How to Become a Dog Trainer

You may think about becoming a dog obedience trainer, but you wonder what it entails.

You have to understand that a dog trainer is a very important person to dog owners.

They help owners learn how they can:

  • Interact with their dogs
  • Get them to behave

So here’s everything you need to know about this great profession.


What Does a Dog Trainer Do?

a girl training her dogs

A dog trainer is the bridge between dogs and their owners to establish trust and communication.

That’s why you should do your best and undergo extensive training to be able to help them.

To effectively do this, you must first identify the dog’s problem.

It is usually an issue that’s behavioral in nature.

Once you do, you can then create a fitting training plan to correct that behavioral problem.

Only then can you be able to coach owners appropriate obedience techniques.

Duties

At a minimum, you will be responsible from basic obedience training to more advanced.

Your duties will include, but not limited to:

  • Basic obedience for the older dogs
  • Puppy training
  • Obedience training for competition
  • Special training for search and rescue
  • Teaching a dog how to interact with their owner
  • Positive reinforcement and reward systems
  • Clicker training
  • Verbal cues and hand signals
  • Communicating with owners
  • Assigning homework to owners

How Much Does a Dog Trainer Make?

This is a common question that a lot of people interested in this career ask.

On average, animal trainers will earn an annual salary of $34,541.

The minimum income you can earn is $18,324.

And if you’ve gotten more skilled and accumulated experience, it can go up to $59,304.

This is roughly $8.81 to $28.51 per hour, with an average rate of $16.60 per hour.

But this number can still vary depending on several factors, such as:

  • Education
  • Experience
  • Type of training you do
  • Size of the company you work at
  • Where you live and work

Average National Salary: $34,541

$18K
10%
$28K
25%
$34K
50%
$45K
75%
$59K
90%
*Salary information last updated 2022

Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
Alabama$31,640
Alaska$42,592
Arizona$40,790
Arkansas$27,240
California$39,700
Colorado$29,770
Connecticut$30,848
Delaware$32,050
Florida$36,710
Georgia$30,610
Hawaii$31,500
Idaho$32,444
Illinois$38,860
Indiana$31,940
Iowa$29,843
Kansas$31,632
Kentucky$42,130
Louisiana$28,950
Maine$32,640
Maryland$29,850
Massachusetts$38,000
Michigan$34,450
Minnesota$29,890
Mississippi$33,672
Missouri$35,270
Montana$33,215
Nebraska$32,480
Nevada$27,350
New Hampshire$32,480
New Jersey$37,800
New Mexico$36,170
New York$36,870
North Carolina$26,780
North Dakota$30,290
Ohio$29,300
Oklahoma$26,560
Oregon$27,130
Pennsylvania$32,680
Rhode Island$35,469
South Carolina$33,730
South Dakota$32,147
Tennessee$28,020
Texas$33,900
Utah$28,820
Vermont$38,951
Virginia$40,185
Washington$40,280
West Virginia$27,660
Wisconsin$29,250
Wyoming$29,473

Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Dog Trainer

Step 1 Get Yourself a Dog

It’s much easier to gain dog training experience when you have a dog yourself.

This way, you can learn the responsibilities that come with being a pet owner.

It also allows you to navigate your way into understanding a dog’s needs at a much personal level.

For instance, you will know the reasons why a dog suffers separation anxiety.

Or why certain breeds are independent, while some are attached to their owners.

If for some reason you can’t own a dog, then you can also volunteer at either:

  • An animal shelter
  • A dog kennel

Pet sitting for your friend or even neighbors can also be an option.

Step 2 Take Some Dog Training Courses

Dog trainers usually enroll:

  • At a technical or community college
  • Through organizations

These institutions often offer you more generalized training courses.

Of course, there are specialized courses as well, such as training service dogs.

The good news is that these courses don’t have any special requirements.

They’re open to everyone interested.

You only have to pay a fee.

To advance your career, it’s helpful to get a degree in animal care for more in-depth learning.

Step 3 Get Your Dog Trainer Certification

Outside of the K9 units in the police departments, this step is voluntary.

You may or may not get certified.

But some companies may require you to get one from accredited organizations like the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT).

Getting this certification can help you gain more recognition and increase employment options.

Step 4 Decide on a Dog Training Specialty

police dog trainer

There are a lot of dog trainers capable of basic dog training.

But few can specialize in one area and be an expert in it.

Having a dog training specialty means you only have to focus on one advanced dog training.

For instance, behavioral correction training.

Not to mention that you will have a more tight customer niche.

Some areas you can specialize in are:

  • K9 dog training
  • Service dogs for persons with disabilities
  • Dog performance
  • Hunting
  • Puppy obedience training

Step 5 Continuing Education to Advance Your Career

You won’t stay an employed dog trainer your whole life.

You will want to advance, and opening your own dog training business is the best way to do it.

It can open up more learning opportunities for you, like capturing new market segments.

More so when you offer special services like the ones mentioned above.

So take business-related courses and gain knowledge on matters on:

  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Retail management

In effect, you will be able to:

  • Find and retain new clients
  • Expand into new fields like grooming
  • Maximize your business potential

A degree in animal care is also an option if you want to pursue technical studies.

