From dog lover to expert trainer: how to become a dog trainer

Last updated: July 22, 2024
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Eleana Bowman
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From dog lover to expert trainer: how to become a dog trainer
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Ever caught yourself daydreaming about turning your love for dogs into a full-time gig? Well, you’re not alone! The desire to become a dog trainer is more common than you might think. But figuring out where to start can be downright overwhelming.

You might be wondering, “How do I even begin?” or “Am I cut out for this?” Worry not — your passion and drive are what matter most in this field, and Jobcase is here to help you every step of the way.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into how to become a dog trainer, covering everything from understanding the role, the requirements, and the various training paths available.

So let’s turn your passion for dogs into a fulfilling profession!

What is a dog trainer, and what is their mission?

A dog trainer is a pro who helps dogs learn to behave in ways that make life better for them, their owners, and society as a whole. They work with all types of pups, from tiny Chihuahuas to massive Great Danes.

So is dog training just a bunch of playtime? Not exactly.

Dog trainers teach dogs basic obedience commands, like “sit,” “stay,” and “come,” as well as more advanced behaviors, like retrieving objects and detecting scents. They might even train show dogs.

But their work doesn’t stop there.

Dog trainers can also tackle behavioral issues like aggression, fearfulness, and separation anxiety.

They use techniques such as positive reinforcement (rewarding good behavior) and counter-conditioning (changing a dog’s emotional response to a stimulus) to help dogs overcome these challenges.

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Dog trainers even train dogs for specific roles, like law enforcement, search and rescue, and therapy work. These jobs need specialized skills, so trainers have to know the ins and outs of the training techniques required.

Ultimately, dog trainers play a vital role in shaping well-behaved, happy dogs.

Does dog training sound perfect for you? Here’s what it takes!

There are several requirements you’ll need to fulfill to become a dog trainer. For instance, you must be compassionate, have a deep understanding of canine behavior, and be able to communicate with dog owners — as well as the dogs themselves — effectively. More on this below.

Now let’s talk about education. There are no specific educational requirements to become a dog trainer.

However, there are several certification programs available that can provide you with the knowledge and skills you’ll need to succeed in this career. Some examples of online certification programs include the Karen Pryor Academy and the Victoria Stilwell Academy.

Mentorship programs, such as those offered by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, can also be a valuable way to gain hands-on experience.

But it’s more than just knowledge that you’ll need to become a successful dog trainer. You’ll also need to hone your skills. Here are a few to focus on:

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  • Patience: Dogs learn at their own pace, so it’s important to be patient but persistent in your training efforts. Ever tried teaching a puppy to sit? If so, then you know what we mean.

  • Communication: You must be able to facilitate communication between dogs and their owners to ensure that everyone is on the same page. It’s like being a translator — but between two different species!

  • Observation: You must be able to observe and interpret canine behavior to identify the reason for a dog’s behavior. Is that tail wag a happy one or a sign of stress?

  • Adaptability: Each dog is unique, so you must be able to adapt your training techniques to meet individual needs. One size doesn’t fit all in the world of dog training.

  • Physical fitness: Dog training can be physically demanding, so it’s important to be in good physical shape. You’ll need the stamina to keep up with your four-legged students!

Becoming a dog trainer requires more than just a love of canines. It’s a unique combination of knowledge, skills, and personal qualities. Are you ready to take on the challenge and turn your passion for dogs into a rewarding career? Read on to learn how to do just that!

Choose your training path: courses, apprenticeships, or going solo

Embarking on a dog training career involves choosing the right educational path. Each option — dog training courses, apprenticeships, and independent training — has advantages and drawbacks. Let’s dive into these to help you make the best choice for you.

Dog training courses

Courses offer a structured approach to dog training education. They’re often available through community colleges, vocational schools, or private organizations, providing a mix of classroom instruction and hands-on training.

This well-rounded education covers both dog training techniques and business management.

However, there are a few downsides to consider. Courses can be expensive, and you may need to invest time in finding a program that aligns with your goals. Plus, not all courses guarantee job placement after completion.


Apprenticeships let you learn from experienced trainers while gaining practical experience. By working with a mentor, you’ll develop essential techniques and skills to succeed in the industry. Apprenticeships also help you build connections and networks within the dog training world.

However, as with any path, there are potential drawbacks to apprenticeships. Finding the right mentor might take time, and some may not offer paid positions. Additionally, the duration and quality of apprenticeships can vary greatly.

Independent training

For those who prefer a self-directed approach, independent training might be the way to go. Online resources, including books, videos, and webinars, offer a basic understanding of dog training techniques and theories.

This option can be a great starting point for those who either aren’t ready or don’t have the means to commit to certification.

On the flip side, independent training can lack the structure and hands-on experience the other options provide. It could also be challenging to stay motivated and disciplined without external support.

