Dog Training Specialties

As more and more dog owners are realizing the full breadth and depth of various training venues and about just how much fun training can...

Casey Lomonaco  |  Oct 14th 2010


As more and more dog owners are realizing the full breadth and depth of various training venues and about just how much fun training can be, dog trainers and behavior professionals have responded in kind with an increasing diversification of services. If you are thinking about training professionally, you will likely want to explore as broad a range of these possibilities as possible to find which is most appealing to you. This will allow you to invest both your time and money wisely as you gain the skills, knowledge, and experience needed to develop a thriving training business.

FAMILY DOG TRAINERS

Family dog training is one of the most popular specialties amongst dog trainers which reflects the great need for well-trained companions. The fact of the matter is, well-trained, happy dogs are less likely to end up in shelters (or worse). Family dog trainers will often offer both in-home and group class services, which may include the following:

  • pre-adoption counseling
  • basic manners classes – loose leash walking, come when called, name response, “leave it,” etc.
  • puppy socialization services
  • assistance with potty training
  • managing for safety and good relationships with children and dogs sharing a household
  • instruction for prevention of behavior problems
  • training through therapy dog level (Canine Good Citizen certification)

BEHAVIOR SPECIALISTS

Behavior specialists focus on solving established behavior problems which may include, but are not limited to:

  • separation anxiety
  • reactivity to other animals or people
  • resource guarding
  • self-destructive behavior/self-mutilation

Many behavior specialists are very talented trainers with a lot of experience. A true behaviorist is defined by formal education. Applied animal behaviorists have at least a Master’s level degree in a field related to behavior. Veterinary behaviorists are veterinarians with an advanced degree in behavior, and are the only behavior professionals who are allowed to prescribe medications in conjunction with a behavior modification protocol.

Behavior consultants generally limit their clients to private consultations, very few offer groups services due to the nature of the types of cases they see.

CANINE ATHLETIC COACHES

Another group of trainers specialize in preparing dogs for competition in a wide variety of canine sports, including but not limited to: Schutzhund, agility, rally obedience, obedience, dock diving, flyball, k9 nosework, tracking, lure coursing, carting, conformation, herding, or canine freestyle. Canine athletic coaches may specialize in one particular sport or may instruct for a number of different sports.

Canine athletic coaches generally have high level titles on their own dogs in their chosen sports. They often offer both private consultations and group classes. Most canine athletic coaches will require a facility – I don’t know any agility instructors whose full roster of clients all have yards big enough for an entire agility course and all the obstacles needed to create one! Because of this, most services are offered on-site, whether they are private consultations or group class offerings.

WORKING DOG TRAINERS

Working dog trainers specialize in preparing dogs to perform a wide variety of tasks to serve specific individuals or communities. Working dogs include service dogs (who perform tasks to assist disabled individuals), law enforcement dogs (which may be further divided into a number of categories including Search and Rescue, drug or bomb detection, etc.), and personal protection dogs.

Most trainers of working dogs train a dog to performance level at which point the dog is then transferred to a new handler or owner. With the exception of some service dog trainers who will work with owners to train a service dog, most working dog trainers work less with the public than the previous categories of trainers who specialize in helping pet owners.

Your path to a dog training career will largely depend on which of these specialties most appeals to you. If you are planning on training professionally, you will want to explore your options and then talk to other trainers who have established themselves in the field of your choosing – what educational path did they take? What do they recommend to a hopeful looking to break into that particular corner of the market? This will allow you to make the wisest and most efficient investment of your time and educational costs.