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So, You Want to Become a Professional Dog Trainer

First, you need to be a proficient trainer yourself before you endeavor to teach others, so step one is take classes, MANY classes, with your own dogs!
Attend as many classes and types of classes as you can. It takes years to become a polished trainer.



Learn all you can about the canine species.

Train. Read. Read more. Watch videos. Attend seminars. Find a mentor.

Volunteer your time. Get your hands on as many breeds and breed types as you can. Volunteer at your local shelter walking shelter dogs. Get a good working knowledge of basic canine behavior. Study dog body language and communication. What is good temperament -and poor temperament? Learn about how YOUR body language affects dogs. You will come in contact with hyper dogs, worried dogs, defensive dogs and laid-back dogs. You will handle each differently. Your safety and the safety of the people you work with depends on your knowledge and experience. You must be able to instruct pet owners on the finer points of understanding how to communicate and read their own dogs' body language. Study the "What is My Dog Saying"  Powerpoint presentation.

Understand Learning Theory.
Learn all you can about the human species. How people learn. Just because you can train a dog, does not mean you can teach humans. Instructors teach people, not dogs. Classroom management is an essential skill. Keeping a number of dogs and people safe and on track and directing a group is different from one-on-one instructing.


A good instructor understands basic psychology, learning theory, ethology and animal husbandry. You must understand operant and classical conditioning and how to use them. Study problem behaviors and their solutions. It isn't enough to just know the mechanics. Know how, when and why you would choose specific techniques - and why you would not. Every dog is different, every family is unique.


Gaining the knowledge that you need will require personal time, travel and expense.

It takes years and experience to attain the knowledge required to be an instructor. Seminars are offered all over the United States and online.  Start saving for your education fund!


Visit the Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers for their list of requirements to sit for the exam.


Read every positive training book you can get your hands on.

Terry Ryan's "Coaching People to Train Their Dogs" is a must-have.  

Also, "So You Want to Become a Dog Trainer" by Nicole Wilde and by the same author "It's Not the Dogs, It's the People." You can find these and many other books on training and behavior on


Register for Seminars & Online Workshops:

Fenzi Dog Sports Academy

Susan Garrett - Helping People Grow Their Dog Training Skills

Grisha Stewart - Empowered Dog Training

Dog-iBox - Webinars for Canine Professionals

Enroll in Instructor courses:

Ken Ramirez - The Ranch - Karen Pryor National Training Center

Northwest School of Canine Studies
Karen Pryor Academy
Jean Donaldson's Academy for Dog Trainers
Terry Ryan's Instructor Training Courses
CATCH - Canine Trainers Academy

Victoria Stillwell Dog Training Academy

International Training Conferences - great places to network and get a huge amount of great education in a few day's time:
APDT conferences 
Clicker Expo 

Pet Professional Guild Annual Summit


Seek Accreditation:
Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers
Pet Professional Accreditation



Tips from the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

Organizations, credentials and what to ask a dog trainer

Find Another Trainer IF ...

AVSAB Humane Dog Training Position Statement


Bones Would Rain From the Sky - Suzanne Clothier
Reaching Animal Mind - Karen Pryor
Inside of a Dog - Alexandra Horowitz
Plenty in Life is Free - Kathy Sdao

The Other End of the Leash - Patricia McConnell

Dog Sense - John Bradshaw


Books & Videos: 


What is My Dog Saying? power point CD


Great Blogs:
Nicole Wilde

Patricia McConnell, PhD

Eileen & Dogs - What my dogs teach me

Good luck!

Understand and Follow the

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What Is LIMA?
“LIMA” is an acronym for the phrase “least intrusive, minimally aversive.”


LIMA describes a trainer or behavior consultant who uses the least intrusive, minimally aversive strategy out of a set of humane and effective tactics likely to succeed in achieving a training or behavior change objective. LIMA adherence also requires consultants to be adequately educated and skilled in order to ensure that the least intrusive and aversive procedure is used. 

LIMA does not justify the use of punishment in lieu of other effective interventions and strategies. In the vast majority of cases, desired behavior change can be affected by focusing on the animal's environment, physical well-being, and operant and classical interventions such as differential reinforcement of an alternative behavior, desensitization, and counter-conditioning.

LIMA Is Competence-Based

LIMA requires trainers/consultants to work to increase the use of positive reinforcement and eliminate the use of punishment when working with animal and human clients.  In order to ensure best practices, consultants should pursue and maintain competence in animal behavior consulting and training through continuing education, and hands-on experience. Trainers/consultants should not advise on problems outside the recognized boundaries of their competencies and experience.

- From the IAABC Statement on LIMA

What is an "anticedent arrangement"?

CyberDog Home Schooling for Hounds - Helix Fairweather

The Academy for Dog Trainers - Jean Donaldson

The Karen Pryor Academy

Say Yes Dog Training - Susan Garrett

Denise Fenzie Academy

Wag It Games - Sumac Johnson

e-Training for Dogs


Hannah Branigan - Drinking from the Toilet

Sarah Stremming - The Cognitive Canine

Fenzi Dog Sports Academy podcast- Melissa Breau


Emily Larlham's Kikopup channel

Donna Hill's training videos


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Diamonds in the Ruff does not have any openings at this time.

Occasionally a long-time student with whom we have established a relationship and observed their talents in successfully training their own dog, and who has great people skills may be invited to intern as an unpaid volunteer - work in trade for education. But we do not accept unsolicited applications or provide work-study programs at this time.

What do we look for in a potential future staff member?

  • Ruffians are avid positive reinforcement-only trainers who have shown their talents as trainers with their own dogs and embrace our philosophy of science-based, no-force training. 

  • Excellent handling skills, timing, observational skills, an understanding of dog behavior, body language, and learning principles are a must.

  • Someone who seeks out learning opportunities, attends seminars, reads training & behavior books, attends online courses, etc. to stay on the cutting edge of positive reinforcement training and teaching skills.

  • We look for someone who is competent at handling big dogs, little dogs, shy dogs, and unfriendly dogs.

  • People who have good people-skills and inspire confidence in others.

  • Someone who is dependable and willing to jump in at a moment's notice.  Available evenings and weekends and being available weekday daytime is a plus.


Step one is always attending lots of classes, gaining training experience and becoming a proficient handler so you can safely and successfully handle students' dogs for demos and in emergencies.  Volunteer at shelters.  Get your hands on a lot of dogs.


Folks who meet the above criteria may be invited to audit classes. Sitting in on the fringes as an unpaid intern, taking notes and observing under as many instructors and assistants in as many classes as possible.  Being ready to grab paper towels, hang around to help clean up after each class. Being a go-fer when something is needed. Chatting with the staff about what you saw and why they handled things the way they did or clarification on behavior that you observed.  

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