog that matches their lifestyle and care expectations, encourage people to adopt their dog from an animal shelter, and recommend spaying or neutering their pets to help them live longer, healthier lives, and make better, more affectionate companions. Dog trainers can promote compliance with local licensing and leash laws and advise pet owners about the importance of proper veterinary care.
Dog trainers may give individual instruction to pet owners and teach group training classes. They may be self-employed or conduct classes for adult education centers, community animal welfare agencies, and boarding kennels. Training classes are frequently conducted on Saturdays and during evening hours. A dog trainer, who enjoys writing or public speaking, may want to present seminars, write articles and books, or produce dog training videos.
Dogs are social animals, and those who are allowed to interact with other dogs and people, and taught appropriate behavior, are better behaved and more likely to be included in other activities with human companions. Dogs who do not receive proper training and socialization may become victims of neglect - spending excessive periods of time alone in "training" crates or yards. Dogs with behavior problems, many of which are avoidable and resolvable, are often given away by their owners to animal shelters.
If a career training dogs and people appeals to you, you can gain valuable insight and experience by volunteering at the local animal shelter's dog training classes. Trained volunteers may even teach shelter dogs basic skills to improve their chances of being adopted and remaining in life-long homes. Contact the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) and the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (NADOI) for more information about a career in dog training. You will find their contact information on the Professional Organizations & Associations page of this web site.