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

Learn how to become a guard dog trainer. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career as a guard dog trainer.

Should I Become a Guard Dog Trainer?

Guard dog trainers raise and train these dogs to bring out their protective instincts. This career can be highly physical, requiring trainers to bend, kneel, lift and run; it can also require analytical skills, so that trainers can assess how well dogs are responding to training and revise their training methods if needed. Animal care and service workers run a greater risk of workplace injury or illness than the average across careers.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent is usually required; some postsecondary education may be preferred
Degree Field Animal science, biology or related field
Certification Voluntary certification is available
Experience Experience with animals can be helpful
Key Skills Instructing, critical thinking, speaking, active learning, active listening, coordination, patience, stamina, and judgment and decision making
Salary $32,034 (median annual salary as of 2015)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online, Payscale.com.

Step 1: Learn to Train Dogs

Though formal education is often not required, some prospective trainers choose to complete individual courses or a formal training program at the postsecondary level. For example, future trainers might benefit from classes that explore animal behavior and communication, conditioning, or common behavior problems.

Alternatively, aspiring guard dog trainers might pursue an apprenticeship (either volunteer or tuition based) through a business that specializes in canine behavior. Apprentices typically complete a series of classes, in addition to hands-on experience, that cover dog behavior, training techniques, and behavior evaluation. Some programs also address such topics as agility and aggression.

Step 2: Test Your Training Skills

Prospective guard dog trainers also might opt to join a dog training club, such as the U.S. Mondioring Association or the Protection Sports Association. These organizations hold competitions for dog/handler teams that involve guard dog skills.

Step 3: Earn Professional Certification

The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers offers two voluntary certifications: the Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) credential for entry-level trainers and the Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge & Skills Assessed (CPDT-KSA) credential for advanced trainers. To qualify for the former, a trainer must have at least a high school diploma, meet experience requirements, submit references, and pass a multiple-choice exam. The KSA designation requires a KA credential and passage of a skills-based exam.

Another option is the National Association of Professional Canine Handlers' (NAPCH) Master Trainer certification. This experience-based certification requires at least eight years as a handler working with multiple dogs. Applicants also need proof of continuing education and the written support of other certified NAPCH Master Trainers.

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