Dog Trainers, I'm Talking to You!

Discussion in 'Dog Training Forum' started by casey82, Sep 9, 2013.

  1. casey82

    casey82 New Member

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    Hi if there are any dog trainers on this forum, how did you get started? Do you make fairly decenct money? Do you work for someone else or yourself? I've spent years, struggling, figuring out what I want to do. I've realized, duh!, dog trainer. I've been working with my dog for about 8 months now, and I love it! I was in the 4-H Dog project and did obedience and i loved it! I'm a natural with the dogs. I'm good with people however, when it comes to this it's something I feel so strongly about I tend to come on strong and is something I'm actively working on and getting better. I found a training school I really like (finally!) and am going to start training my dog there. The owner said she would consider letting me assist her and then teaching classes. That would be awesome.

    As many of you know I'm really interested in dog sports. I'm actively working to have my dog trial ready before Christmas. I'm also actively training in agility. I've read many, many training books, have actually met Patricia McConnell. Do you all have any other suggestions for getting started and getting people to hire me?
     
  2. casey82

    casey82 New Member

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    Anybody?
     
  3. Airn

    Airn New Member

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    I'm not a dog trainer but since no one else replied, I'll put in my 2 cents.

    I would try working with local shelters/rescues. In a lot of fields that require an end 'product', this one being a well-trained dog, people like to see examples of your work. And sometimes (a lot of times) that means volunteering your work.

    Would you hire someone who had no background, just their own dog to show for their training? Or would you want someone with references and some experience? Anyone can say "I'm a dog trainer."

    Get your feet wet with different dogs, cats, people, whatever. I'm not sure about where you live, but around here they would be glad to have volunteers train the dogs. Or say you will work (for a discount) with the owners of any adopted pet from x shelter/rescue.

    Making contacts is essential to any job, but especially if word of mouth is where you get your customers. Go to events, volunteer, show people what you can do.

    Since summer is winding down, maybe offer dog sitting/walking or some other services besides training. It will get your foot in the door (literally) and would make it easier to offer your other (main) services. "I've noticed Polly likes to stand on her hind legs. I actually train dogs and could develop her love of standing on her hind legs into a cool trick." Or whatever you would say. ;)

    It might mean working for less than what you want or for free in many cases. But if this is what you really want to do, then it will be worth it.

    Again, I'm not a dog trainer so what I say could be completely wrong. As a customer, this is what I would look for in a dog trainer/anyone who works with my dog.

    Edit: You might also consider fostering and showing the rescue/shelter what you can do with a dog. Since one or two hours a week with a dog might not be enough.
     
  4. SpringerLover

    SpringerLover Active Member

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    Where in the Minnesota area are you? There's a huge variety of trainers in the Twin Cities area all hoping to reach the same goal. I'd check out a few different classes by just dropping in, to see what you like.

    I enjoy training dogs, really enjoy it. I don't enjoy teaching people to train their dogs so my "trainer" days are far and few inbetween (mostly just at the school I have taught at, when they need fill in help).

    That being said, we have superb resources for agility, obedience, reactive dogs, therapy dogs, nosework, pet dogs, and tracking, (I'm sure I'm forgetting some) in the area. Figure out what you like to do, and go from there.
     
  5. Sekah

    Sekah The Monster.

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    I worked as an assistant for a dog training school for a few years. Your mileage may vary.

    The money was... not good. Very, very few people ever struck it rich training dogs. Most dog trainers I know, aside from larger facility owners, have day jobs to supplement their income.

    For me, I got into dog training to network with other dog nerds more than anything. Eventually the burden of giving up a few nights a week to training and the repetitious nature of it encouraged me to stop. I'd already made loads of wonderful contacts and I'm well entrenched in the local culture, not to mention that I've made some great friends. I can't say I miss it particularly.

    I started out taking classes at my facility, then I asked whether they were looking for assistants. They were, they trained me for a few weeks -- no cash, but in exchange for a class or two. If I'd stayed there a bit longer, and if I expressed interest in it, I could probably have started teaching my own classes. If the facility needs assistants they'll often ask talented clients if they're interested.

    I did loads of independent learning, but in all honesty not too much of it ever actually applied to classes. The curriculum was already laid out and I was just there to suggest ways for each hander/dog team to improve.

    As far as I'm concerned, a dog trainer's dog is their resume. Show people your skills through doing something special with your dog. Competitions, advanced training and showing a varied skill set are what I like to see by would-be trainers.

    I also think people tend to forget that a dog trainer is normally there to train people to train their dogs. People skills > dog skills much of the time. You may know all the answers to all the problems, but if you can't communicate that to a frustrated client then you're not helpful. I think it'd be helpful for trainers to look into taking classes geared towards effective communication and education, but it's far from a standard practice in the industry.
     
