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Work Based Learning role description:

Puppy Trainer

The Puppy Trainer has acquired on the job vocational training in training puppies 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 Puppy Trainer is one of training the puppy rather than training the puppy owner, hence the possible lack of specific experience in people skills, people training skills, people psychology skills or people body language awareness.

The Puppy Trainer needs to have in-depth knowledge of how puppies develop from gestation period to critical development, how puppies communicate with litter-mates as opposed to non-litter mates, how the pack or litter hierarchy is established and how that effects the puppies behaviour when it first starts to socialise with others of its own species. Likewise the Puppy 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 puppy although not essential is highly desirable so that experience is gained first hand of the joys as well as the trials and tribulations of puppy ownership.

They will have extensive handling skills experience not only for puppies but with adult dogs of varying ages also. A detailed knowledge of puppy and dog psychology is imperative.

Minimum vocational training requirements



Theory / academic knowldege

Reading for interest


Watching DVDs


Coursework, of which


Puppy-specific reading


Puppy-specific DVDs


Practical experience / courses attended

Courses attended


Individual puppies trained


Individual dogs trained


Breeds handled - minimum


Mentored learning

Observation of / attended training / classes


Instructed learning (being mentored or taught whilst training)




The Work Based Learning Path to being a Puppy Trainer

More often than not, we start training to be a Puppy 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 puppies to do things, especially if the owners are struggling with it. Another way that we ‘fall’ into the puppy training profession is by getting a puppy 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 puppy and dog training arena that contribute to their competence, confidence and skill as a Puppy Trainer and, under the Work Based Learning ethos, these should be acknowledged and recognised as achievements to date within the profession.

Overview of minimum skills and experience required:




Indicators of wellness

Indicators of stress

Body language

Critical development periods




Social behaviour development

Within the litter

Within the new family

With other dogs

How Puppies learn

Development of puppy reflexes

Socialisation and Habituation


What it is

How it relates to dog training

How it relates specifically to puppies


Bringing puppy home

House training

Crate Training


Play fighting

Dominance and submission

Submissive urination

Eating faeces

Destructive behaviour

Car sickness


Puppies home alone

Introduction to an established dog

Basic puppy care and management



Grooming and nail care


Exercise requirements

Basic Puppy Training





Walking on a loose lead

Aggression in the puppy

Towards other dogs

Towards people

Towards the vet

Over food

With toys

Breed characteristics and temperaments

Body language

Socialisation and Habituation

Touch desensitisation

How to motivate

Technical dog training skills

Technical puppy training skills

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 puppy

Breed characteristics and temperaments

In the case of any aggression towards dogs or people, the puppy 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 puppy so as not to stress the puppy 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 puppy is brought for training one week wearing a soft collar and a harness the next

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.

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” ie., 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.