So you want to be a dog trainer? It’s common for dog lovers looking for a career change to consider dog training as an option. Being a dog trainer can be an incredibly rewarding job. You spend your days surrounded by dogs, plus you get to help people and their pets live together happily and harmoniously.
However, people often call a dog trainer only when they have a problem on their hands. This might mean working with reactive dogs or those with separation anxiety or other issues. It can be stressful and challenging trying to help owners work through such issues, and happy endings are never guaranteed. So, if you desire to be a dog trainer but your only credentials are owning or training your own dog, be aware that you have work to do.
The first step in your journey should be training your own dog. If you don’t currently own a dog, find one you can spend a lot of time with so you can build a regular training routine. Don’t just teach the basics like “sit” or “down.” Teach advanced skills too, such as staying put with the added challenge of distance and distractions. The AKC Canine Good Citizen test is an excellent goal to work towards. Also consider taking up a dog sport with your dog so you can really dig into the technical aspects of training like timing, rate of reinforcement, and reward placement. Finally, modify any problem behaviors as you encounter them.
In the end, your dog doesn’t have to be perfect. But your potential future clients will need help with all kinds of behaviors, so you need hands-on experience with whatever you might be required to teach. All that experience will help to hone your abilities. Training is a mechanical skill, so before you can demonstrate it to students, you need to develop a high level of proficiency by practicing on your own dog.
Training your own dog is valuable but remember, your dog loves you and will forgive your mistakes. Fumbling with treats or accidentally rewarding the wrong behavior won’t bother your canine companion. However, your clients might not be so patient. Plus, a good dog trainer knows more than one method to train a behavior. For example, the lure-and-reward method might have easily helped your dog learn to sit, but another dog could need a completely different approach.
The best way to polish your skills and practice other approaches is by working with dogs who aren’t your own. You can ask friends and family if you can teach their dogs. Or, you can talk to local shelters or rescue organizations about working with their dogs. An even better idea is to apprentice with a successful dog trainer. That will not only give you access to more dogs, but you will also have somebody monitoring your technique and guiding your development. Check with local dog trainers in your area to see if anybody is willing to take you on as an apprentice or assistant.
How Much Does Dog Training Cost at PetSmart?
This pricing is pretty standard (in fact, slightly cheaper) compared to other group training classes I found near me.
While group training classes sit in the $15 – $30 per 1-hour class range, private lessons with a trainer or behaviorist are closer to $70 – $90 per hour.
In addition to group classes, PetSmart also offers private training to work on individual needs. Private training involves working one-on-one with an accredited trainer and is $45 for 30 minutes, $89 for 1 hr, or $219 for 4 hrs (which can be split up). The curriculum can be customized for what you want to work on with your dog.
Free 15-Minute Consultation: Not sure what your dog needs or if he’s a good fit for group classes? PetSmart offers free 15-minute consultations, during which a trainer will assess your dog and help you decide what classes will work best for him.
Wondering how a PetSmart training class plays out? Here’s the general format for a standard 1-hr class:
PetSmart also provides a handout guide that will explain what owners should be working on each week, with detailed instructions.
How is the Quality of PetSmart Training?
As with many classes, a lot depends on your instructor.
All PetSmart trainers, according to the official PetSmart training page:
Our instructor was knowledgable and actively advocated for punishment-free training (which I’m a big supporter of).
My only gripe is that I felt she could have been a better teacher.
She was definitely a skilled trainer, but I didn’t feel there was much education or teaching beyond the essentials of what you needed to know to complete a given task.
We rarely got corrected during practice, and I’m a student who really likes to be shown what I am doing wrong. Instead, it was up to me to ask the instructor for more guidance or details when I wanted it.
There were also times where I expressed confusion about various tasks and didn’t get as much guidance as I would have liked from the instructor.
One example was, when Remy was barking at the other dogs, my mother (who joined us at the training session), grabbed Remy’s mouth and held it shut. After she asked the trainer, “is that what I should do when he barks?” to which the teacher said no, she should regain his attention with treats instead (this was my feeling as well).
I was a little confused as to why the trainer wasn’t going to offer this advice until prompted, but I do recognize that people can be very sensitive about having their training methods corrected (just as people don’t like to be told how to parent).
