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Quit your job, become a… dog trainer

By Michael Curle

Ross McCarthy, 38, Canine behavioural consultant explains how he got into dog training

How did you become a dog trainer?
'When I was eight I started walking dogs for money. Later on I did voluntary work at the charity Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. I began to instruct at local training classes when I was about 15. Basic training means teaching the dog to come back in the park, to sit, to stay, to walk nicely on a lead, and to go to bed when it's told.'

Twenty years on, your title is a bit grander.
'Yes, I'm now a canine behavioural consultant. I visit people at their homes to deal with dogs with problematic behaviour. That could be anything from weeing or pooing in the house to excessive barking and various types of aggression. I take into account everything in the dog's environment: the owner, the amount of exercise it gets, the amount of food it's fed.'

Are all dogs the same to train?
'Each breed has behaviours that it's predisposed to. A breed like the German shepherd tends to be more deferential to people because working with man is in their genetic heritage. Whereas guarding breeds such as the Rottweiler are more difficult. But it's the way you interact with them that keeps a lid on it.'

Other than rewarding with Scooby snacks, how do you get results?
'It's my job to understand what makes them tick – their social rules, if you like. For example, the very best way to meet a dog is to ignore it completely, to allow it to investigate you via scent and then approach you when it's ready in a calm manner. Lots of people rush and shout "Oh my God, it's so cute!" and bend down to stick their face in its face, which is not cool.'

Sounds like the people need training more than the dogs do.
'The people are the interesting bit! The way they live, the way they keep their houses. Husbands and wives argue in front of me. Sometimes I even end up reworking the house to suit the dog better. I'm an interior designer and a marriage counsellor as well as a dog trainer! I'd say that 70 percent of my job is working with people. The dogs are the easy end of the lead!'

Hours: 38 per week

Starting salary: £10k pa

Qualifications: Not essential

Or why not become an arborist?

Image: Rob Greig

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