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Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Retrain to train


I saw your Facebook post on Friday about an upcoming feature on dog careers and will be interested to read it.

I was made redundant from my marketing role last year and thought I might use the opportunity to realise a long term dream of mine and become a dog trainer. I wonder if you could help me with where to start - there's a lot of different qualifications and courses out there, it's a bit confusing!

Can anyone tell me the best path to take, and also if this is something I can do the majority of from home? I live in a lovely but remote area of Devon and some of the training centers I've looked at are a long way from me and I'm loathed to leave my dogs home alone for long trips across the county.

Thank you in advance,

V Preston, by email


  1. I think you've hit the nail on the head! There are many qualfications and courses available and some carry more weight than others. Depending on what your long term goals are, and your levels of motivation, these are likely to influence your final choice.

    Both COAPE (Centre of Applied Pet Ethology) - and COMPASS Education and Training - offer distance learning courses in a range of canine related subjects. The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) also organises instructor weekends which provide an insight and introduction to running dog training classes.

    Personally, I need a course that provides me with deadlines and regular lectures/interaction with tutors and have am now part-way through a part-time degree in Canine Behaviour and Training with Bishop Burton College. The foundation degree takes 3 years to complete with an additional 2 years to top up to BSc. The reason for the length of time on this course is that lectures are one evening a week. Lectures are accessed via an online lecture theatre, where you can see and hear the lecture in real time and post questions. In addition to lectures, each module has several assignments, with clear deadlines for completion, plus 'block weeks/weekends' where students (and their dogs) attend college for practical sessions.

    On top of theoretical knowledge, it is essential to have practical knowledge and experience too. I'd recommend looking on the APDT website to see if there is an APDT member near you who would be happy for you to come along and help at/observe classes.

    Whichever route you choose - good luck! There are no short cuts to becoming a dog trainer and by doing your research and choosing a course that's right for you, you'll be well on your way before you know it.

  2. I answered Rachael's call for dog professionals. I am a full time dog trainer who runs Galleywoofers dog training club and I perform home visits. I earn a living from it and I thoroughly enjoy the daily challenge it brings.
    I echo Susan's comments and have trod a very similar path.

    The route that I feel helped me more than anything, was to get hands-on practical experience. I volunteered at my local dog rescue centre where I walked dogs and help train them. There were many breeds of various sizes and shapes. Some dogs were overly excited and others very withdrawn. I developed many 'tools' in which to motivate or help focus them. It is necessary nowadays to understand the science of behaviour but there is also no substitute for experience.The two should go hand-in-hand. Experience provides the confidence and a vast 'toolbox' in which many methods can be gained and applied within dog training. The science tells you why.

    Why not look up your nearest rescue centre, contact them and have a chat. Together with a home learning course and a few hours a week practical experience, you will progress steadily to becoming the dog trainer you want to be.
    Good Luck!

  3. Being from Dublin, I did a lot of research into courses that offered a degree in dog training. At the time, there was nothing that suited me in Ireland as I wanted to keep working full time while i was studying. I found Bishop Burton College and enrolled on the same course that Susan is doing. I loved it as they openly welcome people from all over the place and the fact that it is done through distance learning makes it ideal. It gives you a qualification at the end and opens up many other opportunities such as going on to do the BSc. I love the college and it is great to meet up with everyone a few times a year for block weeks and weekends, plus the fact that you are encouraged to bring your dogs is definitely s bonus. The college have a list of all the local dog friendly b&b's etc and there are kennels on site in the college for you to leave your dogs while you are in class. The classes are well laid out for the block sessions-usually one hour indoor class, one hour outdoor class with dogs. This means that your dogs are not left all day by themselves too.
    As i have only had experience with the one college, I can not give you advice on any other places, but I wouod highly recommend it for anyone thinking of going into the dog training area.
    Hope this helps!

  4. I'd like to back up what Tony & Susan are saying.
    There is no fast track but COAPE / Compass Education give great distance learning. If you can add that to some hands on at a rescue / boarding kennel / dog classes / groomers to add practical skills with dogs that are not your own it will be really beneficial.
    Seminars are really valuable too. Dog training greats regularly present in the UK - people like Ian Dunbar / John Rogerson / Grisha Stewart / Nicholas Dodman, these seminars can be really valuable for learning and for meeting other dog trainers. Some seminars even let you take your dogs with you!

    I volunteered in boarding / worked for Hearing Dogs, trained with Compass (still training with Compass - on Adv Diploma) and have joined the Kennel Club Accreditation scheme working towards accreditation. I have a successful business and I love what I do!
    Good Luck!

  5. As the others have said, there is no easy way to become a good dog trainer. There are some excellent courses out there and some that are not so good. You might find some courses are very old fashioned when it comes to training techniques and dominance issues.

    Beware of any organisation that offers courses that only give you accreditation to that organisation and that you can't transfer, even if they are Lantra or OCN approved courses. Or one that will only accept you as a member if you have done there courses, no matter what other experience and qualifications you have.

    COAPE does offer great courses but if you want to go on to join organisations such as UKCRB or APBC you will need to be educated to Foundation and Degree level respectively. I have done Think Dog with Sarah Whitehead and am now doing the Compass ADCBM. There is a huge jump from level 3 to Foundation Degree in the knowledge and how you present your work, but you do learn an enormous amount.

    APDT UK is a great place to start, find a local trainer who is happy to help you. Make sure it is a UK registered trainer as some people are members of APDT USA which is a learning organisation and members pay a registration fee whereas UK members have to go through a stringent test.

    INTODogs is another great organsation with fantastic ethics and you can choose to have a level of membership that includes insurance. To become a member you have to pass a questionnaire but you don't have to do a practical test. Again you might be able to find a member in your area who is happy to coach you.

    Good Luck with your future.

    Olwen Turns