The ideal path to becoming a dog trainer depends on your learning style, budget, and career goals. Consider these factors when weighing the pros and cons of each option.

Remember, no matter which path you choose, your passion for dogs and dedication to learning how to become a training expert will help guide you to success.

What happens after certification?

You’ve earned your certification, but what now? There are two primary paths you can follow as a dog trainer: starting your own business or working for someone else.

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Let’s look at the items you’ll need to consider for each path.

Forge your own path: start your own dog training business

  • Gain hands-on experience: Before diving into the world of entrepreneurship, it’s crucial that you gain hands-on experience. Volunteer at shelters, help other trainers, or offer discounted sessions to friends and family.

  • Create a niche: Determine your unique selling point. Are you passionate about training service dogs, therapy dogs, or specific breeds? Find your niche and become an expert in that area.

  • Develop a business plan: Map out your business strategy, including your target market, services, and pricing structure.

  • Create an online presence: Establish a website and/or social media profiles to showcase your expertise and connect with potential clients. Becoming a member of organizations like the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) or the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) can give you networking opportunities, access to resources, and credibility.

Work for someone else: join an established business

  • Apply for dog training jobs: Start by applying for dog training positions at established companies. These roles offer valuable experience, access to a client base, marketing support, and mentorship opportunities. Not many training companies in your area? Look for pet stores or shelters that are hiring trainers. You can also explore partnerships with veterinary clinics or groomers.

  • Join a professional organization: Just like when starting your own business, becoming a member of the APDT or IACP can give you networking opportunities, access to resources, and credibility in the dog training world.

  • Continue your education: Stay up-to-date with the latest training techniques, trends, and research by attending workshops, seminars, and conferences. Continuous learning will help you stay competitive in the job market and improve your skills. Over time, you might even find a particular specialty of dog training that interests you.

Whatever path you choose, remember that hands-on experience is essential. Keep learning and growing as a dog trainer, and you’ll be well on your way to a rewarding career.

Unlock your potential: dog trainer salary and job outlook

Wondering what income and opportunities await you as a certified dog trainer? Let’s break down the numbers and prospects.

Salary expectations

Dog trainer salaries can vary based on factors like location, experience, certification, and the type of training offered. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that dog trainers in the US make an average of $31,280 per year.

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However, with more experience and a specialized niche, you can earn even more – possibly up to $58,790 yearly!

Working for a company vs. self-employment

If you’re employed by a company, your salary may be more stable. On the other hand, running your own business provides the potential for a higher income but with added responsibilities and less financial stability.

Part-time vs. full-time

Many dog trainers start part-time while building their client base. As your reputation grows, you may be able to transition into a full-time role, increasing your earnings as a result.

Job outlook

The demand for skilled dog trainers is on the rise as more and more people are recognizing the importance of proper training for their pets. And this isn’t just a small rise — the BLS predicts 27% growth in jobs from 2021 to 2031!

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This growing demand, coupled with the benefits of professional certification and experience, makes dog training an attractive and promising career choice.

So, is a career as a dog trainer right for you? If you’re passionate about dogs and committed to learning, the potential for a rewarding career and solid income is well within reach.

Dog training queries unleashed: your top questions answered

Before we wrap up, let’s address some questions aspiring dog trainers commonly have. Our goal is to give you a clear path to a rewarding career as a dog trainer.

What’s the timeline for becoming a dog trainer?

Your timeline will depend on your training method and individual pace of learning. While you can complete some certification programs in a few weeks, an apprenticeship may take months or even years to finish.

Previous experience with dogs and how dedicated you are to learning will also influence the time it takes you to become a qualified dog trainer.

There are several reputable dog training certifications you can obtain, including from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) and the IACP. Both of these are good; there’s not one that’s “better” than the other.

Each organization has its own set of requirements and testing procedures, so it’s essential to research the certification that best aligns with your goals, philosophy, and budget.

What’s the cost factor?

The cost of becoming a dog trainer varies depending on the trainer’s chosen path. Training courses can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, while apprenticeships may have little to no cost.

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It’s also essential to factor in additional expenses, like travel, books, and supplies, when determining the overall cost of your dog training education.

Embrace your canine calling

Congratulations — you’ve taken the first step towards a fulfilling and exciting career as a dog trainer!

Our team at Jobcase understands that embarking on a new career path can be daunting, but we want you to know that you have what it takes to succeed.

As a dog trainer, you’ll get to work with dogs every day and help them and their owners live their best lives.

You’ll get to see the joy on your clients’ faces as they watch their furry companions learn and grow. And let’s not forget that you get to make play a part of your workday — and what could be better than that?

While becoming a dog trainer requires hard work and dedication, our team believes that your passion for dogs and desire to help others make you a great candidate for the job. We’ve provided you with the information and resources you need to get started, but the rest is up to you.

So, are you ready to go out there and make a difference? Visit our job board.



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