Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?
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Thread: Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

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    Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

    I have a background as a teacher, and I love working with kids and animals, even though I haven't done as much of it as I would like. My end goal, ideally, would be to become a dog training instructor at a vocational high school.

    To do that, though, I would first need to become a certified dog trainer myself. I was trying to get trained as a professional dog trainer and get paid for doing something I love (working with animals), but I'm not really sure how to go about it. I've inquired about a few top rated programs by the BBB, but they flatly told me that the certification I would receive isn't exactly a license to train dogs, because the dog training certifications are not regulated; there's no standard license to certify a trainer.

    If that's so, how do you become a certified trainer? Please don't give me the "being a dog trainer takes years of experience" spiel. If you can't get experience training dogs professionally without training dogs professionally, how does anyone who doesn't have close personal connections to a dog trainer become a trainer? It sounded like an exciting field that could lead to other careers, such as vet tech and maybe service dog trainer, but if I can't figure out how to get past step one, I can't really do anything.

    The last thing I want to do is pay $5,000 for a cute little piece of paper from a glorified pet store that will vouch for my dog training abilities and mean nothing to people further on the rungs.

    Now, the programs I checked out both provide access to an established dog trainer as a mentor, but I'm not sure that's enough. I would think that I would need to "student dog train" or something to have real verifiable experience.
    Last edited by aspiringdogtrainer; 01-10-2017 at 05:40 PM.

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    Senior Member Canyx's Avatar
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    Re: Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

    Quote Originally Posted by aspiringdogtrainer View Post
    because the dog training certifications are not regulated; there's no standard license to certify a trainer.
    This is true, for better or worse. One certification I like (and have) is the CPDT. Look into the CCPDT and their website. You do need to take a written test, have a few hundred hours of training logged, referrals, and renew your certification through continuing education every 3 years. The rigor and commitment to force free training are the reasons why I like this organization.

    Otherwise, pick a trainer you like and see if you can train under them. Pat Miller, Karen Pryor, and Jean Donaldson are some nationally renown trainers who have their own certification process. I've done level 1 of Pat's academy and can say it is very challenging, rewarding, and rigorous. She holds her certification (PMCT) to very high standards and even has a private (and active) forum type thing for her students to discuss problems and questions.

    Yes, Petco and Petsmart have their own trainer training process. It may not be bad and depends heavily on each location and who is running things, to my knowledge.

    I trained through my shelter, who had their own process. But they already had two CPDTs on board and I got my training hours for CPDT through being a trainer there.

    ABC (animal behavior college) I've heard is pricey but is another big-name organization to go through. I've seen less consistency in terms of quality and methods through ABC trainers than through CPDT ones.

    Otherwise, you can also ask trainers in the area that you like if you can apprentice under them. Dog training is really one of those things where, for better or worse, once you think you're ready you can go out into the world and market yourself.

    Soro the lab mutt - approximate birthday: April 22 2006

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    Re: Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

    Thanks for the advice. I have been in contact with Animal Behavior College. I'm glad to know they are a recognizable name. Do you know anything about this school? CATCH Canine Academy? I've been trying to decide between ABC and CATCH. Both have similar prices and programs, but the CATCH program seems more affordable, while the ABC program appears to provide more support. I'm just not sure how well recognized CATCH is, though, and I would guess that, since the certification isn't regulated (which is something I'm not used to, being a teacher), I would need to go with a program that is popular and easy for the dog training industry to recognize and accept.

    I'm sorry, but price sort of is an issue right now, because I don't want to wait. I've wanted to do dog training since I was a kid, and I want to use what ever training I get as a stepping stone to getting trained to make service dogs. I think dogs do the most good when they are working. More dogs being trained for jobs potentially means fewer dogs being sheltered and euthanized.

    I'm going to repeat that I've been interested in training animals since I was a kid. I love behaviorism and conditioning theories. I love showing animals how to follow patterns and achieve new behaviors. I need to be trained on how to do it effectively, though. I often don't do well without a well organized plan.
    Last edited by aspiringdogtrainer; 01-10-2017 at 06:01 PM.

