Check out this blog article for a few ideas on sniff-it games. Games that utilize a dog’s nose are a great way to increase mental stimulation for pet dogs. Games that are simple for clients to understand and easy for them to implement are the best kind!
Certified professional trainers offer their clients the tools to succeed, and that means problem solving! Teaching “down” in a group class setting is a great example of a time when your problem solving skills will be called upon.
Why is “down” so difficult in group class?
“Down” is a position in which dogs can feel vulnerable. Some dogs feel trapped in the “down” position, because they can’t maneuver and respond to the environment as quickly. Perhaps the floor is cold and/or hard, so the dog is uncomfortable in the “down” position. There are a number of reasons that dogs have difficulty learning “down” in class. As in many dog training conundrums, the “why” matters! Understanding why a dog is reluctant to “down” in class can be helpful in offering training solutions, but it’s not absolutely necessary.
Most trainers have a go-to option for teaching the behaviors in their classes. What you choose as your first option for “down” will be based upon your clients and their specific needs. The following are the basics: luring, shaping, capturing, hand targeting, and modeling. Not familiar with each of these? Check out Become a Professional Trainer’s training courses to learn more!
Alternatives for teaching “down”
1. Soft Bed. Try placing a bed or mat on the ground. If the floor is too slick, too cold, or too hard for the dog to comfortably “down,” then a mat may help.
2. Try Option 2. If you’re luring, try shaping. If you’re shaping, try luring. Some clients find certain methods easier than others, and the same is true of dogs. Find a method with which both dog and handler are comfortable.
3. Simplify. Make the environment less challenging by removing distractions. Visual distractions can be reduced with opaque barriers, for example. Split your criteria steps into smaller pieces.
4. In-Home Training. Some dogs are stressed enough in class that learning certain new behaviors is hard. These dogs may be candidates for in-home training.
5. Homework. If in-home training is either not an option for your client or there is a strong preference to attend group classes, then coach your client through the steps and send them home with homework. They’ll train at home, where the dog will hopefully begin to gain familiarity with the behavior. Once the dog has started the behavior at home, frequently the dog is more willing to attempt the behavior in class.
6. Change the Start Position. If you’re teaching “down” from the sit, try “down” from the stand.
6. Tweak Your Mechanics. If you’re luring out and away for a sphinx “down”, try luring around to the belly for a sloppy, relaxed “down.”
7. Use a Prop. Try luring under your leg or a chair, so that the dog bows into the “down.”
An exhaustive list? No, but this will get you started. It’s important to think creatively while analyzing the specific challenges that this client and this dog present. Becoming a certified dog trainer means having the tools in your training toolbox to address your clients’ training challenges. Memorizing methods might help get you started, but it’s creative problem solving targeted to the specific needs of your client that will help your clients achieve the best results.
This is a big topic. What personality fits your company? Are there special skills you’re looking for? A specific educational background? How much experience will you require? Part-time, full-time? These are all important questions – but not the ones we’ll be addressing in today’s blog. There is, however, one important consideration to address before you begin to even consider the dog trainer requirements for the trainer you will be hiring: independent contractor or employee.
You may not be aware that there are different legal relationships that you can have with dog trainers who work for your dog training company. Be aware that you can hire either an independent contractor or an employee. What specifically defines whether a person working for you is a contractor or an employee is determined by local law. It is very important that you seek professional advice when making this decision, because you will be required to meet different state employment laws for employees and independent contractors.
Why is it important to first consider the relationship you will have with your newly hired dog trainer? Because the relationship you have with this professional dog trainer dictates how much control you have over the methods and content of the courses and lessons they teach. It is likely that a person who holds skills that are unique for your business, who creates his own curriculum, and teaches independent of supervision could be considered an independent contractor.
On the other hand, if you are supervising instruction, providing a curriculum, and offering training in your methods to your new trainer, it is unlikely that local law would allow you to designate your certified professional trainer as an independent contractor. NOTE: the law varies from state to state! It is important to seek counsel from a professional in your area to help you define what these terms mean in your state.
If you prefer not to hire dog trainers for your company that are employees, then you’ll be looking for a plug-n-play trainer. In other words, a certified professional dog trainer who can hit the ground running and won’t need extensive supervision and training. If you prefer to train new hires in your particular methods and ask that they follow curriculum that you’ve developed, be aware that you may have to employ them and cannot designate them as independent contractors.
