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13 Skills You Need to Become a Dog Trainer
Dog training is an enjoyable career that involves more than just training dogs. A competent dog trainer must also have expertise in training people to learn the best methods for making a dog understand and obey their commands. Becoming a dog trainer therefore requires teaching skills in addition to expertise in working with animals.
Here’s the lowdown on the other most important skills for proper dog training for anyone planning to succeed at this job:
1. Marketing Skills and Entrepreneurship
Many dog trainers are self-employed. If you plan to have your own dog training business, marketing is one of the most important skills you’ll need – because finding new clients will be one of your highest priorities. You’ll need a steady stream of dogs to train if you hope to run a profitable dog training business.
However, entrepreneurial skills aren’t absolutely necessary for all dog trainers. There are dog trainers who work for organizations such as animal shelters, kennels, veterinary clinics and obedience schools. If you’re able to work as an employee for another business, you might not need to be a skilled marketer or business manager. Such jobs typically allow you to focus the majority of your energies on training dogs and working with their owners.
2. The Ability to Learn on the Job
It is possible for dog trainers to obtain training at various vocational schools or through private training courses. However, formal education isn’t obligatory for success in this career. According to the career experts at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many animal care and service workers learn on the job. Some dog trainers choose to jump into their roles without having undertaken a lot of formal training. Some of them learn by training their own dogs and friends’ dogs, and then expanding on that knowledge as they obtain paying clients.
3. Personable and Polite Telephone Etiquette
As a dog trainer, you’ll need to spend time talking on the phone with prospective and current clients. It’s helpful to have an efficient and pleasant phone manner.
4. Human-to-Human Verbal Communication Skills
You’ll not only need to be knowledgeable about dog behavior and training methods; you’ll also need to be able to communicate what you know to other people in a clear, easily understandable way.
5. In-Depth Knowledge of Positive Reinforcement Training Methods
Dogs respond better to positive reinforcement than they do to punishment. When you’re training a dog, you’ll need to be well versed in methods of positive reinforcement such as offering treats, petting and praise as appropriate.
6. Ability to Interpret a Dog’s Body Language and Behavioral Signals
Dogs communicate with their tails, eyes, mouths, teeth and all the other parts of their bodies. It’s essential for dog trainers to be able to pick up on the nonverbal signals dogs are sending.
For example, a trainer needs to be able to recognize signs like dilated pupils that reveal when the dog they’re training is feeling frightened, stressed out or distressed. A trainer also needs to be aware that a wagging tail doesn’t always translate to a happy dog. The astute trainer will be able to distinguish a happy or excited tail wag from a frustrated wag. Trainers should also ideally be able to evaluate a dog’s facial expression and posture to determine how the dog is feeling and how it is likely to behave as a result. It’s important for the trainer to be able to use such a knowledge of dog body language to anticipate problems before they arise.
7. Patience and Persistence
Dog training isn’t an easy endeavor. It requires time, patience and a willingness to persist even when a particular training session isn’t going as well as planned. Dog training isn’t a wise career choice for people who possess low patience or persistence levels.
8. Empathy and Compassion
As a dog trainer, you’ll need to have empathy for both the people and the animals you’re trusted to work with. Training can frequently involve frustrations, because dogs and people can both exhibit aggravating behaviors. It’s important for a dog trainer to be able to set aside frustrations and instead empathize with the animals and humans who are being trained.
9. Problem-Solving Skills
Many dogs need training because they’ve developed problematic behaviors. As a result, problem-solving skills are central to this career path. The dog trainer must have a keen understanding of problematic dog behaviors, the things that cause them, and the best means of solving those problems.
10. The Ability to Focus on Important Details
As a dog trainer, you’ll likely have to maintain careful records detailing the progress your animals and owners are making with their training. You’ll also have to keep accurate financial records for tax purposes.
11. Strength, Stamina and High Energy Levels
Dog training tends to be a physical job. It can involve long hours spent working with large, energetic dogs that are prone to jumping up on people or bolting out of the training area. Keeping up with active dogs requires heaps of physical stamina and many hours spent on your feet. You need to be able to hold sizable dogs on a leash and walk them without losing control.
As a dog trainer, you’ll need to create, maintain and adhere to a workable training schedule that ensures all your commitments are met. Customers need to know they can count on you to be there for their scheduled training sessions.
13. Strong Customer Service Skills
Customer service is typically a critical part of a dog trainer’s job. Each dog trainer will have a somewhat different approach to customer service; but typically, good customer service will require you to respond to inquiries and answer emails in a timely manner. It might also include handling problems with billing or issuing receipts for bills that have been paid. But it isn’t essential for you to handle all this yourself; if customer service isn’t your strong point, you can hire someone to handle those tasks for you.
These are 13 of the most important skills a dog trainer will need to be successful at the job. In addition to the skills mentioned above, it can be helpful to refine your public speaking skills as a means of improving communications with your clients.
About the Author
Philip Piletic closely follows the impact of technology on education, and its evolution from traditional to modern methods that include e-learning, courses, gamification, and others. He has also helped the Sydney-based IT & Business school in developing their IT courses.