What Do Dog Trainers Do?

Dog trainers work in outdoor settings such as parks or public spaces to train dogs. They also work in animal shelters to provide obedience training and behavior rehabilitation for dogs awaiting adoption.

No matter the setting, a strong desire to help people and dogs is essential for success as a dog trainer. Understanding how and why dogs learn is important for ensuring your methods are effective and scientifically sound.


When it comes to dog training, hands-on experience is key. While books and online classes can give you a lot of information, there’s nothing like working with living, breathing, wriggling dogs. You can also get an edge by taking a professional dog trainer certification program that teaches you the fundamentals of the field. This will also help you to become more confident in your ability to train dogs, which will impress potential clients.

Sierra Canine Training specialize in specific areas of training, such as agility or obedience. These trainers often work at specialized facilities that are equipped with equipment for these types of activities. This type of specialized training can be extremely beneficial, especially for dog owners who participate in dog sports and want to improve their skills.

Most dog trainers use a variety of teaching methods, and will know more than one technique. This is important because not all dogs respond to the same method. For example, one dog may learn to sit using the lure-and-reward method while another might need a different approach. A good dog trainer will be able to adapt their training techniques to suit the dog’s personality and learning style.

A good dog trainer will also understand the difference between corrections and punishment. They will not use physical force or pain on dogs unless absolutely necessary. They will also be able to explain why a particular behavior needs to be corrected and the consequences of that behavior. For instance, if a dog is barking excessively when someone comes to the door, the trainer will be able to explain why the owner should not yell at the dog, but rather correct the behavior by removing the dog from the area or providing a distracting activity to keep them occupied until the visitor leaves.

Some negative reinforcement advocates ignore scientific studies on punishment and recovery periods, and are only interested in promoting their own beliefs. However, a professional trainer should always keep up to date on new research. They should also be able to understand the implications of the results of these studies for their training practices.

Behavior modification

A canine trainer must be able to handle a variety of behavioral challenges. This might include reversing aggression, counterconditioning and desensitization, desensitizing dogs to specific triggers (like people wearing certain clothing or going to the park), teaching new behaviors, and re-training old ones. In some cases, behavior modification is the only option for a dog who has a serious issue like separation anxiety or resource guarding. In these situations, the trainer has to work with both the pet and their owner to teach them how to overcome this challenge.

Unlike training, behavior modification often involves a significant emotional component. As such, the trainer needs to be empathetic, understanding and supportive as they work through the process. This can be particularly difficult when dealing with aggressive dogs. As such, it is important that the canine trainer understands the underlying causes of this type of behavior, so they can treat it effectively.

In many cases, a dog’s behavior will become worse before it gets better. This is because the behavior will be reinforced by the environment. As a result, the trainer will have to use techniques such as extinction and positive reinforcement (e.g. a toy or play session) to make the desired change happen. This can be a slow and frustrating process, but it is critical to the success of the dog’s program.

Many people believe that positive reinforcement is the only way to train a dog. This is not true, but it should be clear that trainers who only use this method will have a limit to their effectiveness. The best canine trainers understand learning science and will use a variety of methods, including punishment when necessary.

Some trainers will also use second-order reinforcers to increase the effectiveness of their training. These can include verbal cues such as "good boy," hand signals and clickers. By associating these signals with a reward, the trainer can reinforce the desired behavior from a distance. For example, if the trainer is trying to get a dog to sit and stay in front of a door, they can use a clicker at a distance to let the dog know that a reward is coming.


Dog trainers assess both the client and the dog in order to create a customized training plan. The plan outlines the training goals, methods and techniques that will be used to achieve the desired results. This includes teaching basic obedience commands, addressing behavior issues such as leash pulling or excessive barking, and providing strategies for desensitizing dogs to certain environments, such as a veterinarian’s office or a busy street.

While many trainers use positive reinforcement training, there are still some who employ aversive-based techniques. These include loud, unpleasant noises, physical corrections and harsh scoldings to get the dog to do what they want. While these methods may work in the short term, they can be detrimental to a dog’s mental and physical health. They can also desensitize a dog to the handler and make it reluctant to respond to their cues.

When it comes to assessing a dog’s behavior, a trainer will look at several factors, including the dog’s history with the owner and their family members. She will also look at the dog’s body language, tail carriage, vigilance and other expressions to gain a better understanding of what’s going on. For example, if the dog exhibits excessive barking, she will ask why the barking is occurring and determine if it’s a response to an environmental trigger, such as a loud noise or a neighbor walking by.

A good trainer will evaluate a dog’s behavior in a controlled environment that’s free from distractions. She will also take the time to assess the dog’s veterinary records, especially if she notices any behavioral concerns, such as aggression or fearfulness. A good trainer will also be familiar with the most up-to-date scientific research regarding dog behavior and training. She will avoid using aversive-based methods and will always seek to build a strong bond with the dog she is training. If the dog has a medical issue, such as an injury or underlying anxiety disorder, the trainer will recommend a visit to the veterinarian. In addition, she will teach the owner how to prevent and treat the dog’s medical condition.


Dog trainers often work directly with clients and their pets in the client's home. This allows the trainer to observe the environment in which the unwanted behavior is occurring and create a training plan that suits the specific needs of that environment. This is a vital aspect of the training process.

In addition, it is a way for the trainer to help establish rapport with the pet owner, which is essential in creating an effective training partnership. Getting to know the dog and its history can also allow the trainer to find solutions to problems that may not be readily apparent during an initial consultation.

A successful trainer will take the time to talk with each prospective client on the phone or in person and listen to their concerns about their dog's behavior. This will usually include a thorough discussion of the dog's history, as well as the family's routines and lifestyle. During this phase, the trainer will often ask for a detailed description of the problem behaviors. The trainer will then explain how he or she plans to address the issue and offer some guidance on what the client can do in the interim to see positive results.

One of the biggest mistakes that new dog trainers make is to give away free advice or train their first few clients at a discount before they've established a strong relationship. This can backfire in a few ways. When people feel they've got a good enough handle on the problem, they're less likely to invest time or money in consulting with a professional trainer. Furthermore, people rarely follow through on free advice—particularly if it requires a level of skill that they don't have or is difficult for them to implement in their everyday life.

When it comes to solving behavioral issues, the most successful trainers are those who understand the science behind animal behavior and learning. This means that a trainer must be well-versed in concepts such as operant and classical conditioning, and should be able to adapt their methods to different situations. Many modern trainers claim to be force-free and science-based, but without a solid understanding of these concepts, they're not in the position to help dogs improve their lives.

Dog trainers work in outdoor settings such as parks or public spaces to train dogs. They also work in animal shelters to provide obedience training and behavior rehabilitation for dogs awaiting adoption. No matter the setting, a strong desire to help people and dogs is essential for success as a dog trainer. Understanding how and…