Again, we’re not here to provide you with legal definitions for independent contractor and employee. Rather, our goal is to make you aware of these special relationships so that you can seek advice and counsel from local experts who are familiar with the laws of your jurisdiction. Venture forth, educate yourself, and hire a dog trainer for your company!
Can you become an exceptional pet dog trainer without experience training dogs in competition, therapy, service, scent, or other advanced areas of dog training? Yes, you can. But I’m going to tell you why advanced training skills can help you to become a better certified pet dog trainer.
1. Enhance Specific Skill Sets.
Training in different sports and areas of expertise can help to develop specific skill sets that a dog trainer may not fully develop when focusing on pet manners alone. For example, training for competition obedience requires greater precision than pet dog training. When training in any of the scent disciplines and when doing behavior work, close attention to, and an ability to interpret, body language is vital. Service dog training requires the handler to train complex, chained behaviors.
2. Improve Reliability.
A search dog must be prepared to search in a variety of conditions with consistent results. A competition dog won’t title without performing a series of behaviors multiple times in new environments. Many service dogs provide aid that is so essential to daily life for their owners that failure is simply not an option for these dogs. This level of reliability may be desired by pet dog owners, but it is one of the areas in which I see professional pet dog trainers struggle the most. Training dogs to this high level of reliability gives a certified dog trainer a number of tools to use in aiding clients to achieve improved reliability.
3. Third Party Assessment.
Many areas of advanced training have titles, certifications or some neutral third party evaluation. This can be advantageous because there are clear standards and feedback is neutral – pass/fail, certified/not certified, titled/not titled.
Is improved reliability, neutral assessment, and improving skill sets possible to achieve when focusing on pet dog training alone? Of course it is. But – in my experience, pet dog trainers frequently don’t strive to the same levels of precision and reliability as is seen in advanced dog training.
1. You don’t have an appropriate dog.
You need not train a dog that resides with you. As a certified professional trainer, there are a number of opportunities for training dogs that do not reside in your home. Additionally, there are ever-increasing opportunities for advanced training available. Do a little research, and you may find a sport or activity that suits the dog you have.
2. It takes too much time, of which you already have so little.
You’ve committed to training dogs as a professional. That means that you must keep your skills sharp – and that means that you must practice. Dog training is in part an intellectual skill and in part a mechanical skill, and both skill sets degrade without use. Making time to train advanced behaviors pays off in improved intellectual and mechanical skills, including timing, reinforcement delivery, reading body language, and chaining complex behaviors.
3. Your heart is with pet dogs.
Taking your personal training a level further doesn’t mean you focus your teaching skills in the advanced dog training arena. It does mean that you’re developing a larger set of skills and problem solving tools that you can use in teaching your pet dog clients.
So – become an advanced dog trainer! You’ll improve your pet dog training skills, provide your clients with a richer set of problem solving resources, and gain valuable feedback from other professionals and advanced dog trainers.
You’ve decided you want to train to be a dog trainer. You’ve signed up with Become a Professional Dog Trainer; you’re taking courses on behavior, learning theory, dog training, teaching. What’s next? Practice!
Training dogs is a skill, one that contains both intellectual and physical components. Reading body language on the fly requires practice. Acquiring fluid delivery of different types of reinforcers happens over time, with practice. How do you improving timing? That’s right – practice!
Where do you get this practice? Your dog or dogs will not be enough. So where do you find a supply of ready and willing subjects on whom to perfect your mechanical dog training skills? Be creative. Speak with local rescue groups and shelters about volunteering your time. Video yourself as much as possible, so that your practice is productive and you’re improving your skills, rather than developing poor habits. Consider apprenticeship with a certified professional dog trainer. Keep taking classes from other certified professional trainers. Consider developing advanced skills (link to advanced training skills blog) in areas such as competitive obedience or scent work.
Just like dog training, training people improves with practice. Preparing to teach, teaching, and reviewing your teaching experiences for future improvement – all of these steps will improve your teaching skills, but they can also help you to increase your confidence. Again, consider videoing yourself so you can pinpoint areas for improvement. You need not teach dog training classes to gain experience teaching people, so be creative!