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    Senior Member Canyx's Avatar
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    Re: Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

    I've never heard of CATCH, thanks for the link!

    Honestly, certifications are lovely but I have found that reputation is by far how people find you and contact you. This year I was mostly teaching as an uncertified trainer and business was booming, because of the reputation of my facility.

    I think you would get a lot more business working under someone and then branching out, than through the certification route. I'm not turning you away from certification at all! But first hand knowledge can't be beat. I went into this profession with a ton of personal experience and a deep understanding of the science aspect; I still have learned more in this past year just WORKING as a dog trainer (again, certification or not), than ever before.

    Also, if you want to eventually train service dogs specifically, I would doubly recommend finding someone to train under. Within the umbrella of dog training there are different branches and specialties. NO certification will spit you out ready to train service dogs. Only specific organizations or experiences will prepare you for that.

    I totally understand money being an issue! One great way to wet your training chops immediately is to offer training services/volunteer at your local animal shelter. If the shelter likes your work, that is a shoe in for getting business as well ("Hey, you just adopted one of our dogs... Did you know we have an awesome trainer who volunteers here?). We have a number of legitimate trainers, certified and not, who work with our difficult shelter dogs. We are always happy to refer clients to them, even though we offer a variety of services ourselves!

    So in a nutshell, best of luck finding the certification that fits you! But my two cents is, don't worry so much about the "popularity" of your letters, and instead focus on honing your technique and creating relationships/reputation in your community. That will take you so far.

    Soro the lab mutt - approximate birthday: April 22 2006

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    Re: Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

    Thanks again, but I'm just under the impression that it will be pretty difficult to get in as an apprentice. I don't know any dog trainers in the area, and I would suspect that they would require some training before I would even be able to work with them. I mean, I don't know about you, but I wasn't allowed to enter the classroom as a student teacher without months or verifiable coursework under my belt. I would assume any reputable professional would want the same.

    If you don't think so, what would you recommend I do? I mean, how would you recommend I approach the situation? I'm comparing the animal shelter to a title I school; even a title I school wouldn't allow a teacher to volunteer teach to gain experience without enough prior knowledge and training.
    Last edited by aspiringdogtrainer; 01-10-2017 at 06:18 PM.

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    Re: Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

    It is so variable that it's impossible to say for sure. I've seen (ie, through ads I've glanced over here and there) some places look to hire people with experience, and other places look for anyone who had a good mind to learn. At the end of the day, I don't think it's a bad idea to even start at Petco or Petsmart. But you won't know until you ask, right? So even if you don't personally know any dog trainers in the area, go take a class offered by ones you like and then ask if they have any opportunities.

    I still think the shelter route is an amazing one to take. But I am biased Every shelter has a different volunteer program. Ours is committed to training our volunteers how to train, even if they have no experience. So it really depends!

    Do you have a dog? A lot of trainers can start there, too. Your dog is your first student and teacher when it comes to behavior mod. and complex training. If you don't have a dog, then get a dog!!

    And lastly, you might want to be prepared to watch, learn, and train out of your own time and pocket for a while before starting to make money. I was fortunate enough to get to the right place at the right time. But I didn't start out as a trainer. I started out as a shelter technician and spent extra hours just observing classes, then co-teaching, then teaching. 6 months working a full time job and learning training on the side. Before this, I was a butcher's apprentice. I worked two other jobs to make ends meet and learned how to cut meat for free on the side. I quit my existing jobs (which I enjoyed) and moved over 2000 miles away to not-be-paid to learn something I wanted to learn. Believe me when I say I understand financial issues. But I also speak from the gut when I say sometimes you need to sacrifice some time and energy before getting where you ultimately want to be. The part time job that is completely unrelated can still feel fulfilling if you see the end goal it feeds. You sounds like you know what you want to do and that is worth more than anything. I'm sorry if this line of advice is a bit off from what you're asking. But I don't see a quick point A to B for most passions in life.

    ETA.. there are other trainers on this forum and I hope they chime in. Trainingjunkie, Asherlove, Petpeeve... Maybe Gingerkid, Bentwings...?
    Last edited by Canyx; 01-10-2017 at 06:53 PM.

