List of Roles: Professional Dog Trainer

The Professional 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 is on the trainer’s ability to work in any environment with any kind of dog; handling the dog, training the dog and then training the owner in the same environment. The trainer needs to be an experienced dog trainer and dog training instructor as they will need to draw on skills of man-management and time keeping as well as being an extremely skilled dog trainer.

Business management skills are essential as part of the role involves advertising and marketing as well as book-keeping and session planning. Although not essential, being able to address the public is highly desirable, as more often than not the Professional Dog Trainer will need to give public talks about and demonstrations in dog training.

Minimum vocational training requirements As a dog trainer As a dog training instructor As a professional trainer Dogs handled Hours required
Theory / academic knowledge
Reading for interest 150 150
Watching DVDs/Videos 50 50
Coursework 250 250
Practical experience / courses attended
Courses attended 100 100 100 300
Individual dogs trained 150 150 (dogs)
Breeds handled - minimum 20 20 (breeds)
Teaching
Adult dog classes 100 100
Puppy classes 50 50
One-to-one training sessions 100 100
Mentored learning
Observation of / attending training / classes 150 150
Instructed learning one-to-one 200 200
Teaching assistant: adult dog classes 50 50
Teaching assistant: puppy classes 100 100
Totals 900 250 350 150 1500

Overview of minimum skills and experience required

The Professional Dog Trainer will be an experienced Dog Trainer and Dog Training Instructor.
As such the minimum skills and experience required apply.

The Work Based Learning Path to being a Professional Dog Trainer
In order to become a Professional Dog Trainer you must first of all be able to competently train a dog yourself and give instruction to a dog owner on training their own dog. This could be on a one to one basis or in a class situation and the training experience can be in any discipline.

Dog Trainer
Assistant trainer
Dog Training Instructor

Ancillary Work Based Learning Skills
As well as being an established Dog Trainer / Dog Training Instructor, 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 Professional 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.