If you want to become a certified dog trainer, then get ready to do some homework! Practicing your teaching skills and your dog training skills is a must. You may need to be creative and reach out to your local community to develop opportunities to practice your people teaching and your dog training skills. But your efforts will pay off as you practice, practice, practice, and make yourself better!
Dog Training Intake Form, Client History, Canine Behavior Evaluation Form, call it what you will, this is the form a professional dog trainer needs when looking for the vital stats on future clients, human and canine.
“Why do I need one? It seems like more administrative work.”
There are a number of reasons for using an intake form for both clients and dogs. Getting a full background can help you to:
1. formulate a targeted, more fully developed training plan,
2. help you evaluate the safety risks in accepting particular dogs; and
3. screen out clients whose needs you may not be able to fulfill or who may be unsuitable for your business in some way.
Why does your client need one?
Requiring an initial assessment of handler and dog is very advantageous to the client for all of the above reasons. If it helps you to do your job, it helps your client. But specifically, I find that completing and reviewing this document with your client helps them to understand better what the training issues/goals are and helps to manage their training expectations.
Clients frequently are not focusing on the big picture, for example, how is the family’s behavior effecting the dog’s behavior; are the problem behaviors indicative of other underlying areas of concern; is the dog’s environment safe and fully providing for his needs. Most clients are focused on the fact that Spot jumps on their toddler or doesn’t come when they call him. The following are items to include that might have your client considering the bigger picture and will help you to create a training plan:
1. Who spends the most time with Spot? Who feeds Spot? Walks Spot?
2. How much exercise does Spot get on a daily basis? This includes both the type and length.
3. Has Spot had previous training? If so, what kind, and with whom?
4. Has Spot ever bitten a person or dog? ***For the best language to use here, you might consult a local attorney. A local attorney will be familiar with applicable State and local law regarding what constitutes a dangerous dog.
5. Name 5 things that Spot enjoys doing with the family. 5 things that Spot enjoys doing alone. Note: there are a number of variations you could create: favorite toys, activities, foods.
6. Spot does these 5 things that I love… Spot does these 5 things that I dislike….
“Do I have to create my own?”
Certainly you can create your own dog training intake form. Doing so means that your form will be customized to your needs. This is especially important if you offer specialty classes or provide services to a niche clientele, either of which might require specialized background information. If you prefer not to create your own form, you can choose to either buy a form or utilize business software that collects the information for you as a part of the registration process. There are a number of choices available on the market – check them out!
In each of the videos below, there are 3 dogs playing. Notice the differences in how the dogs engage with one another in each of the videos. What changed? The type of toy that was introduced to the doggie playgroup! If you’re interested in becoming a professional dog trainer, learning to read dog body language is an important tool. In these 2 clips, you can see how dog play can be changed through relatively minor interventions.
Video: Dog Toy is a Ball
Here are a few points of interest from this video:
Vocalization is simply one method of canine communication. In this instance, it is an indicator of the Labrador Retriever’s increasing arousal level.
2. Where is the toy? How is it being used in play?
The Bloodhound has a large ball in his mouth. He is showing strong possession (a desire to keep the toy – nothing wrong with that!) and is enticing the other dogs to chase him with it by slowing and presenting them with a view of the toy.
3.Type of Play
Primarily chase. Chase is a great dog game. Like all dog play, it’s important that all participants are interested in playing, breaks occur periodically, and that arousal levels stay at a reasonable level.
This is fast paced play. The Bloodhound and Labrador Retriever are running at high speeds but there are breaks in play. The clip starts in one of these play breaks.
5. Rigid or Loose
Even though the Labrador Retriever and Bloodhound are running quite fast, their bodies are still relatively loose. Compare the German Shorthair Pointer who is quite rigid and upright as he runs.
Notice how the Labrador Retriever utilizes his mouth in this video. He is grabbing at shoulders, haunches, anything within mouth range. The German Shorthair Pointer is engaging in play. What you don’t see in this video is that the Pointer has refrained from interacting with the 2 dogs during most of the play session and has entertained himself by watching the other dogs play. The higher level of arousal, fast movement, and/or vocalization triggered his interest to join in.
