Are you parenting a dog-obsessed kid? Thinking they might like to be a pro dog trainer, but don’t know how people even get into that? Then this is for you.
1. Nurture their love for animals.
While it might be tough to parent a child who wants to take home every stray puppy, remember you’ve got a real treasure there. Kids who love and respect animals grow up to be more kind, empathetic, and great leaders. For the shy kids, working with animals is a huge confidence builder. After all, animals never laugh when you do something stupid. So encourage that love for animals and help your child build on it. They’ll thank you one day.
2. Classes with the family dog
If your child is 8 years old or older, they can come along with you to dog training classes here at CoPaws! Your child gets a fun night with you and the dog, and you just might an extra hand with the homework. Win, win! Stay tuned for updates about our Kid-Dog Central summer camps and workshops just for kids and their dogs. We’ll get into tricks, basic agility, nosework, and more!
3. Volunteering in a shelter
One of the many things I love about Cabot Animal Support Services is all the many ways they have for families to volunteer together in the shelter. Whether it’s managing a booth at the farmer’s market, stuffing Kongs, or just washing dishes (which is actually kinda fun with the commercial dishwasher! J) CASS has so many ways for kids to safely volunteer with their parents. As kids get into their teen years, they will likely get a chance to interact more directly with the dogs, depending on their skills. Either way, the shelter environment is a great way to nurture future dog professionals. Learn how you can get involved here.
4. Dog training books
When I was a kid, I used to pore over dog training magazines, trying to figure out how to teach my dog. I had a blast, and it was a great start for me. If your child is into dog training, here are a couple books she’ll love.
101 Dog Tricks, Kids Edition by Kyra Sundance
Dog Training for Kids by Vanessa Estrada Marin
5. Shadowing a professional dog trainer
Hands-on experience is GOLD. There’s simply nothing like it to build dog training skills. This is the real world where we trainers put everything we learn to the test. It’s the perfect way for high-schoolers to jump into dog training. When I started out in dog training, I found it to be very difficult to find a trainer to be willing to impart knowledge. It wasn’t until I became a student with Catch Canine Trainer’s Academy (more on that below) that I was paired with my incredible mentor Don Gardner. When I launched CoPaws, I determined that I would always be ready to share what I’ve learned with new trainers. We’re always ready to take on new trainers to mentor. The world can’t have too many great dog trainers!
6. Working for a chain pet store
Pet stores like Petco and PetSmart have in-store dog training programs, and they will certify new trainers through their study program and learning under one of their mentor trainers. The central Arkansas stores are almost always looking for good apprentice trainers, and it’s an awesome way to gain hand-on experience.
7. Trainer school
This option is great for young adults who have really gone off the deep end over dog training. (Like I did!) These are in-depth study programs that last anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. There are even a few dog training college programs, the Companion Animal Sciences Institute being one of them. Several are in-person, or have an in-person component, but these are usually on the pricey end. The program I chose, Catch Canine Trainers Academy, was mostly online, but I was paired with a local mentor (which meant I didn’t have the travel and tuition expense of in-person learning, but still got the hands-on benefits). Catch’s master class program lasts 12-18 months, and includes in-depth study on every major topic in dog training, mentorship, hands-on externship in the local animal shelter, and more. These guys really cover their bases and go the extra mile to turn you into a dog trainer. The program even prepares students for the national certification exam. Learn more about it here.
8. Professional certification
If your child attends a training school, they’ll receive a diploma and be certified through that school. But to receive a professional certification that is recognized in training circles nationwide, they’ll need to take a separate certification exam. It’s like getting a law degree, then taking the bar exam. The most popular certification body is the CCPDT (Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers). They offer a humdinger of an exam (180 questions) twice a year. Requirements to test include at least 300 hours of hand-on experience training dogs, which cannot be your own dogs. But you can count volunteer hours, and even training friends’ dogs for free, toward the requirement. Applicants will also need to supply a reference from a local veterinarian or current CCPDT certificant. Obviously, this is way down the road for your child, but it’s worth it to keep in mind what the goal is.
This has got to be one of my favorite things about dog training. Trainers can specialize in anything we want! We are in control of how our workday looks. Whether we choose to specialize in agility, bomb detection, competition obedience, service dogs, search and rescue, herding, or retrieving. Once your child has a solid foundation in animal learning theory and training basic to advanced obedience skills, the possibilities are endless!
Have questions about becoming a dog trainer? We’d love nothing more than to go over the deets with you and your child. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.