The knowledge you gain from it can also be your advantage in career advancements.

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Education Needed to Become a Dog Trainer

Becoming a dog trainer has no set formal education.

But it’s best for you to have earned your high school diploma or its GED equivalent.

This will make it easier for you to get a certification should your employer require it.

Even though you don’t need to go to college, you do need to enroll in an established training program.

Here you will acquire the following necessary to become a professional dog trainer:

  • Sufficient knowledge
  • Better understanding
  • Hands-on experience

Training programs usually last from six to 12 months.

Mostly because training depends upon the type of certification you want to get.

Here’s a video from a seasoned dog trainer to give you some insights into this profession.

Video About The Career


Certification and Licensing

Even though it’s not mandatory, having a certification does have its advantages.

It can:

  • Make clients trust you more
  • Give you more prestige
  • Open up job opportunities

CCPDT is one of the well-known organizations that offer accredited certifications.

  • Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA)
  • Knowledge and Skills Assessed (CPDT-KSA)

To be eligible for CPDT-KA, you must have:

  • At least 300 hours of dog training experience within three years
  • A recommendation from a vet or CCPDT professional

To be eligible for CPDT-KSA, you only have to be a KA certification holder.

In both cases, CCPDT requires you to pass their examination.

And to keep your certification, you must pursue continuing education.

Average Training Program Duration: 6-12 Months


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Job Outlook and Growth for Dog Trainer

Per the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for dog trainers will grow up to 28% by 2030.

This growth can be attributed to the following:

  • The way people are willing to spend more on animal care than in previous years
  • Many trainers planning on retiring or changing to another profession

Nonetheless, this doesn’t change the fact that the future for dog trainers is good—better even.

And we can already see and feel that with the number of people searching for dog trainers increasing.

For instance, the demand for trainers to help service animals companies.

Trainers who care for animals and educate owners will always be in demand.

Employment Growth Projection: 28%

60,200
2020
77,400
2030

That's a higher than average projected growth of 17,200: Interest Over Time


Should You Become a Dog Trainer?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: High

Dog trainers love their work because they love:

  • Working and interacting with animals
  • Helping people, especially those in need of service animals
  • Assisting dog owners interact with their pets

Seeing how well the dogs and owners do during training gives any dog trainer a true sense of satisfaction.

It’s truly a job well done!

Average Salary

Average Salary: Medium

The money you make depends on several factors like:

  • Experience you have
  • Type of training you received
  • Where you work
  • Certification you hold

But on average, your annual average salary will be $34,541.

Roughly, that’s an average of $16.60 per hour.

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: High

With a projected growth rate of 28% by 2030, you can expect a high demand for dog trainers in the next few years.

This mainly stems from people willing to spend more on:

  • Their dogs’ welfare
  • Improving their owner-pet relationship

So expect more clients looking for you, especially those from law enforcement and service animals companies.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 6-12 Months

Dog trainers don’t need formal training or certification to work as one.

But enrolling in a training program can help your career greatly.

Training and certification initially take six months to a year to complete.

Many trainers go on to further their education.

They aim to learn how to train specialized dogs, such as drug detection dogs or guard dogs.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

Becoming a dog trainer requires many skills you have to master.

Or at least, be good at it.

Good coaching skills

You’ll need to be able to motivate clients through tough and easy times.

Emotionally perceptive

Training is taxing.

So you’ll have to have the ability to sense your client’s emotional needs and try to soothe them.

Show compassion, kindness, and empathy.

Excellent communication

You can relay well what you want to say and listen intently to understand what the client wants.

Lots of patience

You should be able to bear the repetitive tasks in training dogs until they’re able to learn your teachings.

Knowledge of human psychology

People learn differently.

By knowing and understanding your clients, dog and man, you can customize a training course suitable for them.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How long does it take to become a dog trainer?

Since it doesn’t require any type of certification, it doesn’t take long to become a dog trainer.

Training often takes six months to a year.

Q. How much does a dog trainer make?

Dog trainers earn an average of $34,541 per year.

If you want to make more, then brush up on your:

  • Skills and experience
  • Training

Don’t forget to maintain your eligibility for certification as well.

Q. What can a dog training certificate get you?

Some people think that getting a dog training certificate isn’t worth it.

After all, they can still work without one.

But earning a dog training certificate can open up many opportunities, such as:

  • Help you get more clients
  • Show your credibility
  • Ability to work in other places

Q. What does a dog trainer do on a daily basis?

As a dog trainer, you usually have to apply many techniques to help improve the dog’s behavior.

You’ll do:

  • Operant conditioning
  • Desensitization
  • Positive reinforcement
  • Clicker training
  • Hand signals
  • Verbal cues
  • Reward systems
  • Communicate with the owners
  • Assign homework
  • Work with service dogs
  • Lead classes for dogs and owners

Q. Where do dog trainers work?

Most trainers are self-employed, with some working as head trainers in a training program.

At times, they also help out the police department and/or service dog companies.

Meanwhile, some of them are employed in:

  • Veterinary clinics
  • Boarding kennels
  • Animal shelters

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