Which career to choose – Dog Trainer vs Dog Groomer?

Stan T.Leave a Comment

Answered by:
Robyn Michaels
Dog Groomer
Read about what my job is like

I have many friends who are dog trainers. To make a living, you either need to own a boarding kennel or have a relationship with a facility. At least starting out. It might be a dog daycare facility or kennel, but it’s easier to have all your client dogs together in a kennel situation and work 1 dog at a time for about 10-15 minutes. I do know trainers who go to people’s homes, and I did that for about a year, but I spent a lot of time in traffic, and owners tend to get distracted.

To consider making a living, you have to know how to train a dog, there are many excellent books on dog training (the ‘for Dummies’ imprint has several excellent books). I’ve attended dog training at pet shops, but how much you get out of that depends on the trainer as well as the mix of dogs. You may be in a class with a nervous, barking dog or out-of-control dogs. While it is true that the collar doesn’t train the dog, you won’t be able to control a dog on a harness, and using pain to train a dog—like with a prong or choke collar—you won’t know if you’ve actually shaped the behavior of the dog, or if the dog is just responding to pain.

The good thing about joining a training club is that you have many experienced people working with their dogs and using different methods, and they are generally cheaper than classes run by for-profit entities. Also, hobby trainers are competing. Not just for titles on their dogs—but having an obedience, agility, or rally title—especially the more advanced titles, proves the trainer has control of the dog.

Training for a living can be rewarding. You can train dogs to track, train dogs to provide services for handicapped people, and just train because you like communicating with a dog. But as a trainer helping families, the big issue is that most people have already inadvertently ‘trained’ their dogs to do the wrong thing. They’ve rewarded bad behavior—so you have to undo bad habits. More, you have to train the people living with the dog to be consistent. I quit working with individuals (or rather, switched to a 3 lesson plan to determine if the owner was committed to being consistent) because many households needed family therapy, and I was just a dog trainer. I had considered becoming a life coach, but I love working with dogs too much.

Being a groomer—if you really like being hands on with a dog, and have an eye for a dog, you can shape the dog’s behavior for YOU while you have the dog, and the dynamic is totally different. In fact, having the dog on a table changes everything. The floor is the dog’s territory, the table is the groomer’s territory.

Some people do both.

Would you recommend dog lovers to choose a career in dog training or dog grooming?

I just had a long talk with a former colleague. Neither of us would suggest either dog training or grooming as a career. Like I said, you have to develop a track record first, and the way to do that is to train dogs & title those dogs in AKC or UKC events. I’ve worked with a lot of dog trainers, and these days, very few promise off-leash control. They can’t. Those who like to compete start with a pup as soon as it is weaned, so the dog is trained and ready for competition by the time it’s 6 months old. They also choose breeds and bloodlines.

Thinking that all dogs are the same and that all dogs can be trained is not realistic. People are breeding brain-damaged dogs, and dogs that are overly aggressive, overly sensitive, and with no bite inhibition.

If a person wants to make side money training (lots of us take in dogs to housebreak them—that’s a no-brainer), I’d suggest that but very few people are supporting families by grooming or training unless they have a lot of people working for them, and aren’t concerned about integrity….and aren’t planning for retirement or their kids educations. I know several pet owners who’ve trained their dogs by watching videos and reading books & because they were consistent, the dogs got trained. Most people have no attention span anymore.

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