- There are certain professional benchmarks one must attain to become a dog trainer. However, there's also a particular skill set that's necessary for all dog trainers, regardless of their academic or educational achievements. All trainers must have patience and understanding in dealing with both dogs and people; they must also be friendly and helpful. Possessing a natural curiosity about canine nature as well as human nature will help the fledgling dog trainer achieve a level of professionalism unparalleled by those who simply take on this profession as a way to earn a living.
- One of the most important standards a new dog trainer will have to determine is his personal training style. Most professional trainers agree that positive reinforcement is the best way to train any animal. Dogs especially love to learn and live to please---they just need to be taught what's expected of them. Thus, training a dog simply means waiting for him to do the right thing and rewarding him for that task, as well as ignoring unwanted behavior. The days of "snapping" collars or loud, harsh corrections are mostly over. Like people, dogs respond to kindness and gentle persuasion. Dog owners appreciate these methods as well: No owner likes to see his dog being treated inconsiderately.
- There's no national standard that one must meet to become a dog trainer. Anyone with an interest in dogs and the desire to make a living as a dog trainer may become a trainer. However, there are certifications one can pursue to help her learn the industry faster and set her apart from those who may not have pursued those same certifications. There are hundreds of schools and associations where one can enroll to become a professional dog trainer. Membership in professional organizations is the best way to network and display your professionalism. The most widely recognized professional organization is the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT).
- Membership in the APDT requires that the applicant hold a certification from one of these approved organizations: Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, Animal Behavior Society, International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, International Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour and American College of Veterinary Behaviorists.
Upon receipt of the proper membership fee and proof of membership in one of the listed organizations, the APDT will award the applicant membership status; the member will share in a variety of benefits, such as voting privileges, educational and training announcements and invitations, referrals, inclusion on websites and listings, and a subscription to "Chronicle of the Dog," the official APDT newsletter.
- Depending upon what area of expertise one pursues, there are agencies that offer credentialing in everything from law enforcement canine officer training, guard-dog training, therapy-dog training, service-dog training, basic obedience and agility. It's vital that the new dog trainer find his comfort and interest level and seek out and enroll in the proper organization. One may also become certified in multiple disciplines to increase his demand in the community. Aside from behavior modification, many trainers offer other dog-related services, such as grooming, pet-sitting, walking and veterinary-type services to offer a full menu of services to their clients.
- Professional standards for dog trainers will include any local and state occupational licenses, insurance or certifications mandated by the city or county in which the dog trainer intends to do business. A search of the trainer's state or municipal website will assist her in becoming familiar with her particular locale's business requirements.