According to Blomberg Businessweek, Americans will spend over $47 billion per year on their pets. That’s more than Americans spend at the movies, on video games or recorded music.
Americans are expected to spend a few more billion annually by 2015.
Pet owners, especially dog owners, want their pets to stay in the best pet hotels, eat the best food, sleep in the most comfortable beds, and have the best dog manners.
Entrepreneurs are capitalizing on the rising trends and dollars spent; the industry seems to only be slightly altered by the recent American economic crisis.
Liz Reyes, It’s a Dog’s World (IADW) K-9 Academy, Chino, CA, president, says dog training is something many small businesses and large corporations are capitalizing on, however becoming a good, certified dog trainer is no easy task.
“It’s a complex role, as you have to attend seminars, workshops and conferences, and gain lots of hands-on experience,” she said.
Reyes says pet owners want to become the best “pet-parents,” and in order to do that dog trainers have to not only understand how to train any dog, but how to pass on tips, exercises and homework so the dog owner can continue practicing good behavior at home.
Schooling & Interning
A good start for dog trainers is to receive a good education on animal behavior. There are different types of animal behavior schools.
IADW works with a few local dog schools and accepts interns to audit their group classes. IADW allows students to work with their trainers in a group and private setting, and also offers its own school.
“You have to gain a lot of experience in different ‘real’ situations, “ said Reyes. “Animal Behavior College is a great start, but in order to become a professional trainer someone needs more.”
A trainer’s education can cost between $1,500 and $3,000. IADW offers a school, which costs $1,800, and covers the scientific principles of how dogs learn, practical application of learning theory, body language and how dogs communicate, safety when approaching and handling dogs, aggression assessments, behavior problems in puppies, adolescents and adult dogs, behavior modification tips, and how to structure private and group lessons.
After attending a trainer’s academy, the next move should be another hands-on school and/or apprentice. Some K-9 Academies with their own on-site school and training field offer continued education for dog trainers. Trainers will gain the hands-on experience to train dogs and work with pet parents, as well as learn how to run a business.
Reyes recommends being an apprentice for at least a year, which is the time it takes to really learn how to train a dog.
Training & Licensing
Every trainer should have a CPDT-KA (certification), which stands for a Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed. This means your dog trainer has at least 300 hours of experience, references from a veterinarian, client and colleague, and has passed an exam testing the dog trainer’s knowledge of learning theory, canine ethology, animal husbandry, classroom management and teaching techniques. All of IADW’s trainers are certified.
Attending seminars, workshops and conferences is a great way to learn about a variety of subjects including: the history and development of breeds, housetraining and crate training, puppy training and pet dog training, animal behavior, behavior modification and problem solving techniques, canine health, nutrition and medicine, and handling and training aggressive dogs.
Professional dog trainers recommend aspiring and apprentice trainers attend at least half a dozen one to four-day seminars, and continue attending throughout their careers.
Reyes recommends courses by Dr. Ian Dunbar, Susan Smith, Veronica Boutelle, Trish King, John Rogerson, and Terry Ryan.
Another great way to expand their vocation/experience/knowledge is to volunteer their time and work at a rescue shelter.