Are you considering a career as a dog trainer, but not sure if it’s a good fit? Here at the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training and Behavior, we’ve worked with thousands of dog trainers across the globe to help them build successful dog training businesses that help dogs and people live better together. We polled our team to find out what the most important traits are in a prospective dog trainer
Do you have what it takes?
- Great dog trainers like working with people
If you imagine working with dogs, dogs, dogs all day long, don’t forget that most of them come with people! As one professional dog trainer we know likes to say: “Dogs do not have bank accounts.” To which we answer: Not yet, anyway! Good dog trainers enjoy interacting with people as well as canines.
- Great dog trainers have good observation skills
Are you able to see the big picture without losing the minute details? Dog behavior can be subtle and quick. In addition to observing the dog, trainers must also observe the human at the other end of the leash as well as keep the surroundings in view for potential distractions.
- Great dog trainers think on their feet
Flexibility is a must for dog trainers, and we are not talking about the kind you need to stay on your feet while being greeted by a large, exuberant pup! (Ok, maybe a bit….) From last-minute schedule changes to sudden rainstorms to quick shifts in the carefully crafted training plan you spent all night creating, trainers who can think on their feet have the advantage in this profession.
- Great dog trainers have good public speaking skills
Teaching group classes requires being comfortable speaking to people from all walks of life. If you just read that and thought “Nope, not me,” rest easy. Speaking clearly and confidently is a learned skill. With practice and motivation, you can master the skill of speaking to larger groups than you ever imagined. Bonus: Confidence naturally develops as you increase your understanding and knowledge of the subject you are speaking about so never stop learning. Speaking of learning…
- Great dog trainers understand the value of certification and continuing education.
As we understand more about dogs and how best to teach them, staying on top of the latest trends and information in dog training is essential. Good trainers are tuned in to new data and keep their skills sharp. Reading, attending lectures, conferences, webinars, and seminars all show that you are committed to staying current in an ever-changing field. It’s also a terrific way to network with like-minded peers (more on that to come). Certification demonstrates that your expertise has met or exceeded standards for your industry. That’s good for you, your clients, and the industry at large.
- Great dog trainers use technology to their advantage
Ok, this isn’t a must, but dog training is steadily increasing its online presence. Training online using live streaming technology is no longer uncommon and trainers who are willing to try it can excel. This is an especially helpful option to clients with dogs that cannot yet be comfortable around other dogs or people, for example. Building confidence can start at home without the distraction of a new person in the environment. Likewise, keeping good records can be made easier with programs that translate spoken words to text. Professional dog trainers are their own marketing department, bookkeeper, publicist, and more. Thanks to online programs, many of these tasks can be completed more easily than you may think.
- Great dog trainers employ regular networking practices
Some trainers prefer working with puppies, others prefer teaching dog sports. Developing a network of trainers in your area to refer those cases you prefer to not take on can help you and your network grow. Chances are, you will begin to receive referrals from them in return. It is important for dog trainers to have a strong social network of like-minded peers. Finding your tribe and nurturing those relationships can be essential. That’s yet another reason we created the Dog Trainer Course with its built-in graduate support so VSA students can build their own network from day one.
- Great dog trainers make training fun for the dog (and the human)!
Modern dog training methods rely on the science of learning and behavior to teach. Gone are the old days of “yank and crank” training methods. We know that positive training works. It is backed by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (and other esteemed professional organizations). Learning shouldn’t hurt or be scary. What it should be is effective. Positive training is not only effective, but it is also fun for both the teacher and the learner. And that’s a win-win!
So do you have what it takes to be a great dog trainer? We’re here to help! Sign up for our free starter course now, or jump right in with one of our dog trainer courses.