    Soro the lab mutt - approximate birthday: April 22 2006

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    Re: Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

    It's good advice. It's been a while since I contacted my local shelter, but they didn't have any opportunities like that, to my knowledge. They were willing to let me practice with a few of their dogs, however (or at least it sounded like a possibility). I guess I'll check there and find out if the offer still stands. It's been about a year since I contacted them.

    I don't currently have a dog, and I guess I don't have a dog for the same reason that I don't have kids. I just don't feel like I have the time and resources to devote the care to them that they need. Right now, I don't even live in a place that allows pets. It's actually a pretty common occurrence in this area. I could move somewhere else, but I could also rent a house and become a foster parent. I'm sorry, but I don't want that responsibility. I don't think that's a bad thing. I'm okay with teaching kids, but I don't have any of my own, and I don't foster either. I like the idea of working with and teaching dogs, but owning one is a little different, especially if you aren't home much. Dogs, like kids, kind of need a "stay-at-home-mom," which I'm not.
    Last edited by aspiringdogtrainer; 01-10-2017 at 06:57 PM.

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    Re: Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

    Quote Originally Posted by aspiringdogtrainer View Post
    It's good advice. It's been a while since I contacted my local shelter, but they didn't have any opportunities like that, to my knowledge. They were willing to let me practice with a few of their dogs, however (or at least it sounded like a possibility). I guess I'll check there and find out if the offer still stands. It's been about a year since I contacted them.

    I don't currently have a dog, and I guess I don't have a dog for the same reason that I don't have kids. I just don't feel like I have the time and resources to devote the care to them that they need. Right now, I don't even live in a place that allows pets. It's actually a pretty common occurrence in this area. I could move somewhere else, but I could also rent a house and become a foster parent. I'm sorry, but I don't want that responsibility. I don't think that's a bad thing. I'm okay with teaching kids, but I don't have any of my own, and I don't foster either. I like the idea of working with and teaching dogs, but owning one is a little different, especially if you aren't home much. Dogs, like kids, kind of need a "stay-at-home-mom," which I'm not.
    But yet, dogs don't really need a stay-at-home-parent.

    Personally, not speaking as a dog trainer but speaking as someone who has trained dogs (fosters and my own), I would be hesitant to use a trainer that doesn't, or at least hasn't in the past (as an adult owner, not a family dog as a kid), owned dogs. A dog at least but preferably more than one or experience with fosters or roommates dogs or such. Unlike teaching reading and writing to kids in a school, training dogs is more about the whole picture of every little bit of life. I can teach a kid to read, but ask me about toilet training and I'd be hopeless. Teaching a dog to sit or stay isn't hard, that is like the reading and writing; working with a dog that has fear issues or resource guards or has dog aggression is something that having a dog and having more than one dog especially gives insight into. Even if your dog doesn't have those issues.

    Example--
    Probably most of your clients would be people working full time. Probably many will want advice on things like crate training or training a dog to be alone during the day. If you don't think a dog can be alone during the day, are you able to give sound training advice?

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    Re: Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

    I have a lot to learn, I'll admit that, but right now my best advice would be just not to leave the dog alone if it can be avoided. Treat it like a child, and hire a babysitter. They're like children and need constant supervision. Unless I misunderstood, that's the advice I was given when I owned dogs. That's one reason why kenneling services and "doggy daycares" are so popular, isn't it? It's like having a small child, right?
    Last edited by aspiringdogtrainer; 01-10-2017 at 07:21 PM.

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    Re: Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

    Quote Originally Posted by aspiringdogtrainer View Post
    I have a lot to learn, I'll admit that, but right now my best advice would be just not to leave the dog alone if it can be avoided. They're like children and need constant supervision. Unless I misunderstood, that's the advice I've been given when I owned dogs. That's one reason why kenneling services and "doggy day cares" are so popular, isn't it?
    Very few people have either the finances to take a dog to daycare daily or to stay at home with the dog all day. Actually, it can be a problem when a dog is used to having someone around all the time and then that someone has to go to work or on a trip to to hospital etc. Separation anxiety can occur without a dog having had total attention but it is more likely to be an issue when a puppy grows up never leaving how to be alone.

