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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So, I want to train dogs for a living. I may do other things as well, but training gives me such joy! Just watching a dog understand after hours of work, or a person and their dog bonding! Also, when people tell me their dog is "untrainable" I simply take it as a challenge :)

So, I was wondering, how would I get started? All my friends come to me already for dog advice. I try to farmiliarize myself with all the different training techniques, along with their pros and cons(positive training is my method!). I'm 15, so I'm still in school. Just about everyone around here has dogs, but I rarely meet any because few are walked(or at least that I've seen on my walks, sad I know). I take in dog info like I do oxygen, and I read through training books quickly, and remember just about everything.

I also live in a small area, and the nearest professional trainer is 20 minutes away. I'm hoping to take an obediance class with Bella(because she's not so great around distractions, and we made the mistake of not taking her to puppy class), and then an agility class with her as well, once I find a place I like and we're okay money-wise.

I have 2 dogs currently, both are Shih Tzus(though they act opposite hah) and I used to own a Labrador, but I was so little I couldn't really help out a ton, no matter how much interest I had in it, I just didn't know enough ;) I am a very social person, but am homeschooled so I don't even know any teens with dogs who live near me haha. So, my experience with dogs is a bit limited, but I've read so much it makes up for it, for the most part. I've put hours and hours and hours into learning about dogs, since I was old enough to learn and retain information on dogs, and I've had a love for them since before I can remember :)

Any advice would be really appreciated, as well as book reccomendations and anything like that :)

~IJMB
 

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I wrote you a very long reply, but unfortunately my boyfriend unplugged the modem from the wall.
My advice is to keep following your dreams. I'm enrolled in the KPA and cannot say enough good things about it. I would pay triple the tuition for the level of education I'm getting. It is incredibly thorough and informative. Stay on the path of +R, it is the way of the future. Do not be bullied by the condemnation of some traditional trainers. Do right by your dog and look to science and facts for direction. Some good authors of books and articles are: Kathy Sdao, Suzanne Clothier, Susan Garret, Emily Larlham, Karen Pryor, Patricia McConnell, Jean Donaldson, Brenda Aloff, Ian Dunbar and Stanely Coren *there are many others as well*. Look into David Mechs research on wolves. Understand the dominance theory and inherent flaws with how we apply it to dogs. Continue your study on +R, learn how to use all of the tools available to you in this method. Practice with your own dogs, constantly seek challenges and never stop learning or training. Understand all 5 facets of operant conditioning, learn how to explain them to the average non-dog person, challenge yourself by finding creative explanations that people can relate to (like how a differential reinforcement schedule is akin to people playing slot machines). Go to seminars, they can often show you things that books cannot! Join the Pet Professionals Guild, watch the webinars. Get a subscription to Tawzer dog and watch as many DVD's as you can - I recommend Emily Larlhams "Trick dog training". Never stop training. Think of neat and creative cues to teach your dog, I want to teach my pup how to play the guitar - an ambitious goal, but one I'm excited about none-the-less. Good luck to you and let me know if you need any help. I'll post some good links on here tomorrow or later tonight.
 

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Purple gave a great response. Read and learn as much as you can, and learn positive reinforcement techniques. I think familiarizing yourself with some positive punishment techniques designed to startle the dog are also good to know so you can implement them in addition to positive reinforcement as a last resort (for when owners won't be consistent or the dog is at immediate risk of being sent to a shelter for some problem behavior for example. Things like using a shaker can to startle the dog to make it stop barking). Also try to get as much experience as you can with a variety of dogs- different ages, sizes, temperaments, issues, etc. Volunteering to train at a rescue or shelter might be a great way to do this, or fostering dogs with issues.

I had no idea where to start, no connections, nothing, so I signed up with Animal Behavior College. They provide a pretty good foundation (nothing new if you've already done basic reading) and they also explain how to set up a business and get the ball rolling, making connections, and all that. They have a general guideline for how to structure group classes. They teach you step-by-step how to train basic obedience cues as well as correcting behaviors like digging, chewing, jumping, and nipping. They cover the tools of the trade, everything from crates and collars to toys. The end of the program (that I am currently doing) has you volunteer at least 10 hours at a shelter to train, and also do 15 hours with a mentor going to group classes, privates, and whatever else the trainer does. The two MAJOR things not covered by ABC are aggression and separation anxiety. I really wish they covered that more, but there is plenty of good material out there. It costs about $3k but as a military spouse I had most of it covered and my parents were awesome and covered the rest as they know it's my dream job.

I do know that it can be very, very difficult to have training be your only job. You might want to plan on having a part-time job too, at least at first, until you get enough clients and groups to provide enough income. It's also very helpful if you offer something nobody else does. My mentor trainer teaches doggy paddleboarding. You can offer some kind of dog sport like flyball or disc dog or agility, classes like CGC, dog CPR, or things like that to make yourself stand out.
 

