Become a Dog Trainer: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Research the requirements to become a dog trainer, and see if this job is right for you. Learn about the job duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in dog training. View article »

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  • 0:01 Dog Trainers
  • 0:24 Career Requirements
  • 1:08 Steps To Become A Dog Trainer

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Dog Trainer?

Dog trainers assist owners in teaching their puppy or adult canine how to behave and act obediently. Trainers may also mold service, hunting or show dogs. Animal care workers in general are more likely to be injured on the job than others across occupations since animals can be unpredictable when they're distressed or frightened.

Career Requirements

Education Level High school diploma or equivalent
Licensure and/or Certification Optional certification available from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainer
Experience Previous experience working with animals is necessary
Key Skills Active listening, problem-solving, and communication skills; compassion; physical stamina
Salary $26,610 per year (2015 median for all animal trainers)

Sources: O*Net OnLine, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

To become a dog trainer, you'll need at least a high school diploma and previous experience working with animals. Dog training requires active listening skills, patience, compassion and physical stamina because much of the work involves standing, running, lifting and bending. Dog trainers also need problem-solving skills, patience and good observational and communication skills to connect with animals and their owners.

Though not required for employment, certification is available through the Certification Council For Professional Dog Trainers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median annual salary of $26,610 for all animal trainers in May 2015.

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Steps to Become a Dog Trainer

Let's go over the steps you'll need to take to become a dog trainer.

Step 1: Gain Experience with Dogs

There are many ways to gain experience with dogs; however, one of the most common methods of learning about dogs is to simply own one. Owning a dog will provide prospective trainers with experience and help them learn the responsibilities associated with taking care of a canine. Additionally, owning a specific breed enables owners to understand the needs of that type of dog. Volunteering at dog kennels or shelters is another way to gain useful experience with dogs.

Step 2: Take Courses in Dog Training

Often dog trainers take courses through an organization or at a community or technical college. These courses may offer general dog training or focus on a specific area in dog training, such as service dog training for the blind or hearing impaired. Courses in these programs typically include a lab component that includes interacting with dogs. There are usually no requirements for these types of courses other than a fee, and they are generally open to the public.

Success Tip:

  • Consider acquiring a degree. There are a few degree programs in dog training. These are often focused on studying the canine as a species (cynology), rather than specifically in dog training. However, earning a degree may still aid in dog training.

Step 3: Get Certified as a Dog Trainer

Outside of law enforcement K9 units, which are certified as canine and handler teams, dog training certification is voluntary. Other trainers do not need certification but may take courses and attain certification, such as the Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) designation offered through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, to increase recognition and employment options.

Success Tip:

  • Consider a focus in a particular area of dog training. Dog trainers may specialize in drug sniffing, obedience, hunting or dog performance, each with its own requirements and standards. For instance, a dog trainer for a drug-sniffing police K9 unit needs to be an officer in law enforcement and may work with one dog at a time. Obedience trainers offer individual or group sessions with owners and dogs of all ages to establish behavioral expectations.

Step 4: Add Education and Training to Advance Career

One way to advance your dog training career is to open a dog training business. Taking courses in sales, marketing and small business management will help you find and retain new clients; expand into new fields, such as grooming and walking; and maximize the potential of the business. Additionally, adding new specialty services, such as small or large dog training, will help capture new market segments.

In summary, to become a dog trainer, you'll need at least a high school diploma, experience with animals and courses in dog training.

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