Dog Trainer

The Job and What's Involved

Dog trainers, also known as dog behaviourists and dog instructors, teach a wide variety of techniques to domestic and working dogs, as well as their owners and handlers.

Domestic dog trainers may run a series of classes or provide one-to-one support to teach recreational and general obedience skills. This may include:

  • Puppy sociability classes, training young dogs how to interact with other dogs, adults and children through games and gentle play.
  • Coaching owners on how to handle, groom and examine dogs correctly.
  • Teaching obedience and basic control techniques, such as walking to heel, sitting, staying and retrieving.
  • Informing people of the legal requirements of dog ownership.
  • Competitive obedience training, such as heelwork to music (a controlled routine performed to music by the dog and handler) and trick training, for dog stimulation or preparation for competitions and shows.
  • Assessing progress and providing feedback.

Police Dog Trainers

Police dog trainers are more focused on getting police dogs and their handlers to form a strong partnership. Trainers design, plan and carry out training, which is usually delivered residentially in three stages:

  • Initial basic training, concentrating on general obedience.
  • Continuation training, teaching the more difficult elements of obedience such as disciplined retrieval, distance control and agility.
  • Advanced training, teaching tracking, search, guard, detection and protection skills.

Police dog trainers can also be involved in assessment and purchase of police dogs, liaising with dog breeders, rescue homes and other dog trainers.

Dog trainers who work with service and working dogs usually work 37 hours a week, Monday to Friday. This is likely to include some night training. Domestic dog trainers usually run blocks of day, evening and weekend classes. Many work part time.

They may work indoors or outdoors, in a hall or field, depending on the time of year and teaching content. Training is interactive and requires lots of movement.

Many dog trainers work privately, and may make home visits to deliver one-to-one training. A driving licence may be required.

A domestic dog trainer may earn around £15,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are fewer than 5,000 dog trainers in the UK. The majority of domestic dog trainers are self-employed. Some may be employed by dog training clubs on a franchise basis, or work within animal rescue centres. Other employers include security organisations, the Royal Air Force (RAF) Police, the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, the police force and HM Revenue and Customs.

Dog trainers work throughout the UK. The number of jobs is relatively stable, but competition for advertised posts can be high.

It may be possible to find work through personal contacts or by directly approaching training organisations. Vacancies may occasionally be advertised in local newspapers and trade publications such as Teaching Dogs, and on websites such as www.animal-job.co.uk. Police dog trainer posts may be advertised by individual police forces, a full list of which is published on www.policecouldyou.co.uk.

Education and Training

Entry requirements vary. While there are usually no minimum entry qualifications to become a domestic dog trainer, experience of handling and training dogs is necessary for starting work and for entry to some courses.

Membership of a relevant professional body is not essential, but may enhance job prospects. The British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers offers various levels of membership, depending on an individual's qualifications and experience.

To join the Association of Pet Dog Trainers members must complete a written, oral and practical assessment. The Kennel Club offers five membership levels, from student to specialist accreditation.

Dog trainers are expected to undertake Continuing Professional Development to maintain their membership with the above organisations.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Police dog trainers usually need to be educated to GCSE/S grade level (A-E/1-5) in English and maths, and have dog handling and training experience.

Voluntary work is one way of gaining experience. This may provide a good introduction to working with dogs of different breeds.

A number of relevant college courses can be taken before entering the work. These include:

  • BTEC First Certificate and First Diploma in Animal Care.
  • BTEC National Award, Certificate or Diploma in Animal Management.
  • BTEC HNC/HND in Animal Management or SQA HND in Animal Care.
  • NPTC Level 3 Advanced National Certificate in Animal Care, including animal training modules.
  • Foundation degrees in canine behaviour and training, animal studies or animal management and behaviour.
  • Degree in applied animal behaviour and training.

Candidates should check specific entry requirements with individual institutions. Most of these study options are available on a full and part-time basis. Distance learning may also be possible.

It may be possible to train through an Apprenticeship in Animal Care and work towards an NVQ/SVQ in Animal Care.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

NVQ's/SVQ's in Animal Care are available at Levels 1 to 3. These can be completed independently or as part of an Apprenticeship programme. Those undertaking an Advanced Apprenticeship may eventually work towards an NVQ/SVQ in Animal Care and Management at Level 4.

Another option could involve a short study course in dog training and canine behaviour management. These take place at colleges and training centres throughout the UK. They usually combine practical work and theory.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Dog trainers should be:

  • Confident handling all types of dogs.
  • Sympathetic and understanding to the different challenges faced by dog owners.
  • Patient, positive and motivational.
  • Good teachers.
  • Diplomatic and tactful.
  • Clear, self-assured presenters and communicators.
  • Imaginative, making classes enjoyable for all participants.
  • Well-informed about the latest dog handling techniques.
  • Physically fit.
  • Well-organised, in order to structure the training.
  • Business minded if self-employed or running a franchise.

Your Long Term Prospects

Self-employment is common for domestic dog trainers. With experience, some may join police dog sections as trainers or move into related areas, such as animal behaviour or psychology, or assistance dog training. Entry to some of these roles may require further specialist study.

It may also be possible to become a lecturer on dog training courses.

Get Further Information

Armed Forces - further information is
available at www.armyjobs.mod.uk and www.raf.mod.uk/careers. Applicants can also visit their local Armed Forces careers offices for further advice, or call the Army 0845 730 0111 or Royal Air Force (RAF) advice line 0845 605 5555.

Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT),
PO Box 17, Kempsford GL7 4WZ
Tel: 01285 810811
Website: www.apdt.co.uk

British Institute of Professional DogTrainers (BIPDT)
Tel: 01908 526856
Website: www.bipdt.org.uk

The Kennel Club, 1-5 Clarges Street, Piccadilly, London W1J 8AB
Tel: 0870 606 6750
Website: www.the-kennel-club.org.uk

Lantra, Lantra House, Stoneleigh Park, near Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 2LG
Tel: 024 7669 6996
Websites: www.lantra.co.uk, www.ajobin.com and www.afuturein.com

National Police Recruitment Team.
Website: www.policecouldyou.co.uk

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