What qualifications do you need to become a protection dog trainer?

What qualifications do you need to become a protection dog trainer?
Dutch shepherds are often used in working dog sports.

As the name implies, protection dogs are dogs that are trained to guard people and property. Common breeds used in protection work include German shepherds, Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, Dutch shepherds, Malinois, and mastiffs. Anybody who has ever seen a protection dog at work can attest to how intimidating they are. Learning to train protection dogs requires hours of observation, practice, and apprenticing with a qualified protection dog trainer.

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Qualifications you need to become a protection dog trainer

To become a protection dog trainer, you need to have a lot of experience working with dogs. This includes hours of observation, practice, and apprenticing with a qualified protection dog trainer. Protection dog training is a specialized field, so it's important to have the proper skills and knowledge before starting out on your own.

There are a few different protection dog sports that you can compete in, such as Schutzhund, Mondio sport, IPO and French Ring. These events require a high level of training and teamwork between the handler and dog. We'll focus on Schutzhund for this article. If you're interested in becoming a protection dog trainer, you should start observing at and volunteering for these events to get experience working with protection-trained dogs under pressure.

Training protection dogs is not an easy task. It takes a thorough knowledge of dog body language, good timing, leash handling skills, and a working understanding of how dogs learn.

When you're ready, you can locate a club or group that uses positive reinforcement training to start to learn to train and compete with your own dog. The most important thing you can do at this stage is to pay attention to the dog-handler teams. You can learn a ton watching other teams work through training challenges.

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Do protection dog trainers compete in Schutzhund?

Schutzhund is a common type of test for protection dogs that evaluates the animal's ability to track humans across difficult terrain. The sport was developed in Germany in the early 1900s as a method of testing the temperament and working ability of dogs used for police work. Today, Schutzhund is practiced around the world by dog owners and trainers who are interested in developing their animals' working skills.

There are three phases to Schutzhund training: tracking, obedience, and protection. In the tracking phase, dogs are required to follow a human scent trail over different types of terrain. The obedience phase includes a series of exercises that test the animal's responsiveness to its handler and its ability to perform complex commands. The protection phase is by far the most demanding, requiring the dog to resist the attacks of several human decoys for between 3 and 10 minutes. There are three categories of protection dogs that can earn schutzhund titles: obedience (SchH1), tracking (SchH2) and protection (SchH3).

How much does it cost to train a protection dog?

Training protection dogs can be very expensive because it involves not only time and travel but also special equipment such as tracking harnesses, leashes, muzzles, and protection dog vests. In the United States, there are no laws or requirements to call oneself a qualified protection dog trainer. You will need to research any club or instructor you are interested in training with to learn about his or her methods. Avoid protection dog trainers who use shock, e-collars, prong collars, or other painful methods as their go-to techniques for teaching protection. To become a qualified protection dog trainer in the United States requires you to train your dogs in Schutzhund, french ring, or other systematic protection training. Therefore an experienced teacher and club are essential.

Finding your fit as a protection dog trainer

The Schutzhund, French Ring and other protection sport clubs all want members who are supportive of their goals. You need to learn skills from a qualified mentor in order to train protection dogs. This is not an easy skill set to get right! If you have the time, patience, support network and personality traits needed for this career then it may be worth considering training protection dogs as your next move in life.