But You Don't Want to Shell Out Big Bucks!
There are many associations now that offer certifications for dog trainers at the cost of paying high fees. I'm not a certified dog trainer because when I got started in the field, there wasn't such a thing. Going through the process now would be obsolete for me as I have credentials far greater than a pet dog trainer status and have acquired a nationwide clientele base. Although it looks good on your resume, you don't have to become certified to be a dog trainer. This has pros and cons. There are individuals out there who claim to be professionals but have no idea what they are doing and can and have caused severe damage to dogs. For instance, in a recent case in Boca Raton, Florida a woman who was employed by Petco. Went out on a private session to deal with what she claimed to be an aggressive dog. This woman using her own "technique" sat on the German Shepherd for one hour. After noticing the Shepherd was panting excessively, she placed the dog in a cold bathtub. As a result of her "technique", this poor dog is now dead. In these instances, setting up a required licensing program in each state would be very beneficial. However, there are many very successful dog trainers who have never even attended a conference! You can gain extensive knowledge by yourself in the following ways:
A great way to start working with dogs is by volunteering at a local humane Society or animal shelter. Shelter dogs carry their own unique problems into family homes that every trainer should have experience in dealing with. When I started training to make some extra money, I started walking and house sitting dogs on the side. With the owner's permission to put some free training on their dogs, I was able to practice my techniques on different breeds while walking them.
Reading as many books and watching as many videos as possible is essential. Practice watching a video or reading a book and apply what you've learned on your own dog.
Become a dog trainer's apprentice. I offer this option to people if they can't afford dog trainer school. Find a great trainer that you admire and offer to help out with anything from office work to picking up dog poop just for the experience of working side-by-side a professional. When choosing a trainer, make sure they are just as excited about learning about dogs as you are. Anyone claiming to, or having an attitude towards knowing everything about dogs, doesn't know much at all. A trainer should always be open to new ideas and constantly informing themselves with new information. Become a vet technician or head out to volunteer your time helping at a wolf sanctuary, specific dog breed rescue, etc.
Attend training classes with your own dog or a friend's or neighbor's. Although they can be pricey, spend a little money taking some private lessons with a great trainer. This can also be used on your credentials. I took lessons when I got started from people in many different fields of dog training. This can give you a wide variety and the option to take what you want from one trainer and leave the rest to eventually form your own philosophies.
Some dog training associations are now offering scholarships to attend their yearly conventions. Do some research on how to apply for these. Be careful to do your homework if you are planning on attending a dog trainer school. Get a number of different quotes, outlines and what the program entails before attending. There are a few schools and trainers out there who will try to get as much money out of you as possible so beware. Make sure the instructors are well qualified who will be teaching the course.
Lastly, it's important to have an open mind when it comes to dog training methods. If something doesn't feel right to you, it probably isn't. Trust your instincts and never fall into the trap of using only one philosophy or technique. Remember, dogs like people are individual. What may work for one, might not work on another. Find a method that best fits the particular dog or situation and always be creative. Training dogs is not brain surgery but does require a certain art form. See you in the field!