How to Become a Dog Obedience Trainer: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a dog obedience trainer. Research the education and career requirements, licensure and experience required for starting a career in dog obedience training. View article »

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  • 0:01 Become a Dog Obedience Trainer
  • 0:33 Career Requirements
  • 1:02 Career Steps

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Video Transcript

Become a Dog Obedience Trainer

Dog trainers use various techniques to help dogs improve their obedience, performance and behavior. For example, trainers might teach dogs how to sit, stay and follow other commands. Dogs also might learn how to signal when they need to be let out to use the bathroom.

This career isn't particularly high paying, and can lead to minor bites and scrapes from animal clients. However, it might be a good fit for people who enjoy working with animals for several hours in a row. Many dog trainers are also self-employed, or at least set their own hours, which can provide good flexibility.

Career Requirements

Degree Level | Post-secondary training

Certification Voluntary through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT)
Experience Experience with dogs essential
Key Skills Knowledge of overall dog behavior and training methods; teaching and training skills; love of dogs
Salary $33,600 (2015 median for all animal trainers)

Sources: National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (NADOI); U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Postsecondary training is required. Voluntary professional certification is available through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT). Experience with dogs and a love of dogs is necessary. Key skills include knowledge of overall dog behavior and training methods is important, in addition to teaching and training skills. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website, the median annual wage for all animal trainers was $33,600 as of May 2015.

Career Steps

Step 1: Complete a Dog Obedience Training Program

Those who want to pursue a career as a dog obedience trainer might benefit from a canine behavior and training program. Certificate programs, which can be found through colleges and universities, usually include lectures and hands-on experience. Some programs require that students bring their own dog to participate in hands-on courses. These programs typically cover common dog mannerisms, obedience commands and behavioral psychology.

Success Tip:

  • Consider taking some businesses courses. Because many dog obedience trainers are self-employed, you might want to take some postsecondary business courses. Gaining skills in accounting, business management and marketing can help you start and operate your own dog training business.

Step 2: Look for Employment

Employment opportunities may be available with dog obedience schools or kennels; self-employment is also an option. Dog obedience trainers who have their own business may need to advertise their services or rely on word-of-mouth promotion to attract new clients.

Step 3: Obtain Voluntary Certification

The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers is an organization that has established human standards for dog training and ensures that professionals in the field have the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively train dogs. To earn the Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) designation, trainers must attain at least 300 hours of experience in the field and have several recommendations, including from a veterinarian, colleague and client. An exam is also required to demonstrate skill in business practice and ethics, instructional methods, learning theory and animal husbandry.

If employed by a kennel, obedience school, dog daycare or other canine-oriented business, certification may make an obedience trainer more likely for promotion to a supervisory or managerial position. Alternatively a self-employed obedience trainer may see an increase in their client base when they advertise with specialized education or certification.

Success Tips:

  • Consider certified membership with the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (NADOI). This organization requires prospective certified members to have five years of experience. Proven work experience with at least 100 dogs is also required, in addition to a written essay. After six months, certified members of NADOI are eligible to pursue certification in puppy, tracking, novice, open, utility and basic agility work.
  • Consider certified membership with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). With three years of experience, 1,000 hours of animal consulting and at least 400 hours of professional training, dog obedience trainers may be eligible for certified membership with the IAABC. The group has a division devoted to dogs. To attain certification, three letters of reference, written case studies, essays and written responses to questions are required.

Dog trainers must complete training and be certified and can either find employment at dog obedience schools or kennels or become self-employed.

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