  6. Beanie

    Beanie Clicker Cult Coordinator

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    It's a good idea to get involved with the trainer who said she would consider letting you assist her. That is how I got started. I trained with my trainer for years and she asked me if I wanted to start teaching my own classes. And admittedly, when she asked me to do it, I was simultaneously excited and nervous. You can read a lot of books and train your own dogs (or even other people's dogs) all day long, but a majority of dog training is really about working with PEOPLE and teaching other people. Not their dogs. You need both knowledge and skills to be successful. The knowledge is, IMO, the easy part - though when I was just getting started I was terrified people were going to be asking me questions and I would have no idea how to answer and I would appear like the biggest idiot in the world. As it happens, I knew the answer to most of the questions. And on the rare ones I didn't, as long as I was honest and told people I wasn't sure but I would find out and get back to them next week with some ideas, they all seemed perfectly happy and nobody acted like "You don't KNOW? How stupid are you?!"

    Teaching people isn't easy. And there's really no way to learn how to teach people except to do it. I am not a natural teaching type, particularly when it comes technical things. My family wants me to teach them how to do something on the computer and I can't do it. I don't know how to explain it, I get frustrated with them, it's a major fail. But teaching people how to train dogs is something I CAN do. And teaching over the years makes me a better teacher every time. I had a young boy with a disability in one of my classes - thankfully accompanied by his parents so they helped me for the first few weeks figure out how best to teach him. In every class I feel like there's that One Person I can think of who makes me a better teacher. And everybody reaps the rewards from the people who are a challenge or flat out difficult to work with. You just have to DO IT to get the experience.


    As far as how much you make, let's just say that nobody goes into dog training because they want to be rich. Unless you're planning on making it into some kind of empire - and that's an entirely different beast, really - you're not going to be Scrooge McDucking it into any money vaults. I love teaching people to train their dogs, it is incredibly fulfilling for me, and if I could do it for a living I would in a heartbeat - but the reality is that I have to do something else for a living and train on the side because I enjoy it.


    My ultimate goal in life is actually to have my own dog sport training center... but it's not something that I feel will ever be a reality unless I become independently wealthy or end up with a very supportive (both financially and professionally...) spouse. =P
     
  7. casey82

    casey82 New Member

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    Yay! I'm on the right track!

    Aim, I totally agree about needing to prove myself. That's why I want to trail in obedience. If I'm qualifying and earning titles, obviously I'm doing something right.

    Springerlover, I'm in Bloomington. I'm training right now at On the Run, and Tails up, though I hate Tails up and will be starting to train at Cloud 9. I went and observed a class on Sunday and the Owner and I very much have the same training philosophy. I really like her. I've also signed up for Tawzer Dog and Bow Wow Flix so I'm just getting education all over the place! :)
     
  8. milos_mommy

    milos_mommy Active Member

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    I don't really consider myself a dog trainer...but I do occasionally get paid to help people train dogs, so I'll answer:

    Like Cohen said, there's not a huge income in the field. You can TRY to get into a job doing something like training military/police dogs (although that's usually done by someone in the force) or service dogs. I know a few folks who make a living as a freelance trainer, but it's not common. For me, training (when I do it) is always a second job, random gig, etc.

    I work for myself...and TBH, I'm not insured, licensed, etc. I know some people get that, but I don't make enough money doing it to be worth it. I don't think I've ever made more than $500 a year training, so I don't claim the money or anything, it's just an extra thing. If you want to make more money and be more professional, you may need to learn the basics of running a business, getting insurance, etc.

    The money is pretty decent for the work. You can get paid a decent wage for not a lot of time, but finding enough clients, etc. is a little harder. Usually if you're employed by a training center, you don't get a great salary.

    I did get started training my own dogs, and then volunteered with dogs from a young age, so read a ton about training...and started working with rescue dogs, later I started looking for seminars by respected trainers, began working professionally (though not training) with dogs (as a sitter, walker, day care handler, and bather), and volunteered to train behavior-problem foster dogs and shelter dogs. I started offering to help some of my dog-sitting clients and friends with dog training when their dogs had issues, and then whenever they knew someone with a training issue or puppy, they'd recommend me. I did it for free at first but once I was more confident and had references, I started charging.

    I also began studying psychology with an animal behavior concentration in undergrad...I'm still on that track, on medical leave, but it's likely I'm going to drop that major to focus on my other (I'm a double major). I may not, though, I really like the field and would really like to eventually be a researcher focusing on mental illnesses in dogs (depression, anxiety, OCD, etc.).
     
  9. SpringerLover

    SpringerLover Active Member

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    If competitive obedience is your goal, I would definitely stick with OTR, (Nancy Little) but I would also look into TCOTC or Agile Canines (both Patty Fulton).

