Who says I need to go back to school to study dog behavior?

My quest is to understand what makes my dogs tick.

I’ve thought over the last year that if I was younger and had more  money, I’d go back to school and study animal behavior.* I’ve been reading tons of books and really, really enjoy the topic of dog evolution, genetics and breeding, how dogs think and communicate, etc. Of course, at my age and with my income it really isn’t feasible – but who says I can’t do some self-study?

I’ve looked in to Animal Behavior College, which trains people to be dog trainers and gives them a certificate of completion at the end of a course of study. But I was on the website for the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (http://apdt.com), and they actually don’t endorse any certificate programs. They do, however, have a very strict certification test for dog trainers and animal behaviorists.  For dog trainers, for example, you need to pass a test, and to be eligible to take the test you need to have 300 hours of dog training, with 75% of those hours as a head trainer. The other hours can be working at a shelter, vet tech, class assistant. The test covers Learning/Theory, Instruction Skills, Husbandry, Ethology, Equipment.

And none of that requires formal schooling from a dog training school.

They offer a very nice list of recommended books, and of course I’d need to shadow or work for a dog trainer. But I don’t need to shell out thousands of dollars for dog training school.

So I think I’m going to set myself a course of self-study using their recommended books, plus a bunch of books I’m really interested in – and then find a trainer to shadow or work for. (I did once shadow a dog trainer for a few classes, but to be honest I didn’t know her and didn’t really understand her style of training. Which meant I felt kind of uncomfortable and completely out of the loop. She was a great trainer and suuuper nice, and now that I’ve got a lot of reading under my belt already the way she trained makes soo much more sense; but I was so clueless that she  may not want me to come back . )

I’ve also looked into becoming a certified vet tech – except I’m horrible at math, which is the same limitation that would keep me from pursuing graduate studies in animal  behavior. I can’t handle statistics. I can barely compute the dosage of roundworm medicine for the chickens.

In general, I’m not interested in becoming a dog trainer but I am very interested in animal care and behavior – and I’ve learned that dog training really is understanding dog behavior. So in the end, becoming a dog trainer is really just another way of learning about dog behavior.

It’s nice to have a goal. Woof!

(*This is, of course, in addition to my desire to have a career as Harriet the Spy or Nancy Drew.)


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