Schools to Become a Dog Trainer: How to Choose

A dog trainer teaches dogs specific commands such as stay, sit or rollover. The main objective of the trainer is to educate the dog on how to be more obedient; this is typically accomplished through positive reinforcement. A number of schools and institutions in the U.S. offer certificate and training programs for aspiring dog trainers.

How to Choose a Dog Trainer School

Several community and private dog academies and colleges offer training programs suitable for aspiring dog trainers. These may lead to both basic and master certificates.

Summary of Important Considerations

  • Job description
  • Program options
  • Program flexibility
  • Hands-on practice
  • Certification

Job Description

Dog trainers may use training techniques such as praise, play or food to reward a dog for the desired behavior. Trainers may work with animal shelters, kennels, dog shows, law enforcement or independently.

Program Options

Students may want to look for programs that offer a variety of certificate options, such as basic and advanced. These programs typically allow basic certificates to count as credit towards advanced certificates. Students then have the option to start at basic levels and continue onto advanced levels as they progress in their career.

Program Flexibility

Another consideration for prospective dog trainers may be program flexibility. Some programs offer online training, in addition to on-campus practical workshops for students with families or professional responsibilities.

Hands-On Practice

On-campus practical workshops may also be provided at some schools. Students who would like to gain intensive hands-on experience may want to seek out programs that provide an in-depth practicums with a variety of dogs.


Individuals may want to seek out programs that prepare them for professional certification from organizations such as the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). These certifications may contribute to trainer credibility and job opportunities.

Overview of Dog Trainer Programs

Basic Certificate in Dog Training

The basic training program is suitable for novices to the field of dog training who desire entry-level employment in a shelter or kennel. Program structures are typically a combination of classroom lectures and practicums. These programs typically last 8-12 weeks and cover topics such as:

  • Basic obedience
  • Behavior modification
  • Breed characteristics
  • Agility
  • Imprinting

Master Certificate in Dog Training

The master training program is appropriate for individuals that have already graduated from a basic training program and desire a more in-depth education. Graduates of these programs are prepared for work independently or in professional dog shows, competitions and law enforcement agencies. Upon graduation, students will have passed both written and practical exams. These programs are usually 12-20 weeks in duration and include courses such as:

  • Advanced obedience
  • Tracking
  • Odor detection
  • Protection
  • Security

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