How to Become a Dog Trainer: The Ultimate Guide & Step-by-Step Instructions

If you’re looking for a career that’s flexible, brings you joy, and connects you with animals, then it’s probably time you begin considering a career in dog training.

Dog training is an incredibly rewarding career, especially if you’re inspired by, drawn to, and love animals.

Become a dog trainer might seem like an easy process because there are no specific requirements that permit you to become a dog trainer — and because there are no regulations in the industry — but there’s far more to being a successful dog trainer than simply having a bond with animals.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the skills you’ll need to develop in order to become a successful dog trainer, the steps you can take to get your dog training career on track, and what your job outlook projects for this career path.

Join us as we introduce you to a world full of dog fun!

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Job Description: What Does a Dog Trainer Do?

If you’re thinking you’d be a great fit for a dog training career, but aren’t certain what a dog trainer actually does in their day-to-day routine, we’ve laid it all out here for you.

As a dog trainer, or a dog obedience trainer, you’ll teach dogs the basic commands and skills the need in order to behave, act politely, and function in society.

Another part of your job is to ensure that the humans who own these animals are comfortable and confident in providing their dogs with the leadership and guidance they’ll need in order to succeed as a well-behaved dog.

Your job can range from simple house training techniques and basic voice commands, to training animals for elaborate tasks like working with disabled or ill people, leading the blind, and more.

Some trainers even specialize in training dogs to perform obstacle courses and win dog shows.

The possibilities for dog training are virtually endless as people will always need someone to explain and teach them how to wrangle their pets correctly.

Duties

As a dog trainer, you’ll likely have the following duties:

  • work with dogs on basic commands
  • ensure that owners are comfortable and familiar with how to command their dogs
  • use positive and negative reinforcement to train dogs correctly
  • potentially train dogs for specialty tasks like hunting, emotional support, or service training
  • discipline dogs when they misbehave
  • provide feasible coursework for animals and their owners to complete

Let's Talk Salary

Though being an animal trainer, a dog trainer specifically, can be a rewarding career that many people are passionate about, it’s safe to say that you won’t be bringing in the biggest bucks.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, dog trainers (classified as animal trainers) have an estimated salary of about $33.600 per year.

As a note, though, dog trainers typically earn larger salaries than animal trainers in general.

In fact, the average yearly salary for dog trainers in some states exceeds the national average by going over $40,000 annually.

What’s better?

Dog trainers have a high earning potentially depending on the facility they work at, the experience they have, and the special skills they’re able to imprint into the animals they work with.

At the high end, some dog obedience trainers make up to $53,000 yearly, and up to $150 per hour.

Average National Salary: $41,232

$33K
10%
$37K
25%
$41K
50%
$45K
75%
$53K
90%
*Salary information last updated 2018

Average Annual Salary by State

State Avg. Annual Salary
Alabama $34,460
Alaska $34,380
Arizona $28,270
Arkansas $25,210
California $39,800
Colorado $27,260
Connecticut $33,680
Delaware $29,970
Florida $39,600
Georgia $30,710
Hawaii $27,510
Idaho $18,290
Illinois $39,000
Indiana $26,540
Iowa $29,450
Kansas $23,950
Kentucky $36,930
Louisiana $27,970
Maine $30,110
Maryland $30,140
Massachusetts $33,190
Michigan $30,460
Minnesota $43,710
Mississippi $31,753
Missouri $35,290
Montana $28,630
Nebraska $30,130
Nevada $27,170
New Hampshire $39,260
New Jersey $36,990
New Mexico $30,930
New York $40,330
North Carolina $33,140
North Dakota $28,640
Ohio $27,210
Oklahoma $26,990
Oregon $32,580
Pennsylvania $29,920
Rhode Island $35,674
South Carolina $31,840
South Dakota $29,844
Tennessee $28,050
Texas $35,470
Utah $31,330
Vermont $34,861
Virginia $34,010
Washington $37,480
West Virginia $29,570
Wisconsin $29,430
Wyoming $34,840

How to Become a Dog Trainer

Step 1Take the Time To Learn Dog Behavior

There’s currently no requirement, course, or exam that dog trainers need to pass, but if you don’t know anything about dog behavior, you’re not going to make for a very good dog trainer.

Consider reading well-respected books about animal behavior, enrolling in dog-obedience courses on your own, and researching animal behavior extensively online.

Step 2Glean Experience

You can’t tout your skills working with dogs if you’ve never worked with dogs, so it makes sense that you’d need to get some experience.

Work as an apprentice with a dog trainer, develop your own training methods, and work with someone who’s experienced with training dogs.

Check around your area for possible mentors, or work with pet stores to see if they’ll train you and grant you the experience you need.

Step 3Continually Evaluate Your Skills

Once you have some research, knowledge, and experience under your belt, take a good, honest look at your skill set.

Do you feel confident in your abilities?

Continually work toward bettering your skills, learning, and working with experienced trainers before you decide to branch out on your own.

We suggest taking courses for documentation proof that you’re experienced in your field.

Step 4Break into the Business

When you’re ready to offer the world your services, do so with a splash.

Whether you’re hoping to open your own business, work at a local store, or partner with a training company that’s already established, ensure that you’re ready and fully experienced before you open your doors.

When you do, though, be prepared to work hard, help people and animals, and challenge yourself daily.

Step 5Work for Professional Membership and Certifications

Like we’ve mentioned, you don’t need certifications or documentation proof to work as a dog trainer, but we can bet that being certified and having coursework under your belt is going to significantly boost your business.

