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Work Based Learning role description:

The Dog Trainer

The Dog Trainer has acquired on the job vocational training in training dogs on a one to one basis, whether this is as a part time club trainer or a full/part-time professional dog trainer.

The emphasis on the dog trainer is one of training the dog rather than training the dog owner, hence the possible lack of specific experience in people skills, people training skills, people psychology skills or people body language awareness.

The Dog Trainer needs to have in-depth knowledge of how dogs develop from birth to old age, how dogs communicate with other dogs and other species, how the pack hierarchy is established within a dog pack and a mixed-species pack and how that effects the dog’s behaviour when it meets with others of its own species. Likewise the dog trainer needs to have an appreciation of the importance of the whelping bitch’s role in relation to learned behaviour within the litter and nature versus nurture.

Having experience of owning a dog, although not essential, is highly desirable so that experience is gained first hand of the joys as well as the trials and tribulations of dog ownership.

They will have extensive handling skills experience with adult dogs of varying ages also. A detailed knowledge of puppy and dog psychology is imperative.

Overview of minimum skills and experience required:




Indicators of wellness

Indicators of stress

Body language

Facial expression

Visual signals

How dogs learn

Conditioning and counter-


What they are

How they relate to dog training


House training

Crate Training


Play fighting

Dominance and submission

Submissive urination

Eating faeces

Destructive behaviour

Car sickness


Dogs home alone

Introduction to an established dog

Basic dog care and management



Grooming and nail care


Exercise requirements

Basic anatomy and physiology

Basic first aid

Basic Dog Training





Walking on a loose lead

Motivation and control

Intermediate Dog Training

Walking off lead


Whistle recall

Advanced Dog training

Stop (either stand, down, sit)

Whistle stop

Send away

Scent discrimination

Training more than one dog

Motivating the unmotivated

Instilling self control in the


The dog and the law

Aggression in the dog

Towards other dogs

Towards people

Over food

Towards the vet

With toys

Breed characteristics and



fitting and use of

Indicators of wellness

Indicators of stress

Body language

Facial expression

Visual signals

Socialisation and Habituation

Touch desensitisation

How to motivate

Technical dog training skills

Advanced dog training skills

Basic dog care and management

Equipment usage

Collars, leads and harnesses

Training tools, e.g., clicker

Aversive conditioning

Mikki discs


Crates, usage in home and car

Behaviours moderating advice

House training

Crate / cage / pen Training


Play fighting

Dominance and submission

Submissive urination

Car sickness


Destructive Behaviour

Introduction to an established dog

Introduction to other pets

Introduction to other animals

Dealing with Aggression in the dog

Breed characteristics and temperaments

In the case of any aggression towards dogs or people, the dog trainer needs to be able to refer to an experienced Canine Behaviour Practitioner.

Spatial awareness when training

Awareness of other dogs, handlers or objects in the area whilst working with a dog so as not to stress the dog by banging into things or moving across the path of another dog.

Environmental awareness when training

A high awareness of events happening during training is crucial, for example knowing who is coming into the area and with what.


When training you need to be aware of change as and when it happens and be able to deal with it, for example if a dog is brought for training one week wearing a soft collar and a harness the next.

The Work Based Learning Path to being a Dog Trainer

More often than not, we start training to be a Dog Trainer without actually realising we’re doing it. We start off watching a class at club maybe and then becoming interested in how the trainers are getting the dog to do things, especially if the owners are struggling with it. Another way that we ‘fall’ into the dog training profession is by getting a dog of our own and learning to train it ourselves and at club or class.

An alternative route is via Dog Training. Many clubs won’t allow a new trainer to take on the puppy class until they have shown competency at training, and teaching others to train, adult dogs.

Casual observation / formal observation

Owning and training own puppy

Dog Training

Ancillary Work Based Learning Skills

As well as being an established Dog Trainer, the candidate may also have a plethora of other dog training skills, attended many courses and achieved many awards on a personal basis with their own dogs.

They may have qualifications outside of the dog training arena that contribute to their competence, confidence and skill as a Dog Trainer and, under the Work Based Learning ethos, these should be acknowledged and recognised as achievements to date within the profession.

PETbc: defining roles for dog behaviour and training

Minimum vocational training requirements



Theory / academic knowledge

Reading for interest


Watching DVDs




Practical experience / courses attended

Courses attended


Indvidual dogs trained


Breeds handled - minimum


Mentored learning

Observation of / attending training / classes


Instructed learning one-to-one




Reflective Learning

As a Dog Trainer, of any kind whether that’s club or professional, adult dogs or puppies, we are constantly evaluating what we are doing when we are doing it.

We start training an exercise and modify what we are doing depending upon the response we get from the dog we are training. Sometimes we change our position, the dog’s position, the motivating force (us, toy, food etc.,) or the equipment we use. As a dog trainer we just call that dog training, however, in the work based learning arena it’s called being a “reflective practitioner”.

It is imperative that Dog Trainers realise that they are reflecting back; not only with the dog they have in front of them but of past cases and dogs they’ve worked with. A Dog Trainer cannot progress without this aspect of experiential learning, it would be impossible as no two dogs are the same and no two will react in the same manner.

Although we do it automatically, the importance of reflection in learning at work and awareness of the process, needs to be acknowledged for an individual to be able to carry out any kind of self-accreditation via the work based learning scheme.

Technical and textbook knowledge, though important, is insufficient to prepare individuals to be practising professionals. Knowing how or “knowing-in-action” must also be recognised as important. Knowing-in-action is referred to tacit and intuitive, rather than explicit knowledge, learned through doing rather than in the classroom. It is the kind of knowledge that underpins much everyday activity, whether at work or not.

Knowing-in-action is vital for Dog Trainers, as, as we all know, ‘real’ world problems tend to be “messy” rather than well formed. Problems with dogs tend to come along in rapid succession depending upon our reaction rather than nicely organised “first solve this problem, then solve that” as is often written in dog training books. Also some problems may well be unique to that situation, in the sense that they do not fit theoretical categories and therefore do not lend themselves to the applications of rules from the profession’s theoretical knowledge base.

When something untoward does happen it is likely to reflect on what’s going on in the midst of the activity itself. It is a consequence of this process that is known as “reflection-in-action” i.e., thinking about what we’re doing while we’re doing it and changing the process as we go along.

To be able to put into practice these reflective skills, both during and after the action, is what makes you a truly reflective practitioner.

Donald Schon (1983, 1987)

Comparative Assessment elements:

In general an Animal Behaviour Degree will average 1800 hrs study time on wild animals and some domestic species. Dog specific theory is generally taught at less than 5% of the entire degree and rarely by a dog expert but by a teacher who has no practical experience. Animal behaviour degrees are not an expertise level in dog behaviour, training, theory or otherwise.

All vocational learning in canine work-based roles should be taught by highly skilled people with extensive hands-on experience. Degrees obtained, therefore, provide targeted theory learning in canine behaviour and training as well as extensive hands-on work to prepare the student for their chosen vocation.

Accomplishments and Qualifications

Training course providers

Personal (Work Based) Achievements

Cambridge Institute for Dog Behaviour & Training

Animal Care College

Guide dog training

National Association of Security Dog Users

Home Office police dog training

The British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers

Other courses are also available

KC Competition obedience

KC Beginner

KC Novice

KC A B C comp-C

KC Agility

KC Working Trials




KC Field Trials

KC Bloodhound Trials

KC Herding Tests

Search & Rescue Cert

KC Accredited Instructor

The Kennel Club (KC) standards are some of the best in the world and to compete and win is an acknowledgement comparable with other high standards of training knowledge as in the horse world and international competitive events.