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Above you have great advice replies, also the very best weapon you have at your disposal is time. One problem you may have is volunteering, as at 15 you need transportation to get anywhere so it has to be a family help program.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you guys SO much! I appreciate it :)

Alright, I'll be checking out all the resources you guys left soon, I have to give a quick reply right now because I'm heading out the door in a bit.

I already tried to volunteer at a no kill shelter about 20 minutes away, but they told me I wouldn't be able to handle the dogs because they have so many ones that are big and aggressive, and I'm only 5'3 so :/ And I really don't want to help with the cats, because I'm not a big cat person(I tolerate them, and unless they come to me I avoid them, I was attacked by a cat when I was little). I'd love to offer some different classes, I'll be thinking on that one ;)

I'm lucky, all my friends have dogs, and I know a lot of people with dogs :) I already asked my youth leader if he would mind if I would come over sometime and do some training with his young Beagle mix, and he said yes, so we just have to work out a time :) And my friend has a young GSD Lab mix who fights with her Bichon, so I'm hoping to come help out with that tomorrow :) Because I don't know if it's play fighting or real fighting lol.

~IJMB
 

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Purple kind of touched on it- but I think it's really important to do a great job with your own dogs. When I'm looking for a dog trainer, I really pay attention to how their dogs are. If I'm looking for an agility trainer, they need to have a titling dog. If they're going to teach me and my dog manners, their dog better be the most polite dog I've ever seen (or at least high on the list). I don't train other people's dogs, but every once in a while someone will see how well behaved my dogs are and ask me how I did it. If I were a professional dog trainer, that would be a great time to hand them a business card. Also, I've seen a lot of dog trainers on youtube who (at least partly) get business from people who see youtube videos of them doing amazing tricks with their dogs and want to attend their training school.

I agree with everyone else's advice as well, definitely. To get exposure to more dogs, try emailing dog training businesses in your area and asking if they'd like a volunteer. That's how I got into volunteering weekly with a small dog puppy class in my area. You meet a lot of dogs that way!
 

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Thank you guys SO much! I appreciate it :)

Alright, I'll be checking out all the resources you guys left soon, I have to give a quick reply right now because I'm heading out the door in a bit.

I already tried to volunteer at a no kill shelter about 20 minutes away, but they told me I wouldn't be able to handle the dogs because they have so many ones that are big and aggressive, and I'm only 5'3 so :/ And I really don't want to help with the cats, because I'm not a big cat person(I tolerate them, and unless they come to me I avoid them, I was attacked by a cat when I was little). I'd love to offer some different classes, I'll be thinking on that one ;)

I'm lucky, all my friends have dogs, and I know a lot of people with dogs :) I already asked my youth leader if he would mind if I would come over sometime and do some training with his young Beagle mix, and he said yes, so we just have to work out a time :) And my friend has a young GSD Lab mix who fights with her Bichon, so I'm hoping to come help out with that tomorrow :) Because I don't know if it's play fighting or real fighting lol.

~IJMB
I have just a bit of friendly advice and I hope it's not interpreted in the wrong way.
Be very careful about seeking out dogs to train. Enthusiasm and ambition is good, but it's a double edged sword. You would not want to gain a poor reputation as an impromtu trainer, before even having a chance at starting on your path. I'm not assuming that's what you're doing, but I know when I first started getting interested in dogs, it did cross my mind to offer training to friends. I was given the same advice I'm giving you. People are fickle and often unforgiving. I would gain some real experience and friends in the canine community before trying to do any behaviour modification. I know it's hard to resist the temptation, but there is much you can do in the dog world without going that route. There is nothing wrong with giving some basic suggestions, but I strongly caution you against offering even menial training services. When I need to get it out of my system, I come onto dog forums and try my hand at offering suggestions to people who are having issues with their dogs. As long as you're not suggesting something dangerous, or offering medical advice, I think this is a very safe way to exercise your training theories. I love getting feedback from wiser, more experienced dog folk and learning from their posts. Certain threads can turn out to be something like an interactive book!


When I was a bit younger then you, I got involved in conformation showing. I asked a few handlers if they needed a hand and helped out here and there, until I was formally offered a position as an assistant. After that, I dabbled in other doggy sports, mostly as an observer and eventually as an informal assistant. I was once told that my dog and weren't allowed to participate, in a certain sport so I said "fine, I will just watch if that's okay". I showed up for every training day and eventually they realized I wasn't going anywhere and they gave me a chance. When I started working at 16, I began to pay for dog training classes and seminars. My tenacity and devotion built a reputation for itself and soon I had real resources and friends in the dog world. The only thing I would have changed, would have been my aversive training techniques. Still to this day, I do not and have not ever called myself a dog trainer. I may be very close to that title, but for now I'm just a pet owner. I don't offer any training services and when people ask me for advice on the street, or at the park I always refer them to a good dog trainer and give them only basic responses. I do look for any opportunity to show off clicker training and I'm quick to explain the basic summary of the method to interested people.

