Coming across in recent times, as more and more people have gradually started to own pets, a significant increase in the public’s attention toward how to nurture after those animals has come to the fore. This recognition, naturally, has resulted in the extension of the pet’s roles, from a mere animal raised at one’s house to a life-long companion with which the owner can sympathize. Ironically, incidents of irrational abuse and mistreatment of these animals have also turned into a critical social phenomenon; hence, this has led to a keen awareness, as well as the need, for the role of pet behavior experts, one of them being the dog behavior manager.
"Dog behavior managers, or simply put, dog trainers, are people who revise and rectify the wrongdoings of dogs, in accordance to their owners’ wishes,” explained Park Doo Yeol and Heo Jung Bin. The former being a representative trainer and the latter head of the education department at Wals Home Dog Training Organization, the agency is one of the largest home-visiting dog training companies within Korea. With three years at the pet training institute as well as five years of real life work experience, the two trainers, as a team, have taken care of more than 550 problematic dogs in Seoul alone.
Q. To those who are unfamiliar with this career, could you briefly explain what a dog behavior manager is?
Park: Dog behavior managers are mainly divided into four fields as follows, depending on the purpose of the work that they carry out: behavior managers at training institutes, at lapdog kindergartens, shelters for abandoned dogs, and finally, home dog training agencies. Out of these, most common work places include training institutes and home dog training organizations. A workplace that we regularly encounter is the home dog-training field, through which we educate pet dogs with regards to the desires of the commissioning clients. At training institutes, on the other hand, dogs are instructed to perform professional tasks, maturing into detection dogs, police dogs, or guide dogs for the blind.
▲ Park Doo Yeol explaining the hardships of a dog trainer. Photographed by Kim Hye Ri.
Heo Jung Bin explaining how to become a dog trainer. Photographed by Kim Hye Ri.
Q. What are the procedures utilized by dog trainers during a typical behavior modifying education?
Heo: The specific training methods vary from one pet to another, concerning the state of the dog at hand. Nevertheless, generally speaking, a regular training process is composed of three key steps. The first one is to observe the major behaviors that the requested dog is engaged in, without taking any kind of modifying gestures. Through this initial procedure, trainers aim to precisely identify the exact problem that the dog is faced with.
Park: The next step is to consult with the host family, where the owners are asked about general background information, including the dog’s growth process and disciplinary measures taken by the families themselves. Dog behavior managers narrow down the factors that led to the current situation, as well as provide effective treatments. Then comes the actual correction process, where the trainer prescribes efficient measures not only for the pet, but also for their owners as well.
Q. What was your most memorable or disconcerting experience while fulfilling your work?
Park: The most baffling incident occurred when a dog bit me as soon as I stepped into the front corridor of my client’s house. Of course, being a dog trainer, I was frequently bitten during the modification process, more often than not. Nevertheless, that time the owners had not notified me in advance that their pet would show a disposition toward violence at this serious level. In this case, I utilized the method of cultivating sociality through taking a walk or a stroll. By encountering people outside their own comfort zones, the dog acknowledged that human beings are, in fact, not much of a threat to him, thereby decreasing signs of aggressive behaviors. Witnessing these gradual changes from the animals was when I felt most satisfied while pursuing my career.
Q. In recent days, as more people are interested in raising and owning their own pets, industries regarding this field are rapidly increasing at undeniable speed, which has also led to interest in dog trainer jobs. In order to become one, what are some of the procedures that one should fulfill?
Park: There are mainly two ways to obtain a certificate of becoming a qualified dog trainer. First is to graduate from special high schools or universities majoring in the Department of Companion Animal Management. The second method, which is a bit more challenging than the initial one, is to acquire a license by being educated in a dog-training institute for at least one to three years. In the institute, the pre-dog trainers serve half a year as apprentices, where they are taught the most basic skills in caring for a dog, such as accurate bathing methods, urine and feces training, and medication administrations. Only then after this process are the trainees able to acquire the actual training courses, first with dogs at the institute, and then with dogs that will receive behavior modification.
Q. Following the tremendous growth in the attention toward the animals as pets, the issues concerning abandoned and mistreated dogs are also social phenomena that should be regarded seriously. In these situations, are there any opinions or tips that you would like to give to pet owners?
The most essential and crucial aspect that pet owners should acknowledge is the fact that dogs are social animals, constantly craving and urging for love. Thus, people who are not confident and responsible enough to fulfill their duty of giving consistent attention to their pets should never own one out of mere curiosity. Along this line, I recommend that people gain experience raising a dog through programs that offer a chance to take care of a dog for a few weeks, and check whether owning a pet literally suits them. Remember, those who own their own pets should always be aware that raising an animal requires much effort, both physical and psychological.
When asked to give a piece of advice to those willing to pursue a career as a dog behavior manager, Park and Heo emphasized that the job is not as easygoing and permissive as it seems. Fulfilling the training process for pets requires vast knowledge of basic treatment of the pets, as well as genuine efforts in endeavoring to commune with the animals. In their words, dog behavior managers seemed to genuinely establish a vigorous relationship with the pets and their owners through sedate affection. During the process, the companion animals literally convert into lifelong partners: namely, men’s true best friends.
▲ Park Doo Yeol observing a dog’s behavior. Provided by Park Doo Yeol.
▲ Park Doo Yeol training a dog. Provided by Park Doo Yeol.