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Discussion Starter #1
I am curious about getting into training on a professional level. As I understand it, You must have 300 hours of training experience in the past three years and also pass the 180 question test. Must you obtain these 300 hours through an apprenticeship or through a training school? The 300 hours is daunting considering my other responsibilities. At this point I am a training enthusiast. I have a subscription to Tawzer dog and have been reading about behavior and watching seminars in order to help my own dog. I've been obsessive about training my dog and studying behavior for the past three years. As I accumulate this knowledge and skill set I feel that I could be of service to others.

A lot of this notion is born out of a horrible experience with a compulsion praise trainer. I'm astounded that this woman is functioning as a recommended trainer in my area while using tools and techniques that would be illegal in other places. Paying to have my dog abused like that really lit a fire inside of me and drove me to study and understand my dog.

Could anyone share their experience in obtaining a CPDT certification and the career that followed? Am I being naive and headed toward a miserable end?

Thanks for any advice.
 

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I'm a CPDT-KA and a behavior manager at my shelter. I feel like I've seen a pretty wide spectrum of dog ownership. Worked in the lowest income communities of certain states (in a different animal welfare job I had), do puppy classes, basic training, work with reactivity and aggression, see training in a sheltering environment as well as in privileged communities, etc.

I would say, ask yourself why you want to be a trainer - not why you may or may not want a certification. If you want to be a trainer, the hours and the knowledge will come if you find the right avenues. Training is more than 50% about working with people. For example, from a sheltering perspective I put my hands on very few dogs and cats every day but I oversee the behavior modification plans of every animal. And whether or not they succeed is directly related to the plans I implement and the training of staff I oversee. But, my day to day job is NOT hanging out with the animals in my shelter. From the community perspective, I see hundreds of clients every year but less (MUCH less) than 50% of my time doing that is spent training dogs. I coach owners to train their dogs. The only time I work with dogs is to demonstrate a skill and if I'm doing a good job then that leash is back in the owner's hands as soon as possible. I do hone the mechanical side of my training by working with my own dogs - basic obedience is not enough and I spend time picking apart precision and complex behaviors. This is not necessary for being a professional trainer. But personally, I believe that my own dogs are my first teachers and I learn many invaluable lessons from them. (ex. I had no business or confidence working with a police dog until I raised a Dutch Shepherd. I am very confident working with a resource guarding dog with a multiple bite history because I had a severe resource guarding dog, etc.) I continue my education by attending conferences and watching webinars whenever I can.

If you are aiming for a CPDT, you will need to get 300 hours training directly with dogs not your own (I recommend volunteering at a shelter) or teaching owners to train their dogs (I recommend finding a mentorship program). I don't think certifications make a good trainer. But I do believe that the dog training industry should be regulated. And because of that I talk the talk and walk the walk by jumping through the hoops and being certified. I also require the trainer/behavior consultants that I mentor in my shelter to certify. But, the certification itself is not what ultimately makes them trainers. That part comes with the hundreds of hours I will require from them to shadow and assist group classes, private lessons, etc. The hours they spent doing bmod with shelter pets. The hours I will have them spend creating outlines for lessons and classes and eventually leading their own. The time they spend talking to me and other trainers about difficult cases, stuck situations, and working through them.

My two cents.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
How do you handle the ugliness of animal treatment? I live in a low income area of Cincinnati and our SPCA is overburdened with animals. I'm not sure I could stomach the realities of societal and systemic problems concerning animal welfare. The description of your work is honorable but sounds quite overwhelming. Have you become desensitized or developed a philosophy for confronting these issues?
 

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I don't know what you mean by "the ugliness of animal treatment" and if you mean things like neglect, abuse, hoarding... We unfortunately don't have that problem at a great scale in my community. Unlike Cincinnati, shelters in our region do not suffer from overpopulation problems and speaking just for mine, over 50% of our intake is from transfers.

The short answer to "how do you handle" is, I really believe in the quote that goes something like "people are doing the best they can with what they know." I'm not looking down on the family on welfare whose dog lives on a chain in the yard. I'm also not looking down on the family whose poorly bred designer dog lives in a mansion and has crippling anxiety. If a dog owner wants help and is asking for it, my job is to provide reasonable expectations and a training/management plan, to the best of my abilities.

That said, training doesn't necessarily have to do with greater animal welfare and I'm sorry if I implied that! A person can easily focus on the basic stuff - puppy training, basic manners, or maybe sport training. The 'happy' stuff (not that that stuff is easy or without stress). A trainer doesn't need to dive into the more mentally and emotionally challenging cases like reactivity and aggression. But if that's the case the trainer should be honest about their scope and redirect clients appropriately. Training does require some level of patience, empathy, and non-judgment towards humans in general though. Even if you are just teaching a basics course, when an owner is frustrated and yanking Rover around, or is not efficient with reward delivery, it doesn't matter how good of a dog trainer a person might be and how Rover would be so good if only they had Rover... the trainer's job in that moment is to help the owner help Rover. I like the mindset presented by FDSA's new PPP program - that a trainer only sees a client and their dog for about 6 hours, or maybe even just 3 hours if it's private lessons. Not even the best trainers in the world can 'train up' a dog in that time, but in that time a trainer can inspire drastic changes in the relationship an owner has with her dog.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
That is exactly what I meant by ugliness. I live in an area where that sort of thing is commonplace. Thanks for your advice.
 
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