Cloudy Dreams: I want to be a dog trainer.
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I Want To Be A K9 Trainer

In just the past decade, there have been so many newcomers to the dog scene that even the most distant and remote parts of our nation seem to be bustling with individuals calling themselves dog trainers. And within the suburbs and cities, where populations and sizes of police forces have increased enormously, there appears to be a police trainer around every corner. So what’s up? Why the sudden rush of interest in training dogs? What’s the payoff?

Used to be - dog trainers for law enforcement were previous handlers who had worked their way through a few dogs, certifications, and tons of education. I can remember paying for a trip to Canada and using my vacation to attend a two week seminar that was quite tough and not at all enjoyable. But I learned a ton and that’s why I returned two years later. I am not alone. Typically, anyone with a considerable amount of K9 experience will have been through their own money, own time, and sacrificed a tremendous amount of freedom to pursue the science of K9 training.

But it seems that nowadays there are far many more trainers who have established themselves with little experience and virtually no technical education of K9. And though it may take months, a couple years, and occasionally several years - those trainers who do not have the core of K9 training and handling experience, eventually find themselves belly up in reputation, finances, and legal resources.

But there’s more to it. Even if a trainer is fly-by-night, by the time he has exhausted his resources and everyone discovers that he is not adequate, he has already taken a number of police and civilian handlers on a ride. Maybe it turned out okay, maybe a nightmare - but it still ended up the same - a trainer who no longer is able to train or assist his handlers.

We’ll leave our warnings, to police agencies that are buying dogs and training, for another article. Instead, I want to talk directly to those who are interested and thinking about becoming dog trainers for law enforcement. Are you listening? I hope so because what I am saying is the whole truth without the fluff.

For the sake of this article, I want to point out ten things that are misinterpreted about training police/SAR/ and other working dogs.

1. You will never EVER get rich. In fact, you will often struggle to make ends meet.

2 In the first five years, you will spend more money trying to train dogs (if you do it correctly) then earning from training.

3. Dog training is quite dirty, nasty work. Ever had a dog drag a leash through their poop and then wrap it around your leg? If you train dogs, you will.

4. Dog training is 80% dealing with students and public, talking on the phone, answering emails. Chris Aycock - our ASCT president - gets about 60 emails per day from handlers. I know because I monitored his emails for 2 weeks and it almost drove me insane.

5. Dog training is noisy if you keep your dogs at home. Dog’s bark - A LOT.

6. Dog training requires a 24-hour per day commitment. Handlers and potential handlers will call all hours of the day and night.

7. Trainers rarely get vacations because of the loads of dogs and commitments.

8. Trainers have to often seek collection action to get paid for dogs they have produced.

9. The dog world is vicious and slander is always a problem for everyone.

10.Dog training carries a tremendous responsibility and liability. If you place a dog out there and it or the handler does something wrong - YOU WILL ANSWER FOR IT.

Okay then. So why do people even get into training in the first place? Truth is, I have no idea except that they really love it. But listen to me; most - MOST - dog trainers nowadays try to get into the dog world because they think the dog training industry will be fun, rewarding, and easy. That’s right, EASY. A ton of people get into the dog business because they think that they can stay at home, play with dogs, get paid, and sleep more. ABSOLUTELY FALSE!

Here’s what an ASCT poll showed from people who wanted to be K9 trainers. Check this out!

QUESTION: What do you think you could gain from being a K9 trainer?


I could spend more time at home with my kids. (This person will quickly learn that dog training requires a ton of time)

Maybe I could make more money then my job as a police officer. (Yea right! Ever heard of benefits?)

I like dogs. (Good one! But not all dogs will like you.)

I once had a dog that I trained to do tricks and it was fun. (This is like saying I want to be a calculus professor because I once took a math class)

I was a K9 handler at one time. (Okay but one dog does not a trainer make)

Dogs are better to work with than people. (Well, unfortunately, most of your time will be working with people)

Dogs don’t talk back. (Yea, they bite)

Silly huh? Yep.

Let’s move forward.

If you want to be a dog trainer and really make a difference in the K9 world, make a positive and lasting effect, you need to dedicate yourself to the cause of training and education. You have to spend time - lots of it - on learning and developing. And please - PLEASE - don’t go pay money to one of these crazy TRAINER DEVELOPMENT schools where you attend for ten weeks and leave with a certificate saying you’re a K9 trainer. These programs are a bunch of malarkey. They are designed for one thing - to take your money. The best trainers will rarely (but occasionally) work with a protégé’. That is, unless you prove that you are very serious.

If you really want a good k9 education that will result in something super for your life’s dream, then start getting a solid K9 education the old fashion way: earn it by working diligently and getting your hands on tons of dogs to practice with. Also, get some help from a professional organization such as ASCT or a few others. Don’t think that you’ll be able to stay in your area and get the education you need. You’ll likely have to fly in to your instructor or drive 10 hours - so what? That’s the point. Get to the best - BEST - training you can. Only then can you excel in your training goals. Otherwise, you’ll just be another trainer on the block - limited, and hanging on by a thread.

SI R. Ashie

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