    The idea of constant supervision is true for puppies when they are not securely contained. You're working to prevent them from chewing on stuff, peeing on the floor etc. However, crating or using an exercise pen creates a safe area for them to not be supervised.

    Plus, not all dogs are suitable for dog day care. Some are OK with it but only once or twice a week before it is overstimulating. Others are not OK with strange dogs in any way, shape or form. Some love it but for their owners, it would be more than a mortgage payment each month.

    So example in this context--
    What advice would you give someone who has a dog-aggressive dog that cannot go to a day care?

    (BTW-- I'm mostly playing devil's advocate here, I'm not trying to derail your goals. Just highlight a few things that I at least would consider when selecting a trainer; as much or more than any letters after their name)
    Last edited by Shell; 01-10-2017 at 07:25 PM.

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    Re: Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shell View Post
    Very few people have either the finances to take a dog to daycare daily or to stay at home with the dog all day. Actually, it can be a problem when a dog is used to having someone around all the time and then that someone has to go to work or on a trip to to hospital etc. Separation anxiety can occur without a dog having had total attention but it is more likely to be an issue when a puppy grows up never leaving how to be alone.

    The idea of constant supervision is true for puppies when they are not securely contained. You're working to prevent them from chewing on stuff, peeing on the floor etc. However, crating or using an exercise pen creates a safe area for them to not be supervised.

    Plus, not all dogs are suitable for dog day care. Some are OK with it but only once or twice a week before it is overstimulating. Others are not OK with strange dogs in any way, shape or form. Some love it but for their owners, it would be more than a mortgage payment each month.

    So example in this context--
    What advice would you give someone who has a dog-aggressive dog that cannot go to a day care?

    (BTW-- I'm mostly playing devil's advocate here, I'm not trying to derail your goals. Just highlight a few things that I at least would consider when selecting a trainer; as much or more than any letters after their name)
    Okay,

    My first piece of advice would be to hire a pet sitter or call a friend, but if the owner can't do that, perhaps if the dog is kennel trained, they could put the dog in the kennel for the day? If the dog doesn't like being in a home kennel, though, I'm not sure I would know what to do.
    Last edited by aspiringdogtrainer; 01-10-2017 at 07:32 PM.

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    Re: Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

    If dogs needed a stay-at-home parent, I know maybe 2 families who would have a dog. That's extremely unrealistic.

    Daycare isn't available in all areas (nearest one is 45 minutes from me) and, besides, most people can barely afford daycare for their kids, let alone their dog. Also unrealistic.

    Dogs can be trained/conditioned to enjoy their crates. That would be one big reason someone would call a trainer .
    Last edited by Willowy; 01-10-2017 at 07:41 PM.
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    Re: Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

    Yeah, so I take that to mean you would recommend some preliminary dog training coursework in my case? I do feel bad about not knowing the simple ABC's of dog training, but I really shouldn't. I mean, no one's ever taught them to me...I could probably pick something up with a few courses and some hands-on experience. I like learning; I'm just not great at finding it for myself.

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    Re: Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

    Quote Originally Posted by aspiringdogtrainer View Post
    Okay,

    My first piece of advice would be to hire a pet sitter or call a friend, but if the owner can't do that, perhaps if the dog is kennel trained, they could put the dog in the kennel for the day? If the dog doesn't like being in a home kennel, though, I'm not sure I would know what to do.
    By "home kennel" do you mean a crate or an indoor pen? Or do you mean a boarding facility that has kennels?

    Real world answer-- dog stays home alone during the day and is fine because he sleeps all day because he is given enough exercise before and after the human's working hours. (Barring SA or health issues of course).

    A typical pet sitter in my Midwestern, mid-priced market is going to run about $30 for a visit/walk. That's an hour or so visit and walk. $150 per week, 4 weeks a month. $600 per month. That's more than the rent for a one bedroom apartment, more than the mortgage of a small home.