Overall, I find this play more frantic, less relaxed or loose, than I like. The vocalization, repeated grabbing with the mouth, and the Pointer’s stiff body all point to play that is taking place in a higher state of arousal than I prefer. Note that opinions among professional dog trainers vary broadly as to what constitutes appropriate or inappropriate play. I would categorize this play as appropriate, but would direct the play to a calmer state if possible. See how this is done in the second video!
Video: Dog Toy is Long Tug
If there is vocalization, it is minimal. Again, vocalization isn’t bad, but it appears to be tied to increasing levels of arousal for the Labrador Retriever in the video.
2. Where is the toy? How is it being used in play?
The Bloodhound and Labrador Retriever each grasp one end of the tug toy. Both dogs are showing strong possession (a desire to keep the toy – nothing wrong with that!) but there is significant give and take in the tug game they are playing.
3.Type of Play
Primarily tug. Tug is also a great dog game. Like all play, it’s important that all participants are interested in playing, breaks occur periodically, and that arousal levels stay at a reasonable level.
The pace of this play is slowed significantly.
5. Rigid or Loose
Both dogs are looser here than in the ball video. The Labrador Retriever ducks under the Bloodhound’s jaw and curves his body around. The Bloodhound even play bows into the down.
Where’s the third dog? He’s in the room, standing in a relaxed posture to the side and watching.
Overall, I find this play more desirable. Play begins with a keep away game, similar to the ball video, but the pace simply never escalates, nor does the arousal level. Both dogs are engaged and very interested in continuing the game, but neither seems frantic or overly aroused compared to the ball video clip. Less stress for the dogs, great social engagement, very good exercise – that’s win-win-win in my book!
What is to be concluded from these videos? That tug play amongst dogs is better than ball play? No. While true for this group, that’s certainly not necessarily true in many cases. The 2 videos shown are just a simple example of how introducing a toy to group play can change the dynamic of the play. Additionally, the quality and type of play can be altered depending on the type of toy, as is demonstrated in the video. As a professional dog trainer, having the ability to read body language and to influence play is very important. And what great fun – watching a group of dogs engage in safe, relaxed play!
You’ve read about the 7 Things I LOVE About Being a certified professional dog trainer. Now that you’ve had a moment to think about your dream job, let’s take a moment to contemplate the hazards of becoming a certified dog trainer!
1. You can’t help everyone.
Most trainers choose dog training because they want to help dogs and their people. Unfortunately, you can’t take every client. Some can’t afford your fees, some have problems that don’t fall within your areas of expertise, and some clients aren’t ready to commit to change.
2. There are no end goal guarantees.
Certified dog trainers are ethically limited in the types of training promises we can make. While a certified dog trainer can guarantee satisfaction, a certain amount of time spent with the client’s dog, or the use of certain types of methods, ethical trainers won’t guarantee training goal end results. Clients desperately want to hear a guarantee, and less ethical trainers may offer these guarantees.
3. Days are long – and dog training will be the smallest part of many days.
Accounting, marketing, cleaning, driving, and administrative duties. Many dog trainers are small business owners, which means accounting, marketing, and various admin duties consume a large part of the day. If a love of dogs, helping people, and teaching draws you to dog training – be aware that much of dog training does not involve training dogs. Working for someone else, dog trainers can expect to do some light cleaning, driving to clients’ houses, and some admin.
For many professional dog trainers, the root of their professional interest comes from a desire to help people, decrease euthanasia rates, or from a personal experience with a special dog in their past. Some clients have unrealistic expectations or want results with minimal or no effort on their part. And dog training results are limited by a number of factors: time, money, the training issue and end goal, and the owner’s engagement and ability to name a few. These limitations can be disheartening sometimes.
Such a simple thing – but a personal least favorite of mine. Most dog trainers have private clients, provide day training, offer some dog walking (training walks, pet sitting for long-term clients, etc), and/or train group classes at multiple locations. Expect to spend a good amount of time behind the wheel of your car. And frequently, your clients are available at times that traffic is peaking. This all equals 1 dog trainer in stop and go traffic.
6. Cobbler’s Children
If you’ve ever heard the saying the cobbler’s children go without shoes, then you’ll understand how little training a dog trainer’s own dogs may get. I love to train my own dogs. Many professional dog trainers love training their own dogs but find the days slipping by with no dedicated personal training time, each day filled to the brim with dog training…someone else’s dogs.
Why be a dog trainer?
