Become a Dog Obedience Instructor: Education and Career Roadmap

Research the requirements to become a dog obedience instructor. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step process to start a career as a dog obedience instructor.

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Should I Become a Dog Obedience Instructor?

Dog obedience instructors teach pet owners to train and control their dogs. Services might be provided at their place of business, or they might travel to their customers' homes. Instructors often need to use tact and patience when dealing with unruly dogs and their owners, who might be uninformed about training techniques.

Career Requirements

Degree Level No degree required, though postsecondary training is available
Degree Field Animal science or related subject
Licensure and Certification Voluntary professional certification is available
Key Skills Customer-service skills, attention to detail, problem-solving skills, compassion, patience and stamina
Salary (2014) $25,770 (median for animal trainers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Consider Formal Training

While many schools offer undergraduate degrees in animal science and related majors, degree programs specifically in dog training are generally not available. Students can instead attend dog training courses or workshops offered at community colleges, vocational schools and dog training schools. In fact, the BLS notes that many professionals in this field qualify for employment by completing such courses. An aspiring obedience instructor may study topics like canine behavior and learning, obedience and safety.

Success Tip:

  • Take other relevant courses. Prospective obedience instructors may also want to take classes related to running a business. Additionally, they may benefit from learning about class structures and teaching methods.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Most dog obedience instructors start by working with their own dogs. An individual may also gain experience with dogs by volunteering at local animal shelters, working at a dog care center or running a dog walking business. Prospective instructors can benefit from doing anything that helps them learn to be comfortable when working with dogs. They should seek experience with many types and breeds of dogs. This can help one to develop an understanding of common behavioral issues and general problems that may occur with dogs. Additionally, dog obedience instructors can develop experience by working as a trainer. Trainers can work for obedience schools, pet stores or humane societies, training dogs directly rather than teaching their owners.

Step 3: Earn Certification

Certification is a way for a person to prove his or her skills and abilities as an obedience instructor. Certification is offered through professional organizations such as the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Such credentialing isn't required to find work as a dog trainer or obedience instructor, but some clients or employers prefer it. Additionally, depending on the school one attends, completion of formal training may lead to certification.

Step 4: Become a Dog Obedience Instructor

After gaining experience with canines, one can transition to work as a dog obedience instructor. An instructor will have to schedule, create and lead classes in which participants learn to train dogs. An instructor may work for an obedience school or may open their own business.

Success Tips:

  • Take continuing education courses. Certification must be renewed every few years, and completion of 36 continuing education units is required to renew. These units can be earned by completing activities like seminars and lectures.
  • Consider joining professional organizations. Professional organizations can provide individuals with further education options, certification opportunities and networking opportunities. Some professional organizations in this field include the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, the International Association of Canine Professionals and the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors.
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