We have all heard of dog trainers and that they help our canine friends be more obedient. Some of us have even thought about becoming a trainer since it is a very rewarding career. There are a lot of things a dog trainer goes through that we are not aware of. Today we will take a look at ten things to know about dog trainers.
- A Dog Trainer’s Job Can Be Dangerous
- They Learn From Other Trainers
- They Have Specialties
- Their Dogs Can Have Behavior Challenges Too
- Dog Trainers Put Treats In Their Mouth
- The Work With People Quite A Bit
- Dog Trainers Are Self Employed
- Dog Trainers Use Clicker Training
- They Treat Each Dog Individually
- No One Day Is The Same
Let us take a dive into each of these.
A dog trainer’s job can be dangerous:
On TV, it often seems like a dog trainer shows up on the scene, takes a few minutes with the “problem” dog, and voila! An obedient pup who does everything that the dog trainer asks them to do.
The reality is that often dog training can be time-consuming, and frankly, dangerous. Dogs have teeth and sharp nails, and when they are untrained or have behavior issues, they can do some serious damage.
It can take weeks, months, or even years to train a dog with severe issues. And in that time, a dog trainer can be risking injury. A dog trainer can be bitten, scratched, head-butted, or even just knocked over. Most dog trainers have some war stories and some war wounds!
Learn from other trainers:
Dog trainers are always looking for ways to grow their knowledge about their profession and about dogs. One way to do that is to pay attention to what other trainers are doing in the field.
They might share information in online groups or on a casual coffee meet up. Or, they will read books written by other trainers, like Zak George’s new book. Some aspiring dog trainers apprentice under more experienced ones to build their experience.
Finally, they can achieve professional certifications through national accrediting bodies, taking courses to develop their knowledge even further.
Like any other professional, a good dog trainer always wants to know more to help dogs even more effectively.
They have specialties:
There are several different types of dog trainers out there! To begin with, there are General Obedience dog trainers, who you might see, leading a puppy class down at your local pet store.
There are agility trainers who teach individual dogs to run agility courses successfully, and even become champions! Agility courses allow high energy dogs to have a focus and outlet for their energy. These courses also give them time bond with their owners who act as their handlers on the agility course.
Or, some dog trainers choose to work with hunting dogs or with sheep herding dogs.
And finally, service trainers teach dogs how to become service animals for people who need assistance with disabilities.
Service trainers often train dogs to work with military or law enforcement, like drug-sniffing dogs. Which kind of dog trainer would you want to be?
Their dogs can have behavior challenges too:
Often, dog trainers, encounter challenging dogs that other people may have given up on. As committed dog lovers, trainers can have a hard time turning their back on dogs who need their help to learn how to co-exist with people and other creatures.
This is how often dog trainers end up having some of the most challenging dogs around as their beloved pets. Fortunately, a dog trainer usually has the skills to help a struggling canine, and if they don’t know what to do, they have the interest and the resources to find out the information they need.
Dog trainers also know to be able to maintain a strict at-home training regimen with a dog who needs structure and routine to succeed. But don’t expect perfection! Dog trainers are humans too, and their dogs aren’t angels.
Dog trainers put treats in their mouths:
It’s true. And it’s not as gross as it sounds, once you consider that a lot of dog trainers use people food like cheese, cooked steak, sausage, or hotdogs. Why do dog trainers do that?
Because by holding the treat in their mouth, the dog focuses on their face, specifically their mouth, and not their hands. The dog learns to look at their face for instructions in a positive manner. And when the dog has completed the requested task, they will look at their face again for positive reinforcement.
See? Not as gross as you thought! Maybe parents should try holding treats in their mouths for their kids when they ask them to clean their rooms.
They work quite a bit with people:
Dog trainers are skilled in working with dogs, it’s true. But a surprising amount of their work is based on working with people. Often, when a family calls a dog trainer because of behavioral concerns about their dog, the issues are rooted in things that are happening at home.
The dog trainer has to get to know the family, understand what is triggering the dog, and how it can help improve the dog’s behavior. Then the dog trainer also has to train the people! They work with the family to have clear rules and directions for the dog at home.
Sometimes, even if there isn’t an exact issue at home, and the dog needs some basic training, a dog trainer ends up supporting the humans, who are worried about their dog!
Humans love dogs, so when they need training, their owners can get apprehensive about it and need someone to discuss how it works. Dog trainers are great at explaining their training techniques that put the dog owner at ease.
Dog trainers are self-employed:
Most dog trainers own their businesses and shoulder the heavy burden of working for themselves. They aren’t just dealing with the challenge of training dogs and communicating with their owners, which is a heavy responsibility in itself.
They handle marketing requirements, sometimes staffing issues, space rental, licensing needs, finding affordable insurance, community networking, and accounting. Sadly, often people expect a dog trainer to give them some “tips” for free, or offer them a discount on training sessions.
Dog trainers make a living from what they do, and asking them for free advice or time is the same as asking your doctor to do that and not bill you. Would you do that? I didn’t think so!
Dog trainers like to use clicker training:
A good dog trainer focuses on positive training methods. And one way to support that positive dog training is to use clicker training.
What is a clicker? A clicker is a small mechanical noisemaker held in the trainer’s hand during training sessions. It’s essentially a sound training tool that is especially helpful for hearing-impaired dogs but works for all kinds of other dogs as well.
Essentially, the dog trainer clicks the noisemaker at the exact same moment that the dog does what they have asked to do. To give an example, if the trainer asked the dog to lie down, they would click the second that the dogs’ belly hit the floor.
The trainer will then present the dog with a treat while the dog is still lying down. The idea is for the dog to associate hearing the clicker with receiving a yummy treat!
A clicker makes training fun for the dog because they know precisely when they have done something right, and they look forward to the treat. Clicker training also adds a new level of challenge to training for intelligent dogs.
Each dog is treated individually:
Sometimes, it might seem that all a dog trainer needs to do is learn a few tricks, and they can train any dog in the same way. That is the opposite of how a good dog trainer functions!
To ensure a successful training opportunity, every dog has to be assessed individually and trained in a way that works for them, their size, their breed, and how they react to triggers and their environment.
A dog trainer needs to get to know the dog and understand what will work for them before they can implement a training plan for them. Every dog has a unique history and personality quirks, just like people.
A psychologist couldn’t help every human patient in the same way – a dog trainer needs to treat their trainees with the same kind of individual touch.
No one day is the same as the next:
The life of a dog trainer is unpredictable and varied. They can work at a client’s home, at a park, or a training center. They might be working with large dogs or small dogs, scared dogs, or happy dogs.
A trainer could be taking a training course, or even teaching one themselves. Some dog trainers run evening or weekend classes; others only work during the week. A dog trainer must be flexible, and they also benefit from having that flexibility since they set their hours.
Some dog trainers start doing it as a side gig, along with a full-time job. As their clientele and experience grow, they can transition into training full-time.
There you have it. Ten things that dog trainers do. We hope this article gave you a little look into the life of a dog trainer. They are very dedicated to training dogs and have a soft spot for every dog they come across, that they even take in dogs that people have given up on.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is being a dog trainer a good career?
Dog training can be a fun and very rewarding career. This career is best for people that love dogs, not for ones that are just looking for the money.
Being in this type of career gets you up close and personal working with dogs and helping them be the best dog they can be. No one day will be the same as the previous so there will be something new to look forward to every day.
Is being a dog trainer hard?
Being a dog trainer takes a lot of patience, and lots of hard-working hours as mastering dog training will not happen overnight.
The pay may not be so great at the beginning, but you will be learning, and taking courses so that you can charge more once you get your certifications.