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Becoming a Licensed Dog Trainer

Majors Overview December 20, 2012

Pre-requisites of a Dog Trainer

Whenever you are impressed by the sight of a bomb-sniffing dog, rescue dog, or guide dog at work, remember to give credit to the professional dog trainer who accomplished this feat by developing the dog’s skills. Owners of family pets, race dogs and hunting dogs rely on professional dog trainers to train their pets. Very few dog trainers are licensed, and licensure requirements are restricted in certain states and only required in such states by certain types of trainers. For instance, the state of California makes licensure compulsory for a potential guide dog trainer seeking to work in that state. Professional dog trainers usually receive certification to establish their credentials in the profession. Some dog trainers are independent professionals while others work for professional agencies or pet stores. Many possess a high school diploma or other equivalent qualifications. While certification is not essential to work as a professional dog trainer, some employers insist on it.

The most common educational requirement is a high school diploma or equivalent qualification. Certification and licensure are required in the case of specific types of dog trainers. While, no previous experience are sought by employers, dog trainers are expected to have certain skills such as physical stamina, patience, exceptional customer-service skills and compassion (sources: Guide Dogs of America, U.S. Bureau of Labor of Statistics, Petco job posting, August 2012). The following is a step-by-step guide to becoming a professional dog trainer:

Stage One: Working with Dogs

Aspiring dog trainers often start doing work with dogs at a young age. They exhibit a natural tendency to be around animals and dogs tend to behave positively towards them too. Apart from training dogs they may own, prospective dog trainers could seek employment with dog racetracks and kennels or volunteer their services in fostering pups in service-dog training gigs or in animal shelters. Dog trainers, like other animal trainers, usually possess a high school diploma or any other equivalent qualification (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Stage Two: Learning to Train Dogs

While hands-on experience, seminars, videos and books are the most common modes of learning for dog trainers, many of them resorts to enrolling in structured training programs. They can seek certification programs offered at community colleges as well as at public and private trade schools. Training in competitive showing and basic obedience are taught in classes offered by professional dog-trainer associations. You can choose to do an apprenticeship with a professional dog trainer. Dog biology, socialization, puppy training, competition-level and general obedience training, how to deal with behavioral problems, communication and dog behavior are among the various topics covered by training programs.

Stage Three: Finding Work

Community organizations including recreation departments in localities, vets, dog breeders, private dog-training businesses, pet stores, and animal shelters feature among the facilities and organizations that employ dog trainers. Entry-level jobs can be had even without certification. However, gaining experience with various training situations and breeds of dogs will certainly help. If you want to be a professional dog trainer, you should do well by having a mentor, in the form of another professional trainer.

Stage Four: Choosing a Specialty

Many independent dog trainers who offer their services may choose a specialty of their preference; they can train specific types of dogs, including rescue animals, race dogs, police dogs, service dogs, show dogs, hunting dogs, or pets. They can seek employment with another trainer working in their preferred area of specialty. Once you have identified a dog-training niche, you can look at certification and continuing education in that direction. For instance, you will need to fulfill different certification prerequisites for police-dog training and pet training. In some schools, such as those offering courses in training of law-enforcement dogs or guide-dogs, trainers are required to accumulate apprenticeship experience with certified trainers. You can get useful preparation for the certification exam by taking a practice test offered by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.

Stage Five: Earning Licensure or Certification

State licensure is imperative — in unfamiliar situations — for certain types of dog trainers. Not all dog trainers require certification; however, possessing a certificate will undoubtedly increase their chances of getting employed. As an aspiring trainer, you volunteered to become certified that will be a way of showing your committed drive and passion. The certificate will signify that you are knowledgeable in the field. Employers usually seek certification from K-9 officers and other trainers who specialize in training service dogs, such as working animals or seeing-eye dogs.

While certification programs are offered at some dog-training schools, trainers who seek certification usually obtain it from an independent professional association. Evidence of skills and knowledge in dog training are sought before such certificates are awarded. For example, testing, experience and education prerequisites are sought by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers before awarding the designation of Certified Professional Dog Trainer.

A certification program offered by a reputed certification organization will go some way in enhancing the career prospects of a professional dog trainer. Professional organizations and accredited institutions of higher education are preferable to for-profit organizations that award certification to everyone who completes a program offered by such for-profit organizations.

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