However, when you’re at a training class, it stands to reason you’re open to suggestions!
While our teacher was knowledgeable, I didn’t witness her going out of her way to explain why we were using certain methods or adding any kind of explanation outside of “OK, now do X”.
Now, this could be because as someone who is very interested in dog psychology, I was curious to know more. It’s certainly possible than un-necessary details could confused other owners or result in getting too far off track in the lessons.
Still, it was something I found a bit lacking.
Ultimately, I didn’t feel that I learned anything at the PetSmart training class that I couldn’t have learned online. In fact, our 30 Things to Teach Your Dog in 30 Days video course from certified behavior consultant Kayla Fratt covers a lot of material in the PetSmart Beginner Obedience Class.
However, this doesn’t mean that the PetSmart class is not worth consideration. In fact, I think for most people it’ll be well worth attending.
Some (I’d say even most) of us simply aren’t great at self-management. We may say we’re going to watch tons of dog training videos and read books on dog training, but without someone instructing us or holding us accountable, we’re liable to slack off.
Having a class you go to each and every week, where someone will be evaluating your progress will certainly force you to practice and commit to training your pooch.
Let’s discuss the pros and cons of PetSmart training classes:
Teachers vs Trainers. I want to make a point of distinguishing a good teacher vs a good trainer. Many people can be incredibly skilled dog trainers, but not be very good at educating or explaining those training concepts to others in a teaching session.
Petsmart Training Review: Our First Experience
Remy and I signed up for PetSmart’s Intermediate Training since he already had a handle on the basics like sit, lie down, wait, and basic recall.
Having never been to a PetSmart obedience training class before, I imagined a large hall in the back for us to practice, but the training class actually took place in a small sectioned-off room (probably around 15 x 15ft) within the store.
The training room has walls that go about 5ft high, not reaching the ceiling, which means there are plenty of noise, smells, and distractions coming from the PetSmart store. This may be a bonus or hindrance depending on your pooch.
When I first entered the training room, I was quite nervous about the tight quarters. Remy is a 50lb pittie mix and we’ve been working on his leash reactivity around other dogs. I knew sharing such close quarters with other dogs might be tough for him.https://gph.is/g/EBOyqxK
Even worse, these dogs were tiny (we’re talking under 10 lbs)! I wasn’t very optimistic about how Remy would handle such tiny classmates.
The good news is that there were only two other dogs, so we were each able to have our own little corner.
Just as I feared, Remy was barking and pulling towards the little dogs a lot in the first 10 minutes of class. However, I simply kept luring him into his corner and asking him to lie down in exchange for hot dog slices.
Sure enough, hot dogs eventually won over Remy, and after a while he was able to focus more on me and less on his furry little classmates.
For our first class, we brushed up on the basics (sit, lie down, stay, and leave it). We then moved onto our first lesson – heeling. Our teacher showed us how to get out dogs to heel, had us practice in the room, and then we went out into the store to practice down the aisles.https://gph.is/g/ajjDv1o
Again, this might be difficult for dogs who are overwhelmed with all the toys, treats, and food at eye-level in the aisles, but for others it might be valuable when it comes to working with distractions.
After about 10-15 minutes of practicing in the aisles, we went back into the classroom and worked on the “leave it” command around toys.
Remy didn’t care much about the toys – all he wanted to do was check out the little furballs!
Instead we started working on the “leave it” command when I dropped cheese on the ground.
Finally, we were told our homework for the week, which was to work on our heeling.
After class I had to treat Remy to some toys. Unfortunately with all the other dogs milling around the store, he started to get bark-y and was pulling me all over, so we had to leave shortly after.
How does training at PetSmart work?
How do you know if a dog trainer is real?
Or check out the AKC’s list of approved CGC evaluators. You might also try the Certification for Professional Dog Trainers directory or The Association of Professional Dog Trainers trainer search. Regardless of how impressed other dog owners are with a trainer, don’t skimp on your research.
Why is pet training so important to PetSmart?
Training your dog can help you establish a positive relationship, increase sociability, avoid problem behaviors, and could potentially save a life.
Can you be a self taught dog trainer?