    Quote Originally Posted by aspiringdogtrainer View Post
    Yeah, so I take that to mean you would recommend some preliminary dog training coursework in my case? I do feel bad about not knowing the simple ABC's of dog training, but I really shouldn't. I mean, no one's ever taught them to me...I could probably pick something up with a few courses and some hands-on experience.
    Shelter volunteering is great way to do this, but also, consider rescue groups even if you cannot foster a dog. Offer to walk dogs or be a short-term foster (a few nights; since your place doesn't allow pets, this would be more like pet sitting at someone's house maybe) when a main foster has a work or family commitment (to avoid boarding a dog which costs money). Adoption events with groups of dogs that mean wrangling the dogs and supervising dog-dog interaction. Etc. Nothing beats getting "hands on"
    Last edited by Shell; 01-10-2017 at 07:48 PM.

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    Re: Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shell View Post
    By "home kennel" do you mean a crate or an indoor pen? Or do you mean a boarding facility that has kennels?

    Real world answer-- dog stays home alone during the day and is fine because he sleeps all day because he is given enough exercise before and after the human's working hours. (Barring SA or health issues of course).

    A typical pet sitter in my Midwestern, mid-priced market is going to run about $30 for a visit/walk. That's an hour or so visit and walk. $150 per week, 4 weeks a month. $600 per month. That's more than the rent for a one bedroom apartment, more than the mortgage of a small home.



    Shelter volunteering is great way to do this, but also, consider rescue groups even if you cannot foster a dog. Offer to walk dogs or be a short-term foster (a few nights; since your place doesn't allow pets, this would be more like pet sitting at someone's house maybe) when a main foster has a work or family commitment (to avoid boarding a dog which costs money). Adoption events with groups of dogs that mean wrangling the dogs and supervising dog-dog interaction. Etc. Nothing beats getting "hands on"
    I meant a home kennel--that big fenced in area that people usually keep their dogs in to keep them from leaving the yard--it looks like a big cage. I've seen some dogs who hate it, though, and will try to bite or dig or chew their way out. I was thinking pet sitters were like babysitters--you could find the neighbor's kid and let him do it for around $20 per day. If he gets enough dogs, he'll make an okay wage. I guess it depends on where you live, though.

    As for giving a dog enough exercise, my experience is it's like they never get enough. You could walk some dogs for hours, and they'll still have energy to spare, especially if they see a cat or a rabbit.

    *sigh* I'm impressed with how well some people can train dogs, but I wish it wasn't so much of a mystery to me.

    I do know that an untrained dog can be a terror, though, and I guess I live around a lot of bad examples.
    Last edited by aspiringdogtrainer; 01-10-2017 at 07:59 PM.

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    Re: Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

    If you don't think dogs should be at home alone all day, it wouldn't do any good to hire the neighbor kid---kids go to school. That can work if, say, you go away for the weekend and have the neighbor kid walk and feed your dog, but as far as "never leave the dog unsupervised" or providing walks while the owner is at work, that just wouldn't be much of a solution. It's the same as the owner going to work.

    I feel like you have no experience with dogs and don't know much about them. I think getting to know some dogs, spending some time with them, learning about what dogs are like, would be the logical first step here. Just jumping into training won't work if you don't understand dogs. If you can't have your own dog now, volunteering at a shelter or rescue would help.

    To be honest, I wouldn't hire a dog trainer who doesn't have their own dog.
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    Re: Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

    Quote Originally Posted by aspiringdogtrainer View Post
    I meant a home kennel--that big fenced in area that people usually keep their dogs in to keep them from leaving the yard--it looks like a big cage. I've seen some dogs who hate it, though, and will try to bite or dig or chew their way out. I was thinking pet sitters were like babysitters--you could find the neighbor's kid and let him do it for around $20 per day. If he gets enough dogs, he'll make an okay wage. I guess it depends on where you live, though.

    As for giving a dog enough exercise, my experience is it's like they never get enough. You could walk some dogs for hours, and they'll still have energy to spare, especially if they see a cat or a rabbit.
    Err....

    Outdoor kennels come with a lot of risk in many areas. Dogs can dig out, some can climb out, the weather presents a risk (heat, cold, sun, wind, storms, ice, etc), a barking dog can turn into a city fine when the neighbors complain or worse, a barking dog means someone throws poison to the dog or shoots it.

