Being a dog trainer is the best career I’ve ever had. It’s also been one of the hardest! Many times people are curious about my life or what it’s like to be a dog trainer, and so I thought it might be fun to blog about it.
First of all, every trainer is different: we all have different levels of expertise, and areas in which we train (both in terms of type of training and geographical locations). Some trainers are self-employed while others work for small companies or large franchises. Trainers may come to your home to work one-on-one with you, or you may go to them for privates or group classes at a location they own, or through which they are employed or have an agreement to run classes. Vet offices, dog daycares and pet stores are common places where some trainers can find space to do group classes.
Currently I am a self-employed trainer who offers in-home services, though I also have begun this year teaching group classes on a volunteer basis for a local shelter. Because I am self-employed, I spend my time not only as a trainer, but as a scheduler, marketer, sales person, administrative assistant, web designer and content creator, A/P and A/R, and as many other job titles! In some ways, it’s similar to when I worked in a non-profit environment: I wear many different hats.
My typical day can start with pet sitting clients, or sometimes I have training clients who like early hours. Usually, though, I am either pet sitting or spending some time with my family in the early morning. I am frequently in and out throughout the day into evening on appointments for training and pet sitting, and alternately answering emails and phone calls as I can in between appointments.
Scheduling and travel to and from these appointments are sometimes the most challenging parts of this job. We live in a fast-paced world where cities can be congested, so rolling with the punches is a pretty regular occurrence. Luckily, technology can help us; I have been happy that my GPS can estimate arrival times somewhat accurately so that I can head off any delays and inform clients. I hate being late! It helps me to be less stressed having that knowledge.
Working one-on-one with clients is great, particularly if they have special concerns or behaviors they want to modify. I enjoy it because it does offer variety–there is never a dull moment! Each dog and human client presents their own unique goals, and I enjoy problem solving. No two cases are alike. It requires a lot of attention to detail, tracking progress and having a variety of tools to help achieve the goals.
After I meet with clients, I always send a follow-up email to help outline the homework and additional resources that may be useful in doing the homework. These also help me track what we have done and help determine progress and where to make amendments and additions to treatment plans. When I’m able to give and receive consistent feedback with clients, we can better work together to achieve goals more quickly. While a majority of my clients take a coaching approach, I do offer training one-on-one with their dog(s) in a day training/walk and train scenario. This can help speed up training for clients and give their dog some additional enrichment to alleviate boredom and provide a constructive outlet for their energy if their human is gone for long days. Some also enjoy off-leash adventures with me, which is a fun service!
There is a lot of energy that goes into training beyond the actual appointment times. Managing time to maximize the ability to profit from the time that is paid for appointments is a huge consideration for anyone thinking of being a self-employed dog trainer. Having policies about cancellations is also very important. It can be difficult to enforce policies but without them, it would be much harder to be a business, so it’s important to set up expectations with clients and review contract policies thoroughly from the beginning.
The best dog trainers know they will never know EVERYTHING so another consideration is pursuing continuing education; this is of great importance to me. I have attended several workshops and hands-on seminars that have helped me to learn more about everything from how to address aggressive behaviors to free shaping with a clicker. Building in time and budget for CE is very important to me; some certifications also have CE requirements.
If you are interested in becoming a dog trainer, I’m always happy to talk with and mentor other trainers. I only recently began mentoring other trainers and I have found it to be an awesome experience. I learn as much from them as they do from me! Networking with other trainers can be a great way to learn and get mentoring from them, as well as gain insight into how the business works. It can also be a way to gain referrals one day when you decide to become a professional trainer, or if you decide on another dog-centric career path.
Thank you for reading and your interest in a typical “day in the life” of a trainer like me!
Owner, Delightful Doggies