    And, if you ever want to have training group, let me know. I freaking love obedience.
     
  10. Beanie

    Beanie Clicker Cult Coordinator

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    This is a good idea too. My major is in something else (my primary job, go figure) but my minor is in psych. Psychology has always been very simple for me and made a lot of sense but it certainly makes behaviour concepts a lot easier to understand with a psych background.
     
  11. casey82

    casey82 New Member

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    I would love to have an obedience group. It'd be good practice. Do you compete in obedience? Where are you located? Feel free to PM me if you don't want to post it here. Maybe you could even critique me seeing as I'm pretty much training from memory. I'm using what I remember from competing in 4-H, which was a long time ago. Luckily I have a very patient dog that loves to learn.
     
  12. SpringerLover

    SpringerLover Active Member

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    Yes please! I will join you!
     
  13. SpringerLover

    SpringerLover Active Member

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    My dogs are elderly, so I borrow Siri the JRT pup. I haven't competed a ton (two CDs, lots of rally, one Q in Open before I had to retire Bailey) but I've taught all exercises through utility to both dogs. We still have time this fall to use fields, so we should totally set up a time to train. I'll PM you a few locations I know would work well.
     
  14. casey82

    casey82 New Member

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    I'm planning in the next couple of years to get my degree in Psychology. It seems like many dog trainers have a degree in a Science related field. I'm horrible at math, so I'd rather do something not math intensive. :)
     
  15. AdrianneIsabel

    AdrianneIsabel Glutton for Crazy

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    I make a comfortable living wage, I set my hours and my own limitations. I started as a trainer when my education led position as a photographer was being outsourced. I didn't want to drop in my pay so when my trainer offered to hire me to work her day training school on a commission basis I took her up on it. When I moved to Oregon I offered my services to another facility, able to not only work their daycare but introduce a daytraining program. I train classes and privates to make ends me, I don't love them but their pay is always better than daytraining.

    One key in the field, I have found over the years, is finding your nook. Find something that helps you stand out without bad mouthing others.

    Work your own dogs, have something to stand on, and be good to your clients. Word of mouth wins.

    I have every intention to go back for my masters and move into education. I do enjoy dog training but far more as a hobby/competitive sport than a career. The lack of retirement, healthcare, and the wear and tear on the body is unnerving.

    Check into facilities, they're a fantastic resource. You can start as a poop scooper and work your way up, I do know of a few (like GDB) that offer PTO and 401ks as well as health benefits.
     
  16. Laurelin

    Laurelin I'm All Ears

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    I'd lie to train a few classes part time one day.

    Beanie if I had money we could totally do a training facility but alas... I do not.
     
  17. Beanie

    Beanie Clicker Cult Coordinator

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    Frickin' not winning the lottery ruins EVERYTHING.

    I even have a rough business plan... because... dreams.

    Clearly when Tim Tebow marries me he will 100% support my dreams and ALL MY PROBLEMS WILL BE RESOLVED.
     
  18. SaraB

    SaraB New Member

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    I'm a trainer at On The Run. Feel free to message me any questions!
     
  19. Laurelin

    Laurelin I'm All Ears

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    And I can live in your basement? :D
     
  20. ForestPhin

    ForestPhin New Member

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    Becoming a Trainer

    You've already gotten plenty of good advice!

    However, I'd say your first priority should be getting your hands on a LOT more dogs. That would mean working at a shelter, or a dog day care, or if either of those are not an option in your immediate area, a groomer. Not only will you get a lot more experience with a wide range of dogs, but dealing with them in a "mass capacity" like that will really ensure that it IS what you want to do.

    After you get going on that front, as others have said, I would also very strongly recommend finding a trainer in your area that follows your own personal methodology. Whether you use more "traditional" methods, or are looking for someone who is a clicker trainer, talk to them, attend their group classes if possible, and if you like how they do things, THEN find out if they offer any sort of apprenticeship program. You will learn by watching these people train other people's dogs. Dealing with people and their dogs can be difficult. Watching someone else do it will help you decide if this is really what you want to do without putting yourself at risk.

    I am a professional CPDT-KA. I went the route of taking training classes with my own dogs, then got hired by a facility that did day care, boarding and training. I worked there for over two years, got my CPDT, and learned waaay more than I ever thought possible about not just training, but dog behavior in general. I left there and now run my own training business. It is a LOT of work and more often than not, the people are the issue, not the dogs. But if you are serious about it, and you really connect with dogs, then by all means start exploring. But it wont happen overnight. It takes dedication and time. I left a really well-paying job to do this, and its been difficult, but its also one of the best decisions I ever made.
     

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