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Like animals? Want to work with them?

May 13, 2008|By BECKY SNOUFFER / Pulse Correspondent

First in an occasional series of stories about careers working with animals.

Do you enjoy being extremely organized, getting dirty and being slobbered on by dogs? If you don't, a job as a kennel operator is probably not for you.

I talked to Jamie Garcia, the owner and operator of Animal Kingdom Kennel in Fairplay. She told me that her kennel opened on Memorial Day weekend of 2006. Garcia started working with animals professionally in about 2004; she had volunteered before that. She also said that she began working with animals, mainly dogs, because she loves "being around dogs."

Garcia said that her moods affect the dogs at the kennel; for example, if she is frustrated or tired, they'll bark more.

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"They're just like little kids," Garcia said.

Operating a kennel is not just fun and games.

"You don't just play with dogs all day," Garcia said. Her advice for teens: "Get used to cleaning!"

She said that it is good to have computer skills for this job. She also mentioned that business classes are good and "experience (with animals) is a must in this kind of business."

Dog trainer

There are a variety of jobs a trainer can do. They prepare dogs and other animals for roles in TV and movies. They compete in local and national competitions.

Then there are people like Pat Miller, who, she said, "train people to train their dogs."

Pat Miller is the owner of Peaceable Paws near Hagerstown. She said there are several aspects to being a dog trainer.

"(I like) helping people develop closer and more mutually rewarding relationships with their canine companions," she said. "Although we call ourselves dog trainers, we are primarily people trainers."

The part of Miller's job she likes best is playing with the dogs. And the part she likes least?

"Seeing a dog who isn't succeeding because his human can't find the time or make the commitment to the training program," she said.

Miller's advice for teens: Get experience.

"The more the better," she advised, "You should be educated in the scientific principles of learning and behavior, and have a great deal of experience working with (hundreds) of different dogs. Get your hands on as many dogs as possible."

Work with a friend's or neighbor's dog. Also, watch other experienced trainers.

"Find a good trainer in your area who will let you observe, perhaps even apprentice," Miller said.

Think about pursuing a college degree in animal behavior. There are many aspects of dog training, so remember Miller's advice: You can never get too much education.

Good grooming is important

Being a dog groomer is not as easy as some people think -- that is what I discovered when speaking to Marilyn Motter, the owner and groomer at Just For Dogs, near Smithsburg.

Motter said that she grooms about 10 to 12 dogs per day. Each dog gets a bath, a haircut and, if it is a female dog, bows on its ears.

Motter said that being a groomer is a physically demanding job, but the job has rewards. One of them is that Motter makes dogs feel good.

She recommends that teens learn to deal with people -- all pets have an owner -- and she also recommends working for someone else for at least two years before starting an independent grooming business.

No license is needed in most states. Motter said that some people think that having a license ensures that they are a good groomer, but "having a license doesn't make you a better groomer," she said.

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