Looking at this list, you may ask – why am I a professional dog trainer? Every job has its downside. What’s important is being aware of the pros and cons. Incorporating my love of dogs into every aspect of my life, scheduling flexibility, helping people who want to be helped – these are things that provide me with a great deal of personal satisfaction. Enough satisfaction that the things I don’t like, even sometimes hate, pale in comparison. And always keeping the negatives in mind helps me to work toward improving those downsides of the job. I can limit my traffic time through smart scheduling. I can train with my own dogs if I simply schedule myself like a client. Some of the solutions are less simple – but I’m always searching!
Yes, there are downsides. No, becoming a professional dog trainer isn’t for everyone. Create your own LOVE/HATE lists, compare the columns, and follow your head – or just follow your heart. I know that when I read through my list of “loves,” I fall in love with dog training all over again.
I love dogs. Training them, hanging out on the sofa with them, watching them work, watching them play. As a professional trainer, I spend every day with dogs! Client dogs, and since I work for myself and have a dog-friendly workplace (of course!), my own dogs.
2. Flexible Schedule.
While it’s true that most professional dog trainers work primarily when regular folks are available, weekends and evenings, there is also the ability to set aside blocks of time when you simply don’t schedule clients. Does this mean you work less? No. But you have great influence over when that work happens, especially the administrative, marketing, and business portion of your work.
3. Picking Your Clients.
Like to teach puppies? Then focus on puppy clients! Love flyball? Teach a flyball class! Prefer hands-on training to teaching clients? Provide day training! Every business needs a certain number of clients to be self-sustaining, but you can direct the focus of your business and the types of clients you are servicing through marketing and product offerings.
4. Helping People.
As a certified professional dog trainer, you will solve people’s problems. That’s a great feeling. Dogs are a part of your clients’ families, and by helping your clients build a stronger bond with their dogs, you’re making a significant positive impact on their lives.
If you enjoy teaching people, professional dog training is a great profession to join. Dog training clients are a group of people who have reached out to you to solve a specific problem. They not only want to be there, many clients are highly motivated to learn.
6. The Aha Moment.
There is a moment in teaching people and in training dogs, where the light bulb comes on. That moment when it all comes together is incredibly rewarding to see, especially when you’ve been an integral piece in the process leading to that moment.
7. Being My Own Boss. More than setting my schedule, picking my client type, and helping people (great as all those are!), the general concept that I am responsible ultimately to myself and my clients is a great feeling. I like being the boss of me!
There’s a lot of misinformation out there about dogs and tug! Years ago, someone decided that playing tug with your dog will make him dominant, and that mis-information has been making the rounds ever since. However, there’s absolutely nothing to back that up. Tug can be a great game to play with your dog – just be sure he knows and follows the rules.
I’m especially fond of using tug with dogs who mouth at hands and tear at clothes with their teeth. A great game of tug can be physically demanding for the person, and clients are usually surprised by how much an active game of tug can tire their dog. I work with my clients to structure tug play so that everyone, dog and human, can play hard but safely and without encouraging undesirable behaviors like mouthing, jumping, and scratching.
There are rules to playing tug, and these are very important to keep your dog from learning obnoxious, pushy behaviors. If your dog loves to tug, he’ll learn these rules very quickly!
- The tug toy belongs to you – don’t leave it laying around for your dog to play with. You should initiate all tug games.
- Your dog should have a very reliable “out” (or “drop it”) command.
- When you ask your dog to “out,” he must do it immediately.
- If he doesn’t “out,” the game ends for a short time (30-60 seconds). If you can’t get the tug toy from him, just get up and walk away.
- Keep repeating this until he gives up the toy as soon as you give the command. Start slow, when you’re just beginning the game and he’s not too worked up, then as he learns to “out” on command, gradually start training as the game becomes more intense.
- Your dog’s teeth must never touch your hand. If they do, the game is over for the rest of the day. Again, they’ll quickly learn this rule if they like playing tug.
- Everyone in the household must follow these rules. If someone does not follow the rules, they should not be allowed to play tug with the dog. These rules are for the safety of everyone involved, and will keep tug an enjoyable game for everyone.
Whether you’re a woman, a man, or a child, discovering the games that humans and dogs like to play together is an excellent adventure. And with a little thought, you can choose games and play that improve your relationship with your dog, rather than harm it.