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
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,
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
Constructive Games; Exercise Outlets
Handling and Training Dogs for TV, Film & Advertising
Pet Safety Tips
Join Dog Trainers & Animal Behavior Organizations
Here's a short list of recommended organizations:
Also see: Associations
[*Contact the ADTN for more information.]
Some organizations such as the Association of Pet Dog Trainers have
excellent annual conferences.
Animal Behavior Course
The ASPCA Animal Behavior Course
Amy Marder, PhD, Director
New York City
Universities That Offer Animal Behavior Programs
A number of universities offer worthwhile animal behavior programs:
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).
Dogs In Canada
Front 'n' Finish
Fetch The Paper
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.
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
These are the three most frequent complaints we have received about a number of
"internship programs" and professional trainers' courses that we have heard
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
The programs were either very limited in their scope, or covered topics only
superficially (despite impressive course outlines), and/or:
They offered very limited and/or unsound behavioral information to their
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.
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):
Apprenticeship programs for trainers, emphasizing positive motivational
training methods and operant conditioning. Teaches positive, inducive
Animal Behavior Program
(New York, NY)
Call Mercy College for details
Animal Behavior University
Contact: Janis Lee
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
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)
Breakfast, lunch & snack included
Send registration to:
Instructor Training Course
Payable to: Dana C. Crevling
128 Glen Ave.,
Upton, Ma. 01568
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
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
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).
Clicker Training Center
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
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
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
(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
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.)
The All Dog's Gym
Rondout Valley Kennels
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
St. Hubert's Giralda
This obedience training school offers many excellent seminars and workshops
with many of today's most renouned trainers and behaviorists.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.