"I want to be a dog trainer!"
I hear that so often! It sounds like a great career, right? Long happy days spent with nice dogs and their owners, making life better for both of them?
Most dog trainers, and I'm no exception, often get asked about how to go about making dog training a career. Here's my advice!
1) Respect the human-animal bond. Training is *all* about the human-animal bond. Sometimes training can actually make or break that bond. Sometimes you'll see that the bond has been severed (through aggression, a bite, some other serious behavior problem) and oh boy is it hard to put back together.
2) Put in your time. Remember the ol' 10,000 hours to mastery thing? It's very true! You need to be training as many dogs as possible to the highest level as possible. You need to *finish* dogs. What does finishing dogs mean? You need to get your training past the point of getting a dog to sit for cookies. It needs to get to the point where they can perform reliably, around distractions, and without reinforcers. You need to finish a leash-aggressive dog to the point where he can pass another dog on the sidewalk, *not* just can walk by another dog across a football field.
3) Have a training philosophy, but remember you're training for results. This one can be really hard. Let's say you're a clicker trainer amazed at the power of the clicker and you want to use clicker training to solve all the problems of all the dogs in the world. Now, if there's any single training tool in the world that *could* universally make everything perfect, the clicker might be a good runner-up! But alas, not every technique works for every dog. There are many, many different humane dog training techniques to use. Don't get stuck in the ol' lure versus shaping argument, which, frankly, something like 99.999999% of your clients are not going to care if your dog learns by being lured or being shaped.
4) Be good to your handlers. You were a beginner once too!