How Do I Become a Dog Trainer and Obedience Instructor?
by Peggy Prudden

It takes years of hands-on experience to become a good dog trainer. Most of us began by training our own dog(s) at a local breed or obedience club that offered obedience classes, or with independent instructors.

As we became more experienced, we earned AKC (or UKC) titles on our dogs. Often we began acting as assistants to beginner, or basic, classes and then moved up to become full-charge instructors. As our experience broadened, we progressed to instructing Novice, Open, Utility, Puppy, and Tracking classes. (In clubs, these are not necessarily paid positions.)

We read as many books about dog training and behavior as possible and attend as many seminars on these subjects as we can afford in time and funds. We never stop learning!

It is important to gain as much experience with as many breeds as one can. This exposure gives insight into many breeds and temperaments.

Training methods used to be very harsh and there were not many books on the subject. Now, there are studies about the nature of dogs, their behavior, and many theories on how to train them. Some recent books are about training for achieving high scores in obedience trials, so an instructor should know about them. But 96% of people who bring dogs to an obedience class only want a wonderfully obedient companion dog, which means we must be knowledgeable about solving dog/owner problems.

People write us about commercial dog training schools, asking how much they cost, how long the courses are and about tuition and housing. We do not endorse schools, partly because we do not have staff to investigate them, and partly because many do not stay in existence very long.

You will note in our brochure, we endorse individual dog obedience instructors. We have definite criteria. Anyone can call himself/herself a dog trainer, but not all dog trainers meet our instructor criteria.

To be a good dog trainer one must be physically fit, goal oriented, self-starting, and love dogs. It takes a lot of stamina, patience, understanding, insight, common sense, and fortitude to dedicate one’s life to training dogs.

It takes even more to become a good dog obedience instructor. An instructor must like and get along well with people, be a good listener, and know how to teach and motivate people of all ages and abilities.

Unless one is wealthy, independent dog obedience instructing can be a financially draining profession. Most dog-owners work during the day; therefore, classes take place on weekday evenings and on weekends (usually Saturdays). Training space is hard to find; not many landlords consider dogs attractive tenants. (Free space is rare.) Besides rent, there are insurance, advertising, and utility bills to pay. Teaching three hours each weeknight does not always put food on the table. Also, the work is seasonal. DON'T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB!

Dog Training Book/Video Sources:
The Public library; training equipment catalogs; pet supply catalogs; Dogwise (a Direct Book Service Inc. Company) 1-800-776-2665.

Monthly Obedience Publications:
FRONT AND FINISH, PO Box 333, Galesburg, IL 61402-0333. Contains regional columns, seminar and event ads, and major competition results.

Other Publications and Associations of Interest:
Animal Trainers Forum, PO Box 364, West Sand Lake, NY 12196

The Clicker Journal, Leesburg, VA - Ph 703-777-2277

Clean Run (Agility magazine), 35 Walnut St, Turner Falls, MA 01376

APDT (Association of Pet Dog Trainers), PO Box 385, Davis, CA 95617

IACP (International Association of Canine Professionals), P.O.Box 560156, Montverde, FL 34756-0156

No one can teach you how to train a dog; they can only teach you how they train a dog. Not all methods will be compatible with your aptitudes, attitudes, or sensibilities. Not all dogs learn by the same method. We pick up many ideas from people, books, tapes, and experience. We develop our ‘own’ methods – the ones that work best for us. But we need to know backup methods for the dog that doesn’t learn by "our" method. Keep an open mind, and never stop LEARNING!


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Copyright 2003 National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors, Inc.

Last modified: January 05, 2012
EDITED" s-format="%B %d, %Y" startspan -->January 05, 2012