Becoming a Dog Trainer: What to Look for in a School
What is their training philosophy?
There are many schools of thought when it comes to training dogs. Some techniques are more dominance-based where others are less structured and are based solely on a positive reinforcement system. Research the different styles and seek out a school that is as close to your ideals as possible.
Do they offer a broad curriculum?
A broad curriculum will include classes on training and animal behavior, as well as how to work with people, current state laws, and how to run a business. Request to see program and class agendas and ask if you can shadow a class for a day before committing any money.
How are classes structured?
Class settings can vary and there are pros and cons for all. Some schools are online based only and require that you only submit written exams. Others offer a virtual experience where you attend classes from home and submit assignments by video. Some schools are more hands-on in a physical building with a traditional classroom or gym type structure. Find the class structure that best fits your lifestyle and learning style.
Will you have hands on training with dogs?
Just because a school has a physical setting, that does not mean that their curriculum involves hands on experience with dogs. Be sure to ask how many curriculum hours include working with dogs in person, not from a video or other media. You should also ask how much of that time you would receive one-on-one with the canines along with instructor supervision.
What are the detailed costs of the program?
This seems like an obvious question to ask, but request a comprehensive and itemized list of all tuition costs and fees. A reputable school will provide you with this information up front and without hesitation.
How long has the school been in business?
Since dog training schools do not have to adhere to any nationally set training standards, schools can easily come and go. Choose a school with a proven track record and a respected reputation within the professional dog community.
Can they offer references from current and past attendees?
A good school will be happy to provide you with references of current and past graduates. They may already have bios and testimonials from previous students, but an actual conversation with someone in the program, as well as a past graduate, can be much more enlightening. If a school says that they do not share information for security or privacy reasons, that could be a red flag. Satisfied students are usually more than happy to be added to a list of referrals to contact.
Do they offer continuing education?
Learning about dogs and how to best train them is a lifelong endeavor for any good trainer. Some certifications, such as that through the independent Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), require that you complete continuing education (CE) courses on a regular basis in order to maintain your credentials. If the school does offer CE classes, ask if they are CCPDT compliant. A good school will encourage students to continue learning about new training techniques and philosophies.