Consider getting certified with professional organizations like the Certified Professional Dog Trainer — Knowledge Assessed.

This will verify that you have enough private session and group training experience to qualify as a professional choice.

Look out for professional groups as well to further enhance your developmental opportunities.

Groups like The Association of Professional Dog Trainers and Pet Professional Guild are great organizations to boost your clout and gain more experience.


Education Required to Be a Dog Trainer

Currently, there is no education or regulatory course required in order to be come a dog trainer.

While this might lead you to believe that anyone with a dog whistle and a leash can become a trainer and flood the market, the truth of the matter is, if a dog trainer doesn’t have some sort of experience, they’re likely not going to succeed in the market.

That being said, if you wish to succeed as a dog trainer, you’ll need to take education into your own hands.

First, contact the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and the Association of Pet Trainers for information on what courses and classes you should take, what research should be conducted, and how to gain the experience you need in order to become a professional dog trainer.

Consider taking courses on your own time and shoot for certifications in order to put yourself ahead of the rest of the dog trainers in your market.

Trainers who receive certifications, hold CPDT titles, and continue their education on a regular basis are far more successful than dog trainers who do not have certification or experience to provide to their clients.

Video About The Career


What Certifications Do I Need to be a Dog Trainer?

All in all, you don’t need any certifications or licenses to act as a dog trainer.

Legally, neither of these things are required to be in this profession, however, it will be much harder to land a job or start up your own viable dog training business if you’re not experienced and don’t have any certification.

Consider becoming certified with the Association of Professional Dog Trainers.

This Association is the largest professional group of dog trainers in the world and they offer various seminars, newsletters, courses, and training tips.

If you become certified with them, you’ll need to  continually work on your dog training education in order to keep your certification with this group.

Some community colleges and trade schools offer courses and specialization classes if you’re interested in becoming more experienced and certified.

Certification Example:

Dog training certification example

Average Training Program Duration: 0-6 Months

Popular Degree Programs


Job Outlook for Dog Trainers

The good news about being a dog trainer? The job outlook is positive.

According to the BLS, the growth rate for dog trainers is categorized as faster than average and expected to see a growth rate of about 11 percent by 2024.

Right now, there are about 10,000 dog trainers in the United States, and with the current demand for trainers, that amount simply will not suffice.

Dog trainers are being fast tracked into full-time careers much quicker as their demand grows.

Employment Growth Projection: 11%

10,000
2016
11,100
2026

That's a higher than average projected growth of 1,100 jobs.

Dog Trainer: Interest Over Time


Should I Become a Dog Trainer?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: High

Now that you’ve been gifted with all of this stellar information, you’re probably wondering, “should I actually become a dog trainer?”

Our answer?

If the challenges, rewards, salary, and job outlook line up with your goals and your life, go for it!

Just to be sure this career makes sense for you, let’s run over a few of the main things we’ve covered thus far.

Average Salary

Average Salary: Medium

As we mentioned, the average national salary for dog obedience trainers settles at about $33,600 per year.

That being said, some of the top dog trainers earn upwards over $40,000, with at least $53,000 being reported to the US Labor Department.

Dog trainers can make up to $150 per hour, if they’re professional, well-trained, and have the special clientele.

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: High

The US Labor Department qualifies the dog training career as a rapid accelerator when it comes to job outlook growth.

The current number of dog trainers is listed at around 10,000 professionals, but that number is expected to increase by about 11 percent by 2024, as the demand for trainers is continually rising.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 0-6 Months

There is no required education or licensing in order to become a dog trainer, so if you’re planning to jumpstart your career with your own research or experience, you’ll be able to get into the swing of things in just a few months.

It’s highly suggested that you work to take a few courses at your local community college or trade school, earn certifications, and work with local mentors in order to further your training education.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

While there are plenty of dog specific skills you’ll need to be a successful dog trainer, there are a few personal skills you’ll need to develop, such as :

  • patience
  • negative and positive reinforcement
  • communication
  • people skills (you’ll be training humans, too)
  • hands-on attitude
  • personal drive
  • endurance and consistency


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How Long Do You Have to go to School to be a Dog Trainer?

You do not need to attend school to be a dog trainer, although certification and dog training courses are highly encouraged.

Q. How Much Money Can you Make as a Dog Trainer?

Dog trainers earn a national average salary of about $33,600 yearly; however, some dog trainers have reported making up to $53,000 yearly ($150 hourly).

Q. How Much Does it Cost to Be a Dog Trainer?

While you’re not required to take any educational or certification classes to be a dog trainer, these expenses are something you should factor in if you plan to be successful.

Additionally, you’ll need to factor in equipment, time for training, insurance, facility costs, and various forms of advertising.

If you work with an organization who covers these costs, it’s not terribly expensive. However, if you’re running your own dog training business, you can anticipate to spend a bit of money to get your company going.

Q. Where do Dog Trainers Work?

Dog trainers have the flexibility to work in multiple locations.

Trainers can work at their own businesses, at pet stores, vet offices, 4-H clubs, community colleges, and more.

Q. What is a Dog Trainer Called?

A dog trainer is called a dog obedience trainer, an animal trainer, or an obedience trainer.

Q. What Does a Dog Trainer Do?

A dog trainer performs a variety of tasks that all essentially boil down to training a dog to perform the functions he or she has been trained to do.

Dog trainers can cover wide ranges such as basic obedience to highly-specialized service dogs.


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