PK9 Blue Logo


Melbourne Wide

Opening Hours

Open 7 Days: 8:00am - 10:00pm

10 things I wish I knew before becoming a professional dog trainer

Before I began my first job as a professional dog trainer, I spent time shadowing other experienced trainers, gaining a qualification in canine behaviour and training with the National Dog Trainers Federation and did a LOT of research into this new and exciting career.

That being said, there really is nothing like diving in and experiencing first hand just what it takes to be a successful dog trainer.

Read on to find out 10 things that I wish I knew before embarking on my dog training journey.

1. Its not all just cute puppies

When most people think of exactly what the role of a professional dog trainer entails, usually one of the first things which comes to mind is just how lucky we are to ‘play with cute puppies all day’. Don’t get me wrong, some of my job involves teaching brand new puppy owners the ins and outs of puppy raising, how to take care of their new furry friend and playing an integral part in their development. Personally, I have a great interest in puppy raising and development and so I definitely relish in the moments that I am able to indulge in those moments and truly love watching new owners and puppies bond, form a relationship and watch them grow into well rounded adults.

However, there is so much more to dog training than just cute puppies! For example, a typical day for me could include behaviour modification for dogs who are struggling with dog reactivity or aggression, owners who would like to improve their dogs obedience, a dog who is resource guarding and is becoming a danger to live with, a dog with a bite history and then maybe if I’m lucky, a 10 week old puppy who’s owners would like to set them up for success early on.

It really is such a varied job which is what makes it so interesting, however it is so important to recognise your strengths as a trainer and ensure you are able to provide the level of knowledge and expertise that each dog needs before accepting a job. It is a job which comes with a risk for yourself, members of the public and of course the dogs we are trying to help and with that risk, comes an immense responsibility.

2. Compassion fatigue is real

Due to the amount of responsibility that most dog trainers face when helping a client and their dog in any capacity, many can struggle with compassion fatigue. The type of dog trainer who gives their all to their clients and truly cares about the success of the people and their dogs under their instruction are bound to experience this in some stage of their career.

In order to combat this, it is so important for us to set healthy boundaries, practice self care and have a strong support system of people who you can lean on when things start to feel a bit heavy.

3. Emails emails and more emails

One thing that I pride myself with is that my clients know that I am always here to support them and that I do as much as I physically can to help them succeed with their dog training goals. Weather this be providing detailed training plans, trouble shooting problems between sessions, regular check ins, or support through email, phone or social media channels.

Although this may not be necessary for every single client, as a professional dog trainer, I strive to exceed expectations and provide the best service that I can and frequently receive feedback on how helpful this kind of support is in helping my clients reach their goals.

4. Dog trainer, coach, therapist, or marriage councillor

Following on from point number 3, although my official title is “Dog Trainer” this profession is definitely one which requires you to wear many hats. Usually when we turn up to a private in home consultation, we begin by discussing the goals the client has, we start getting to know the dog, and from there we will create a plan of action in order to reach those goals. Sounds simple and straight forward right? Well, not always.

More often than not, the dog trainer is drafted in when things aren’t going quite right with people and their dogs. Perhaps the issues that they are experiencing are causing a great deal of stress for both dog and owner, sometimes this can then be the cause of friction between family members, and then of course you have the scenarios where this really is the chance for the dog before it is unfortunately re-homed or where dangerous dogs are concerned, a fate much worse than that.

These high stress situations mean that emotions are sometimes running high and it is definitely not uncommon to feel as though you are playing the role of marriage councillor, therapist or mediator opposed to simply ‘training the dog’.

Lets talk a little more about the job title ‘Dog Trainer’. Seems self explanitory enough, however in fact, very little of our jobs actually involve training the dog. If you are reading this as a fellow industry professional, you will know the phrase I’m about to say all too well… “You’re not training the dog, you’re training me!” followed by joint laughter as we remind the client for the 100th time time how to hold a lead.

Don’t get me wrong, we all start somewhere and you don’t know what you don’t know! (I vividly remember practising holding a leash, lengthening it and shortening it, time after time whilst it was clipped onto a chair leg rather than a dogs neck in order to create that mind to muscle memory)

The truth is, we laugh because the client doesn’t realise just how right they are! Most of what we dog as dog trainers is to impart our knowledge to owners in order for them to train their dogs and solve the problems they are experiencing. We are in fact more like coaches than anything else! Of course your dog trainer should be capable of training their own dog and handling other dogs to a high standard and be able to demonstrate this, but at the end of the day, they are with you for perhaps 1 hour every few weeks. It is YOU who is living with and training your dog the rest of the time.

