The American Dog Trainers Network

HOW TO BECOME A
PROFESSIONAL DOG TRAINER

a rainbow-colored separation bar

The American Dog Trainers Network receives dozens of inquiries every week regarding how to become a professional dog  trainer.
Here are a few tips to help you get started.

 

Seminars, Workshops & Conferences

One of the best ways to learn about dog training and behavior is by attending lots of dog training and behavior seminars, workshops and conferences.

Generally inexpensive, participants can learn many aspects of dog training and behavior by a wide variety of experts in the field, at a nominal fee (usually about $30-50/day).

The American Dog Trainers Network recommends that those learning how to train dogs attend at least two dozen 1- to 4-day seminars and workshops on a variety of dog-related subjects, including as many of the following as possible:

 

  • The History and Development of Breeds
     
  • How To Choose & Raise A Puppy; Developmental Stages
     
  • Housetraining & Crate Training
     
  • Puppy Training & Pet Dog Training
     
  • Competition Obedience Training (all levels)
     
  • Animal Behavior, Behavior Modification & Problem Solving  Techniques
     
  • Effective Handling Skills
     
  • How To "Read" and Evaluate A Dog
     
  • Effective Counseling Skills; Techniques To Teach Students  Effectively
     
  • Canine Health, Nutrition, Medicine (Both Traditional &  Alternative),
     
  • Handling & Training Aggressive Dogs
     
  • Handling & Training Shy, Timid & Phobic Dogs
     
  • Dog Sports & Activities (Schutzhund, Agility, Flyball,  Freestyle, etc.)
     
  • Tracking
     
  • Protection Training
     
  • Canine Anatomy, Structure, and Movement
     
  • Responsible Dog Ownership
     
  • Service Dog Training; AAT & AAA
     
  • Bomb and Narcotics Detection
     
  • Search and Rescue
     
  • Animal Control Laws and Legalities
     
  • Trick Training
     
  • Constructive Games; Exercise Outlets
     
  • Handling and Training Dogs for TV, Film & Advertising
     
  • Pet Safety Tips
     

For a list of upcoming seminars, see: Recommended Seminars.

For a list of speakers, see: Recommended Speakers.



Join Dog Trainers & Animal Behavior Organizations

Here's a short list of recommended organizations:

Also see: Associations

[*Contact the ADTN for more information.]



Attend Conferences

Some organizations such as the Association of Pet Dog Trainers have excellent annual conferences. See: Seminars and Workshops

APDT: (800)PET-DOGS



Animal Behavior Course

The ASPCA Animal Behavior Course
Amy Marder, PhD, Director
New York City
(212)876-7700



Universities That Offer Animal Behavior Programs

A number of universities offer worthwhile animal behavior programs:

Cornell University
Ithica, NY

Geulph University
Ontario, Canada

Tufts University
Boston, MA



Books

When it comes to dog books, here are a few tips to remember:
  • Read everything you can get your hands on. A good trainer reads as much as dog-related materials as possible. (No matter how bad a book may be, you will probably still learn something new from reading it.)
     
  • Don't believe everything you read. Just because it's in print, doesn't mean it's true (or valid for every dog).


Please see:


 


Videos

There is now a good selection of videos dog training and behavior available.

See our Recommended Videos section.



Magazines

Recommended Magazines:
  • Dog Fancy
     
  • Dog World
     
  • AKC Gazette
     
  • Dogs In Canada
     
  • Front 'n' Finish
     
  • Off-Lead
     
  • Fetch The Paper
     
  • Pet Life
     
  • Match Show Bulletin
     
  • Animal Health Newsletter (Cornell University)
     
  • Our Animals (ASPCA)
     
  • Dog Sports Magazine
     

For additional magazine titles see: Magazines


Volunteering At Animal Shelters

Volunteering at an animal shelter can offer anyone interested in becoming
a dog trainer, a great deal of invaluable experience.



Trainers' Schools

While their are many "trainers' schools", "K9 academies" and "internship programs", we have received so many serious complaints about a number of them, there are only a handful that we know of that we feel confident enough to refer people to.

These are the three most frequent complaints we have received about a number of "internship programs" and professional trainers' courses that we have heard about:
  1. The programs taught and promoted harsh compulsion-style training methods and severe physical corrections, despite ads and other promotional materials that claimed that they taught humane methods and used positive reinforcement techniques, and/or:
     
  2. The programs were either very limited in their scope, or covered topics only superficially (despite impressive course outlines), and/or:
     
  3. They offered very limited and/or unsound behavioral information to their students:

Several graduates have complained that they have witnessed rough and abusive methods of training and correcting dogs (including small breeds). For example: dogs being hung or even "helicoptered" (swung around by their choke collars until they began to loose consciousness), when the dogs became defensive as a result of the harsh handling and severe leash corrections they were forced to endure. Even small dogs and puppies were in many cases treated roughly. One graduate even told us of a little Miniature Pinscher being "helicoptered" on a choke collar for snapping (as a result of being harshly corrected).

