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Becoming a Professional Trainer

If you asked several trainers how they got into dog training you would not get the same answer from any of them. There is no consistent career path for professional trainers. Here are some ideas if you are interested in becoming a pro.
Some training facilities market themselves as training schools. This is not to be confused with a recognized college or university. To date, there is no college or university program in dog training. Private providers sell training programs to those who want to become trainers. Often these programs are several weeks in length. You must screen each school as though you were looking for a trainer yourself and with your expectations of a program. No dog trainer became proficient in a matter of weeks. These programs are often an introduction to training.
A common practice is for experienced trainers to take on ‘apprentices’. You may start by assisting in class (even if it’s operating the mop) and become more independent under the supervision of the established trainer. Unlike the official Trades, there are no regulations around ‘apprentice’ trainers. It is completely up to the established trainer to design and conduct the ‘apprenticeship’. 
The fields of behaviour, biology, ethology, zoology, and much more, are taught in colleges and universities. You can always begin a career with animals by taking one of these programs. A recognized program can lead you down a path to becoming a researcher or an Applied Animal Behaviourist. 
A good start to becoming a professional trainer is to become a member of professional training associations (like the CAPPDT and others listed on our Links page). You will start the education and networking process. These associations will ask you to adhere to a code of ethics that will guide your work.
An attempt to certify dog trainers is getting off the ground. You can now earn a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) designation from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. There is an application and examination process to obtain a CPDT designation. Visit their website to learn more.
If this industry is sounding largely unregulated – it is. Just as with any other career choice, we encourage you to do your homework first; just as we would for anyone looking for a qualified trainer. It is worthwhile to investigate if this is the right career for you by speaking with multiple trainers, observing their operations and measuring that against whether or not you are suited for the career. You will become a successful trainer if you make every effort to learn from other trainers and become educated not only in dog training but many of the associated industries such as health and ethology. Recognize the fact that you will always be a student and the dogs (and their owners) will always be your teachers. The last thing to keep in mind: You cannot be a successful dog trainer without being a superb communicator with dog owners!
** This article is not meant to be a substitute for the advice from a professional career counsellor. Many counselors are available through government services at no cost. Check your local government listings for more information.