5. Decreased motivation and reduced time to train my own dogs

Before I became a full time dog trainer for Positive K9 Training, I used to run a doggy bakery and work in a boarding kennels in the Gold Coast, and so I am definitely used to my whole life being consumed with all things canine.

However, as much as I love dogs, and I love dog training, when you spend day in day out training other peoples dogs and helping them reach their individual goals, sometimes it is a struggle to find the motivation for my own dogs. This doesn’t mean I don’t have goals and aspirations for myself and my dogs or that they are forgotten about in any way.

But, it does mean that I have to make a conscious effort at times to ensure that their needs are met and that no matter how busy work may be, to make sure I am also prioritising my own animals, our dreams and our goals alongside helping my clients.

6. Feelings of imposter syndrome and not being good enough

I am extremely passionate about what I do and am constantly looking to improve and expand my knowledge on all things dogs and training. Sometimes this comes at a price and with the pressures of social media, feeling like I have to be perfect, or have perfect dogs is something that can often occupy my thoughts.

For me, it is important to remember that Instagram and other social media channels are highlight reels and don’t necessarily show the full picture. I try to focus on my strengths and work on a positive mindset alongside leaning on trusted friends and colleagues when those negative thoughts occur rather than letting them spiral out of control.

7. Clients become friends and sharing small wins

Dog training is a job like no other and when we tell you we care about you and your dogs, we really mean it. We are there for you as a shoulder to cry on when things go wrong as well as being your biggest supporter when things go right.

Your puppy just slept through the whole night with no accidents?


Your dog who struggles with dog aggression just walked past another dog with no reaction?


Your dog is still pulling on the leash?


Creating a relationship between clients which blossoms into friendships is such a lovely bi-product of working so closely with you and your dog and makes our job feel, quite frankly, not much like work at all!

Many of my clients affectionately call me their dogs’ ‘Aunty Abs’. Granted, it is a bit of fun, but its also testament to just how much effort we put into building solid relationships with our clients and their dogs to the point that they feel like family.

8. Managing expectations in clients

Addressing and finding a way to manage expectations in clients is something which can be tricky to navigate. Although this is so important to communicate to clients to ensure we are all on the same page as to what is possible for each individual dog and situation with the time and resources we have available.

For example, lets say you have inter-household dog aggression issues where multiple fights resulting in severe injury to humans and dogs have occurred over an extended period of time. If you get in a dog trainer and expect that they are able to wave a magic wand and in 1 single session the dogs are going to be besties again, I’m afraid you are going to be severely disappointed.

Now yes, that is perhaps an extreme example but the same could be said for if you have an 8 week old puppy who has been in your family for 2 days, and are frustrated that they aren’t already fully toilet trained or letting you know that they need to go outside. Again, you are going to be disappointed when a trainer informs you that that is an unrealistic expectation.

9. The importance of social media

In recent years dog training has becoming increasingly popular on social media pages such as Instagram and TikTok. Weather this be an insta profile dedicated to your dog which documents their life and the adventures they get up to, or inspiring and professional dog trainers demonstrating their skills in order to drum up business or frankly, just to look cool on the gram.

Learning how to use editing software, canva and other marketing tools is integral in order to curate content which inspires others to train with you and shows off your personality as well as your skill set is something which takes time. However, this should not be undervalued! With almost everyone having access to the internet at all times, these channels are sometimes the very first impression that a prospective client has of you and helps to develop a level of client-trainer trust before you have ever even met in person. At the end of the day, when choosing a dog trainer, it is important that you gel with the person, like the work they can produce and trust that they can help you get there with your own dog. Social media is a great opportunity to gauge all this before even making your first booking.

For anyone wondering, you can check out my instagram @abinaylor for all things dogs with the occasional mug review thrown in for good measure!

10. Once you’re in, you’re in.

Although the life of a dog trainer is not for everyone, it certainly is for me. I didn’t quite realise just how addicted to this lifestyle I would become, how my passion has grown for helping dogs and their humans live in harmony, and how much more I have to learn! (That is one thing to remember, in this industry, you can ALWAYS learn something new, and striving to continue learning is something we should prioritise!)

Through all the long days, the ups, and the downs, it is safe to say that I am well and truly hooked on this amazing and fulfilling career.

Leave A Comment

Recent Posts