Throughout my career, one of the questions I’ve been asked most frequently is “how do I become a dog trainer?” followed by “how do I get certified?”
How to be a dog trainer?
The answer to the question of how to become a trainer is not clear. Each country has its own regulations and requirements. Generally, however, in each country, the choice of training is left to the student, while the exams for the start of the profession are standardized. This means that a large part of the training of dog trainers is left to private bodies and associations.
The end result of this situation is a myriad of training paths, each one teaching its own methodology and each one with different duration and costs. A plurality of methods necessarily corresponds to a plurality of training paths.
By choice in this article I will not mention any association, body, or institute that offers training and accreditation paths: I will limit myself to giving you some useful suggestions to make a considered and objective choice.
Learn to be a dog trainer
I have chosen to combine my professional specialization in the dog sector with a solid background of academic skills by graduating first in education sciences and then in psychology. I have therefore chosen to specialize in applied behavioral analysis in the United States. I chose to study behavior from a pedagogical, psychological, and behavioral point of view. This gave me the ability to structure professional training paths and calibrated to the needs of the individual student, human or animal, that I was faced with. Moreover, I have learned to relate to the bipedal component of the binomial with which I find myself interacting and this is a competence that you should not underestimate: you are a dog trainer but do not forget that at the other end of the leash there is a human being!
How to become a professional dog trainer?
What are the degree courses that can help you most in your training to become a dog trainer? In addition to the already mentioned courses in training science, psychology applied behavioral analysis, I certainly suggest ethology, biology, and veterinary medicine. It all depends on the approach you want to adopt and which is the area of greatest interest in the dog trainer sector: if you want to be serious professionals avoid being a generalist at 360 degrees. Choose one or two areas in which you want to specialize and dedicate yourself to those to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
How to become a dog trainer – choose a specialization course
How can you choose a specialization course outside the academic field? First of all, try to evaluate the teachers’ curriculum: is it published in a clear and complete way? Are they people who have acquired demonstrable skills or do they only state years of experience? Does the school you are interested in have a code of ethics and deontology in which you are reflected?
Dog trainer qualification
Usually, the care the school takes in presenting information about its teaching and its teaching staff also reflects the care the school takes in following its pupils and structuring its teaching materials. A confusing path aimed only at practice in the field, in a master pupil relationship, will very often lack theoretical foundations and will hardly be an evidence-based method.
The division of hours between practice and theory is also important. A good training course divides the hours evenly, giving equal importance to theory and practice. A good teacher will build knowledge (theory), know-how (practice), and know-how to be (deontology). The possibility of receiving supervision after the training course to help you start your profession should be an added value for the choice of the course. This will help you become a professional dog trainer.
Evaluate the number of hours and the amount of feedback you can receive from the teacher: a 200-hour course in a 30-student class will tend to be less effective than a 200-hour online course where the student receives daily feedback from the teacher on each exercise done with the dog. You can find professional courses at https://tromplo.com/
The way in which the student’s evaluation is carried out is also to be kept in mind when choosing a training course: I prefer those courses in which there are intermediate evaluations and self-evaluations by the student compared to those very long courses in which only an exam is taken at the end of the course.
And remember: the student in the training course is an active part. You are part of your training try to address to those teachers who make you feel like primary actors and who stimulate your passion and your curiosity. Don’t limit yourselves to a mere transmission of information: that’s what books are for!