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What You Need To Know About Working With Dogs

Sally Gutteridge
Working with dogs is a popular second career for many people. When the corporate world gets too much, and we become wiser we start to question the real point of life, we make new choices. I know so many people who have packed it all in, to dog walk professionally, to become canine coaches or behaviour consultants.

Sometimes we meet a certain dog, reactive or scared or complex in other ways and we become addicted to making their life better. We start to read books, study and learn and suddenly we realise how many misunderstood dogs there are in the world – so we want to help those too.

What do you need though for working with dogs in the United Kingdom?

Professional Dog Walking.

Dog walking and canine care recently had new legislation added to the role. Each dog walker and/or carer needs to be licenced by their local council and to gain that licencing there will be inspections. There is also the need to have studied to the equivalent of OFQUAL animal care level 2/3. This particular qualification legislation is still a little hazy as it was pushed through quickly and feedback was contradictory. But it seems you do need both a qualification and physical inspection to be licenced as a dog walker.

Professional Dog Training.

Dog training and behaviour is as yet unregulated. There are a number of organisations that consider themselves the right body to regulate, there is none confirmed and regulation by one private organisation may or may not occur. There may be a professional learning and development points based system put into practice – so no one organisation oversees but each professional decides what they want to study and who with, in which case the course providers are responsible for registering our courses with the system. There may be no regulation occurring for a long time yet.

There are voluntary membership organisations where a fee is paid and you can display a badge. There are also umbrella organisations which oversee these membership groups. Some of them are brilliant. If you want to join one of them – check first what you get for your money. Do you get member perks, extra education, course, books or is it just a badge and a place on a list? If so is that badge and list worth paying for, for you? If it is, then join. Question everything, and you will make the right choices for you.

But what exactly do you need? Well first of all you need education, a true professional always prioritises accurate knowledge.

There is no single education provider to learn from. If someone tells you that they are all you need, be careful. Dog education is so readily available now and despite having a school here at Canine Principles I sincerely believe that we should all learn the science about dogs from as many different reputable and scientific sources as possible. My aim with Canine Principles is to make excellent education affordable because I don't think canine education should be expensive, other providers have other aims. You will naturally find the right fit for you.

Theory and practical learning are as important as each other. When looking for a provider consider transparency, honesty, quality and whether they teach the proper science about dogs. Consider their methods and always choose the ones who teach positive reinforcement and force free as standard. Working with dogs isn’t about learning something for a year and that’s it. To work with dogs we need to keep learning, keep reading and exploring new understanding. It’s a career choice where professional development is part of your everyday life – the good news is that the dog world is progressing wonderfully. You will have plenty of chances to learn from loads of amazing dog people along the way.

To work with dogs you also need self-belief and to properly take care of yourself. It can be emotionally hard and physically hard. But speak to anyone who is already doing it and they will tell you it’s worth it. The dog life is a vocation, it’s magic and packed with love.

To get you there you need to formulate a plan. Decide on your education route and work out where you can start getting practical experience with lots of different dogs – even if it’s volunteering at your local shelter. Work out the money bit – what you need to earn and exactly how you are going to earn it. Have a look at who might be already operating in your local area, do your market research, do your marketing and go.

It might be scary and you might have self-doubt but that’s just fear and even the ones doing it had to fight through the fear. 
You can do this!

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