Several graduates have also told us that they witnessed dogs and puppies cowaring, submissively piddling, yelping, and in some cases, even screaming in pain and fear throughout their "training" sessions. According to the schools' trainers, these dogs (and puppies) were being "uncooperative", "dominant" or "stubborn", and their handlers were often instructed to give these terrified dogs (and puppies) even tougher corrections.



How Long Does It Take To Become A Professional Trainer?

It generally takes at least 3-5 years of intensive study and hands-on dog training and handling to become a good novice trainer.

No trainers' school is going to teach you everything you need to know as a dog trainer, in just a couple of months. So if you have aspirations of becoming an experienced "Master Dog Trainer" after only a few months of study, dream on.

In my opinion, most true "Master Dog Trainers" have trained dogs for at least 20 to 30 years, are internationally known, highly respected, have written numerous dog books, published many articles, know an enormous amount of information about almost every aspect of dogs and dog training, and keep their knowledge up-to-date by attending seminars, workshops and conferences.



Mail Order-Trained Professional Dog Trainers

"You too can become a professional dog trainer or 'canine behavior therapist' through the mail and the internet!"

Yes, amazingly, there are now actually self-proclaimed "animal behaviorists", so-called "animal behavior centers", and dog trainers, that are selling people mail order courses to become "certified" professional dog trainers and "certified 'canine behavior therapists'".

These are not simply correspondence courses that offer some basic training tips and techniques for dog owners, or teach some simple melodies on the guitar or piano, or offer a beginner's doodling course. These are through-the-mail courses that will "certify" you as a "professional" in the field of dog training and behavior!

Not only are dogs not inanimate objects, but the process of training a dog is interactive. How does a mail order trainee receive proper feedback (in real time) from a reputable dog instructor or animal behaviorist, when the trainee incorrectly handles or trains a dog? Even more worrisome is how does the trainee safely handle a dog that unexpectedly becomes aggressive towards the trainee or someone else?  I can only imagine what these courses' liability waivers must say!

And these correspondence courses aren't inexpensive either.

For those of you who are still gullible enough to purchase one these mail order dog trainers' courses, or to do business in any capacity with any of these dog trainers or places, I've got a nice mail order course that'll "certify" you as a surgeon... and a couple of plots of land I think you'll really love.


FINAL NOTE:
If you are doubtful of a person or places' reputation, credentials or qualifications, get referrals from several well-known and unaffiliated sources (ie: the Animal Behavior Society, National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors, the ASPCA, veterinarian, etc.).

While most organizations, dog trainers and behaviorists will probably stay clear of maligning another questionable dog trainer or school, they will likely either imply or state outright that they have received substantial negative feedback about that person or place, or simply say that they would not feel comfortable referring them.



Recommended Trainers Schools and Apprenticeship Programs**

We recommend several professional trainers' programs:
(listed in alphabetical order):


Allan Bauman
(800)776-2665
(Wooster, Ohio)
Apprenticeship programs for trainers, emphasizing positive motivational
training methods and operant conditioning. Teaches positive, inducive techniques.


Animal Behavior Program
Steve Diller
Mercy College
(New York, NY)
Call Mercy College for details


Animal Behavior University
Contact: Janis Lee
E-mail
(818)773-0850
(818)773-0853
Animal Behavior University offers a 4-month apprenticeship program for those who have no experience training dogs but want to become professional dog trainers. Most ABU graduates will be offered employment after completing this program.


Annual 5-day Instructor Training Course for Canine Professionals
Sue Sternberg, Donna Duford and Dana C. Crevling
Sept. 12-17, 1999 (and taking reservations for next year's course)
Accord, NY
Cost: $775.
Breakfast, lunch & snack included
Send registration to:
Instructor Training Course
Payable to: Dana C. Crevling
128 Glen Ave.,
Upton, Ma. 01568
(508)529-3568 or
(508)529-3564


The ASPCA Behavior Institute -- Apprenticeship Program and Misc. Classes
Headed by Dr. Amy Marder, VMD, the ASPCA's Animal Behavior Center
(Manhattan) will include an educational institute to train veterinarians,
doctoral candidates and post-doctorates in clinical behavior of companion
animals.

The ASPCA's Animal Behavior Center, located at 424 East 92nd Street in
Manhattan, will also offer 1,200 square feet of dog training space and two
new exam rooms.  The center will offer:  Behavioral classes, puppy training
classes, agility training, will provide clinical services and conduct humane
research in animal behavior.

For more information on the ASPCA's Animal Behavior Center, please call:
(212)876-7700 (x 4420).


Corally Burmaster
Clicker Training Center
Leesburg, VA.
Instructor's classes are available at the training center.
After completing the 8 week instructor's course, students
can work as an apprentice instructor in a beginner's class
at the center.


Daniel Tortora, PhD
(973)663-3385
(New Jersey)
This highly respected animal behaviorist offers occasional animal
behavior and behavior modification programs.