Other then seminars and working as an assistant, you could also try getting a job at a doggy daycare, or joining a dog walking company. Those will also help you get your foot in the door. As Elliebell said, do as much as you can with your own dogs. The more they can do, the more interest you will get from the general public and more importantly, the dog community.

Here is a great resource, tons of articles, research papers and links:
http://www.auf-den-hund-gekommen.net/-/Dog_Resource_Page_-_Intro.html

http://www.auf-den-hund-gekommen.net/-/Dog_Resource_Page_-_Intro.html
 

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Also, in the course I'm taking we have to be able to train a different species. I'm using a bunny. If you need a break from dogs, maybe try getting in contact with a rescue that works with a different species to gain experience training with them. Alternatively, if you have a fish, hampster, guinea pig or bird, you can start clicker training with them as well. It's a refreshing, fun experience and really tests your skills and clicker mechanics!

:llama:
 

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I agree with everyone else.

I also think that even if you want to do just positive reinforcement type training you should still learn about all the other types of training. You should learn how prong collars, choke collars, ear pinching, and so on are used and why they are used. Just because you may not agree with it doesn't mean you get to shrug it off completely (not saying you are, just talking in general). Being a professional in your field means knowing as much as you can about everything and developing your own decisions or opinions on that, not just listing off reasons they may not work according to some second party. I'm not saying you are doing that or that you have to use those methods; but I find that learning more about why and how other methods work will help to not only explain your own decisions, but will help you connect with trainers from all backgrounds and potential clients who may have used those methods in the past.

Just my 2 cents.
 

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You are totally right Nil. It's important to know about all 5 facets of operant conditioning and how they are commonly applied to animals and people. The seatbelt "ding" is my most hated form of positive punishment!
 

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And some of us can easily ignore the ding :)

1. Talk to your local Vets for suggestions, as well as PetsMart, PetCo.
2. Read: http://www.dogstardaily.com/free-downloads
3. Go back to the Shelter and volunteer to do other tasks, and work with the small dogs, only.
4. When you go to college, looking int education psychology or animal behavioralism.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I TOTALLY agree with you Elliebell! Thank you for your wise words. I'm working on manners with my two right now, mostly leash manners(loose leash walking, stopping when I stop, sitting at curbs). At home stuff like not begging exc is hard because my family isn't big on cooperating. But I'll be taking that advice to heart, especially once I'm out on my own and I control how my dogs are trained :) I already have plenty of ideas for tricks, just need to get there haha :) Also, the training volunteering thing is an interesting idea! I'll keep that in mind as well :)

Purple, thank you for your words of warning. I appreciate having someone there to tell me the tough stuff ;) Honestly, I was only doing stuff with my friend's dogs because she asked, and the stuff with my youth pastors dog will just be trick training :) Plus, he's more like family to me than "just my youth pastor", since I've known him for 8 years :) And the stuff about you doing conformation showing is really cool! My one friend, who's the same age as I am, shows her Pembi in Jrs, unfortunately she lives hours and hours away haha. And about joining a doggy day care center or joining a dog walking company...oh I wish! I live, pretty much, in the middle of nowhere XD And though everyone has dogs, no one seems to worry much about them, and pretty much everyone just yells at their dog, either that or they adorable they're dog...but just their dog XD

And training different animals, that's awesome! I have guinea pigs, so I should totally try that out :) Now to come up with trick ideas...lol!

Nil, yes I agree. I really would like to learn how to correctly use those techniques/training devices, just because I want to be well rounded. Even if I don't agree with using them, as you said, it will help me be able to explain WHY I don't use them!

Alright, curiosity has the best of me...what are the 5 facets? :)

Thanks for the advice hanksimon :) I'll deffinetly be reading those books, it's awesome that there are free downloads! <3

Thank you all sooo much! :)

~IJMB
 

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So, I want to train dogs for a living. I may do other things as well, but training gives me such joy! Just watching a dog understand after hours of work, or a person and their dog bonding! Also, when people tell me their dog is "untrainable" I simply take it as a challenge :)

Maybe you can start thinking about your future now. You can go to a 4 year university at get a degree in some field like biology, psychology, or ethology and go the Patricia McConnell PhD route. She does research as well as applications, but her contribution to the dog world is her research. If you are simply interested in doing nothing but training dogs, you can become a certified dog trainer in 1 or 2 years.
 

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Positive punishment +P, Negative punishment -P, Positive reinforcement +R, Negative reinforcement -R and extinction.

All training applications fall into one or more of these categories - depending on who you ask and their perspective. But for me it's pretty clear cut if you go by the definitions. It is easy to group a training method into the appropriate category once you know what defines the different aspects of operant conditioning.

You should also look into classical conditioning.
 
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