List of Roles: 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.

Minimum vocational training requirements Hours Number
Theory / academic knowledge
Reading for interest 150
Watching DVDs/Video 50
Coursework 250
Practical experience / courses attended
Courses Attended 100
Individual dogs trained 150
Breeds handled - minimum 20
Mentored learning
Observation of / attending training / classes 150
Instructed learning one-to-one 200
Totals 900 170

Overview of minimum skills and experience required:

Theoretical

Indicators of wellness
Indicators of stress
Body language
Facial expression
Visual signals
How dogs learn
Conditioning and counter-
Conditioning:

  • What they are
  • How they relate to dog training

Corrections
House training
Crate Training
Mouthing
Play fighting
Dominance and submission
Submissive urination
Eating faeces
Destructive behaviour:

  • Car sickness
  • Barking
  • Dogs home alone

Introduction to an established dog
Basic dog care and management:

  • Vaccinations
  • Nutrition
  • Grooming and nail care
  • Parasites
  • Exercise requirements
  • Basic anatomy and physiology
  • Basic first aid

Basic Dog Training:

  • Sit
  • Down
  • Recall
  • Stand
  • Walking on a loose lead
  • Motivation and control

Intermediate Dog Training:

  • Walking off lead
  • Retrieve
  • 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 uncontrolled

The dog and the law
Aggression in the dog:

  • Towards other dogs
  • Towards people
  • Over food
  • Towards the vet
  • With toys

Breed characteristics and temperaments
Equipment:

  • fitting and use of

Practical

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
  • Collars
  • Crates, usage in home and car

Behaviours moderating advice
House training
Crate / cage / pen Training
Mouthing
Play fighting
Dominance and submission
Submissive urination
Car sickness
Barking
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.

Operational

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.

Continuity
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.

Accomplishments and Qualifications

Theoretical

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

Personal (Work Based) Achievements

KC Competition obedience

KC Beginner
KC Novice
KC A B C comp-C

KC Agility
KC Working Trials

UD/UDX
CD/CDX
WD/WDX

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.

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.