The Educated Dog...And Puppies Too
6 month training and behavior apprenticeship program
Headed by Bobbi Giella
(718)788-3602


Harcum College & Devereux Foundation
presents the Animal-Assisted Therapy
& Education Certificate Program
Dr. Aaron Katcher & Debbie Coultis
Location:  Bryn Mawr, PA.
$600. per semester  (Classroom course)
(Distance learning course materials are extra)
(610)526-6100  (Harcum College)
(817) 465-0116  (Dr. Aaron Katcher, PhD)
(610) 287-5722  (Anne Stein)


Mercy College Animal Behavior Course
Headed by Steve Diller
Dobbs Ferry, NY
(800)MERCY-NY


Joel Walton
(301) 855-0355
(Prince Frederick, Maryland)
Apprenticeship program for pet dog trainers, which using exclusively
positive motivational training methods (lure-reward and clicker) and
operant conditioning. Teaches inducive techniques.

NOTE: While the best trainers schools and apprenticeship programs offer their students a strong foundation on the road to becoming a professional dog trainer, no single program can provide everythingone needs to know as a professional dog trainer. Therefor, any reputable trainers' program will strongly encourage its students to explore additional sources of dog-related information, such as seminars, workshops, etc.  We invite your recommendations for additional professional trainers' schools and apprenticeship programs.



Recommended Dog Trainers' Educational Workshops

Bob and Marian Bailey's
Chicken Training Camp
If you want to attend an excellent workshop which will enrich your ability as a dog trainer many times over, I highly recommend Bob and Marian Bailey's Chicken Training Camp. No kidding.

(Call ADTN helpline (1-3 PM EST) for contact info and phone number.)


Gail Fisher
The All Dog's Gym
Manchester, NH
(603)669-4644


Rondout Valley Kennels
Sue Sternberg
Accord, NY
(914)687-7619
(914)687-4406
Sue Sternberg is an excellent dog trainer and seminar presenter. She combines a wealth of invaluable information, with compassionate wisdom and a great sense of humor. Her seminars and workshops cover a wide variety of dog-related topics, including dog training and behavior, handling and training techniques for aggressive dogs, motivational retrieving, how to a select shelter dog, and much more.


St. Hubert's Giralda
Madison, NJ
(201)377-0116
This obedience training school offers many excellent seminars and workshops with many of today's most renouned trainers and behaviorists.


Tails-U-Win!
Manchester, CT.
This obedience training school, run by Leslie Nelson and Gail Pivar, offers many excellent seminars and workshops.


Top Dog School/ Training Camps
Jack and Wendy Volhard
30 Besaw Road
Phoenix, NY 13135
E-mail: topdog@aiusa.com
Fax: (315)593-0763
Phone: (315)593-6115

Internationally recognized as the "Trainers of Trainers," Jack and Wendy Volhards have taught over 20,000 people how to train and communicate effectively with their dogs, using their "Motivational Method" (which emphasizes positive reinforcement). The Volhards are award-winning authors with over 150 articles, six books and four videotapes to their credit. The Volhards have also obtained over 50 conformation, obedience & working titles, multiple High in Trials, and Dog World Awards of Canine Distinction. Their training seminars have been attended by individuals from almost every state throughout the U.S., and twelve foreign countries.


For dog training seminar and camp info, see "Seminars" page.



Obedience Clubs

There are many excellent obedience clubs throughout the United States, where those wanting to train dogs either as a hobby or professionally can learn a great deal. Make sure to investigate a club's general training philosophy, find out what methodologies are taught, and observe a class, prior to joining or enrolling your dog. Most obedience clubs offer dog training courses at affordable rates.



A Good Trainer... A Final Note

A good trainer:

  • has lots of tools in his or her toolbox, and knows how to use  them well.
     
  • strives to learn as much as possible, from as many sources as  possible.
     
  • knows there's always more to learn, and keeps him- or herself  up-to-date by attending seminars, workshops and conferences as  often as possible.
     
  • has a strong behavioral background.
     
  • has an open mind.
     
  • does not behave in an arrogant manner (towards their clients or the general public).
     
  • has a strong sense of ethics.
     
  • doesn't misrepresent himself with bogus or misleading titles and credentials.
     
  • loves dogs [If a trainer doesn't love dogs, s/he has no business training them.]
     
  • has patience, and understands that anger and abuse (of any  kind) have no place in dog training.
     
  • treats their students (both two- and four-legged) with respect and kindness. (Empathy, compassion, kinship and encouragement towards one's students is essential when training dogs.)
     
  • has good teaching and handling skills.
     
  • has a good sense of humor.
     
  • is passionate about living and working with dogs.



Please look for Robin Kovary's new book "How To Become A Professional Dog Trainer":
Available in book stores soon.

Copyright 1995 - 2000,  Robin Kovary

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Robin Kovary is the American Dog Trainers Network helpline director
 and canine behavioral consultant.