ADVICE ON CHOOSING A COURSE
Questions to ask when looking at different course options
Are you looking for a course to become a Dog Training Instructor, or brush up the skills you already have?
There are lots of courses, workshops and seminars on offer to people who are interested in becoming a Dog Training Instructor (someone who teaches owners how to train their dogs). They vary in length, content, quality and cost and it is difficult for people to decide which one to choose. Below are some things you might like to think about.
Do you attend/assist dog training classes?
Talk to the instructors. Ask if they can recommend a route.
Look at the website of the organisation that is offering the course.
What do they stand for?
What are their guiding principles?
Do they have a code of practice/conduct which suits the type of training you believe in? Even in the 21st century there are organisations that teach about ‘Dominance’ in pet dogs – an idea which has been identified as flawed many years ago.
If it is not obvious from the website (look for references to ‘pack leaders’, being the alpha and similar) then e-mail them, ask if they support the ‘dominance’ theory.
There are some courses that will teach you to set the dogs up to fail, and then punish them when they go wrong. They will also probably show you how to reward them when they eventually get it right, but this is not the sort of training Association of Pet Dog Trainers believes in.
We believe that dogs should be set up to succeed. To be taught in small increments at the speed that the dog (and owner) can cope with.
How do you know you are taking in the information correctly?
Some courses require you to attend the lectures but don’t follow up on whether you have understood the concepts taught. Association of Pet Dog Trainers course requires you to do a total of eight homework assignments. This takes time, and needs to be factored in when considering whether the course is for you or not.
The assignments may require extra research away from the classroom, but this is a great way to check that you are understanding the basics of Learning Theory, Equipment, Stress, the dominance myth, coping with different dogs in class and Diet.
We also believe in a lot of interaction during most of the sessions – we won’t just tell you the answers to everything, we encourage you – working in small groups – to think of some of the challenges you might come across, how you might sort out a problem, etc.
Of course the tutor will have their own solutions, but by involving the whole class in identifying some of the issues it encourages you to think about what might happen.
You will have an ‘ongoing assessment’ (we keep an eye on everyone) during the course – to make sure you are keeping up with everything being taught. If a tutor feels you are struggling with a subject, they will talk to you. Likewise, if you feel you are struggling or not understanding something please let a tutor know. Some of the subjects take a little extra time to understand. If you are having difficulty, then some of your colleagues probably are as well. One of the benefits of having residential weekends is that we can make time to talk to you, away from the classroom sessions.
We teach our students with the same ethos as we teach owners and dogs – setting them up for success, sorting out minor problems before they become major ones and sorting out any questions or concerns along the way.
Does the course have a required reading list?
We all benefit from reading around a subject, but again it is often difficult to know which books are the most useful/relevant. Ask your course provider what books they would suggest you read to help you with your learning.
Do you get support during and after the course?
Association of Pet Dog Trainers have found it very useful for students to have Facebook groups. Each year-group has one for the duration of the course. On completion they are invited to join another group for people who have attended our courses and are given support and advice (by both tutors and former students) via these groups for as long as they need it.
There is no charge for this support.
Does the course fee include accommodation and/or food?
Association of Pet Dog Trainers run their courses at Moulton College in Northamptonshire. We include the cost of an en suite room in the Halls of Residence, plus all meals and tea and coffee whilst on the course.
This has two major benefits – one, it saves on the cost of food and accommodation while attending the course, but the biggest benefit is that you are staying with your fellow students. This gives you the opportunity to discuss the classes, experience away from the course, career path etc. and make friends.
The tutors also stay on site so you have access to them practically 24/7 (although we do try to keep some time free for sleeping each night) if you want to ask a question, share concerns or just chat.
Is the course all theory, all practical or a mixture of both?
For people starting out on their career, it is very important to get practical experience of work with dogs, presenting exercises and trouble-shooting problems. However, to just do practical – or primarily practical – can be trial and error learning. Without the theoretical background (especially regarding learning theory) you can struggle to understand why things are going wrong.
If you were learning a foreign language, this may be fine, but to learn by your mistakes when you are working with a dog and owner is not fair. Your errors may cause psychological damage to the dog, exacerbate any issues the dog has and generally cause more problems than you are solving!
Association of Pet Dog Trainers course is primarily theory – Foundation students also have a practical session each day (hour and a half) to give you some basic experience of working with and around dogs and people. Advanced and Part Two students have at least one practical session each day.
You will need more experience of working with ‘real’ dogs and people after the Foundation course, but at least you will have the knowledge to avoid causing problems.
There are some good courses which will help you hone your ‘hands-on’ experience or you can try to find an experienced Instructor to work with, who will support and supervise you while you continue to learn.
Does the course give you the sort of information that you will need in the ‘real world’?
Being a dog training instructor involves so much more than knowing how to train a dog. Yes, of course you need to know how to teach individual exercises – and it is important that you know more than one way to do each of them – and also to understand learning theory so you know how to teach novel behaviours, but you also need other skills.
You need to be able to communicate with people – might seem obvious, but there are ways of communicating that are more successful than others. You need to know how to present the information you have.
You may know everything there is to know about training a dog, but can you get that information across to your clients? We cover these elements, and give you chances to practice – both in the classroom and in the practical classes.
NB: Please be aware that none of the courses qualify you for membership of Association of Pet Dog Trainers. This is a totally separate process.
Neither do you have to take our courses to apply for membership. However, understanding about learning theory, how to teach dogs using positive methods and how to deal with people etc., etc., will stand you in good stead when you do take your assessment (having worked in the role for some time).
Our Foundation Course is for people who have little or no experience of dog training instructing.
PART TWO COURSE
Our Part Two course is for people who have successfully completed the Foundation course.
Our advanced course is for instructors with at least one year’s experience of teaching classes.
FAQ's and Information to help you make an informed decision about which course is right for you.