    Outdoor kennels can be used safely but it really depends highly on the dog, the location, and the climate plus it does NOT in any way negate a dog's need for exercise and interaction. An outdoor kennel can even become an "easy out" for people who don't want to deal with training problems that are more apparent when a dog is indoors with them regularly.

    Dogs can be taught an off-switch. Sure, a young healthy dog may walk for hours or go after prey but that means training. Reasonable amount of physical exercise, then mental exercise to tire the brain, and training to "leave it" for prey.

    I work full time. I have a Boxer/RR and Pit Bull. I foster pitties. I have one right now which means I have 3 dogs, all over 50 lbs, all of high energy breed types, aged 8 months to 10 years. Every one of them is napping right now.

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    Re: Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

    Actually, I think it's a little worse than that. I have experience doing the wrong things. I think I've gotten a lot of advice, or at least ideas, from people who don't know how to take care of dogs themselves. In fact, I'm pretty sure I have. It's one thing to never learn how to count, but if you've learned that 2 + 2 is 5, then I think that is a little worse.

    I'm not the one who taught myself these bad techniques, though. If all you see are bad techniques, you're likely to copy what you see, especially if you don't know what really works.
    Last edited by aspiringdogtrainer; 01-10-2017 at 08:10 PM.

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    Re: Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

    Quote Originally Posted by Shell View Post
    Err....

    Outdoor kennels come with a lot of risk in many areas. Dogs can dig out, some can climb out, the weather presents a risk (heat, cold, sun, wind, storms, ice, etc), a barking dog can turn into a city fine when the neighbors complain or worse, a barking dog means someone throws poison to the dog or shoots it.

    Outdoor kennels can be used safely but it really depends highly on the dog, the location, and the climate plus it does NOT in any way negate a dog's need for exercise and interaction. An outdoor kennel can even become an "easy out" for people who don't want to deal with training problems that are more apparent when a dog is indoors with them regularly.

    Dogs can be taught an off-switch. Sure, a young healthy dog may walk for hours or go after prey but that means training. Reasonable amount of physical exercise, then mental exercise to tire the brain, and training to "leave it" for prey.

    I work full time. I have a Boxer/RR and Pit Bull. I foster pitties. I have one right now which means I have 3 dogs, all over 50 lbs, all of high energy breed types, aged 8 months to 10 years. Every one of them is napping right now.
    I imagine you must be really tired after work. It must take a really long time to tire them out.

    I admit I have some potentially harmful preconceived notions about dogs that might make successfully working with them difficult. If I've never seen an example of successful effective training, though, just the finished product, how can I not have these ideas? I really don't think getting experience without being informed is really going to do any good. The shelter in my area doesn't employ dog trainers, so there's no one to learn from.
    Last edited by aspiringdogtrainer; 01-10-2017 at 08:19 PM.

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    Re: Does anyone know a real way to become a certified dog trainer?

    Quote Originally Posted by aspiringdogtrainer View Post
    Actually, I think it's a little worse than that. I have experience doing the wrong things. I think I've gotten a lot of advice, or at least ideas, from people who don't know how to take care of dogs themselves. In fact, I'm pretty sure I have. It's one thing to never learn how to count, but if you've learned that 2 + 2 is 5, then I think that is a little worse.

    I'm not the one who taught myself these bad techniques, though. If all you see are bad techniques, you're likely to copy what you see, especially if you don't know what really works.
    And that's OK because you gotta start somewhere. But it means you may need to look farther around to find a suitable trainer to work with or a place to study if you have limited options in your area.

    Have you looked into DVDS and reading (either Kindle or actual books) to familiarize yourself with some techniques? Many books can be gotten free via inter-library loan.

    Quote Originally Posted by aspiringdogtrainer View Post
    I imagine you must be really tired after work. It must take a really long time to tire them out.
    Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Because, they learn that not every day is a big adventure. Today it was raining with high winds. Not a safe day to go to the park for example. So, it was indoor training and a bit of goofing around and some time on the covered porch watching the world go by.

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