Advice for becoming a dog trainer

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A long term dog owner looking for a career change, ask for advice on becoming a dog trainer.

Q: I’m a 35-year-old long-term dog owner who’s looking to have a career change. I’m currently exploring the possibility of becoming a dog trainer.

I have owned dogs since I was 14 years old, many of them rescues. I’ve also owned multiple dogs (three and even four at a time) during the past few years. I have attended training classes with all my dogs and taken part in some sports and activities, although only for fun. Do you have any tips or advice?

Christine Healey, Shropshire.

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Tony says: You have certainly had the experience of co-existing with dogs and managing them, but it is important to understand that there is a whole science that goes hand-in-hand with this. Some study is necessary to understand canine behaviour (the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’).  Topics such as motivation, genetic behaviour, and conditioning are essential to help develop and often change the behaviour of a pet dog (not forgetting the other species, the owner)!

Dog training is currently an unregulated business. Consequently, there are some training organisations and methods that are not always up-to-date and positive. I recommend two organisations, which provide direction and courses: The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) and the Institute of Modern Dog Trainers (IMDT). Both can offer advice, and provide the up-to-date, evidence-based knowledge required.

To add to your practical skills, why not volunteer at your local rescue kennels? Walking all kinds of dogs, from excited to lethargic, can give further handling experience, which when paired with the science, will help make you a great dog trainer. Good luck and have fun!