How to Become a Dog Trainer

When you are thinking about becoming a dog obedience trainer, you may wonder what is involved.

A dog obedience trainer is a very important person to dog owners.

Dog obedience trainers help owners to learn the way that they can interact with their dogs and get them to behave.

What Does a Dog Trainer Do?

So what does a dog trainer do?

Dog trainers have very important jobs, both for dogs and their owners.

There are many different types of dog trainers that are available.

When you choose to become a dog trainer, you can choose from the one that you want to do the best.


Duties of a dog trainer:

  • basic obedience for the older dogs
  • puppy training
  • obedience training for competition
  • special training for search & rescue
  • teaching a dog the way to interact with an owner
  • communicating with owners
  • positive reinforcement
  • clicker training
  • verbal cues
  • hand signals
  • reward systems
  • assigning homework to owners

What Does a Dog Trainer Make?

A common thing that you might want to know is how much are you going to make when you are working as a dog trainer.

The average amount an animal trainer will earn every year is $34,541. The salary ranges from $18,324 to $59,304.

The average hourly amount is $16.60, and the hourly wage ranges from $8.81 to 28.51.

The amount that a dog trainer will make depends on a variety of factors.

These are factors such as:

  • education
  • experience
  • type of training that they do
  • size of the company
  • where they live and work

Average National Salary: $34,541

*Salary information last updated 2021

Average Annual Salary by State

StateAvg. Annual Salary
New Hampshire$32,480
New Jersey$37,800
New Mexico$36,170
New York$36,870
North Carolina$26,780
North Dakota$30,290
Rhode Island$35,469
South Carolina$33,730
South Dakota$32,147
West Virginia$27,660

Step by Step Guide to Becoming a Dog Trainer

Step 1 Get Some Experience With Dogs

There are a lot of ways that you can get this experience, but one of the easiest ways is to get a dog yourself.

When you own a dog, it will give you some experience and also help you learn what responsibilities comes with a dog.

In addition, when you own a certain breed it lets you understand that dog’s needs.

If you can’t own your own dog because of where you live, you can also volunteer at a shelter or dog kennel.

Step 2 Take Some Dog Training Courses

A lot of times dog trainers will take courses at a technical or community college, or through organizations.

These kinds of courses often are more generalized training courses.

Other courses are more specialized, such as training service dogs.

These types of programs often will include labs, which means you interact with the dogs.

The good news is that usually these kinds of courses don’t have any requirements rather than having to pay a fee and they’re open to everyone.

It also can be helpful to get a degree to aid in your success as a dog trainer.

There’s a variety of dog training degree programs.

Although they’re focused on studying a dog as a species instead of dog training, it can help you with your dog training career.

Step 3 Get Your Dog Trainer Certification

Outside of the K9 units in the police departments, which have been certified as handler and canine teams, this step is voluntary.

Other kinds of trainers don’t need certification, but they can take the courses and get their certification.

One such certification is the CPDT-KA, a designation that the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.

Getting this certification can help with increasing employment options and recognition.

Step 4 Decide on a Dog Training Area

There are a lot of different types of dog training areas of expertise.

Some areas are:

  • Drug sniffing to work with law enforcement officers
  • Obedience trainers work with many ages of dogs and owners individually or in groups
  • Dog performance
  • Hunting
  • Puppy obediance training

Step 5 Add Training and Education to Advance Your Career

One of the best ways that you can advance your career in dog training is to open your own dog training business.

Taking some courses in marketing, sales, and management of small business is going to help you with finding and retaining new clients, expanding into some new fields like walking and grooming, and maximizing your business’ potential.

In addition, when you add more specialty services like large or small dog training, it will help with capturing some new segments of the market.

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Education Needed to Become a Dog Trainer

One thing to know about becoming a dog trainer is that it doesn’t require any license or certification.

You can take dog training classes to help you with getting a certificate.

Even though there isn’t any required you to become certified or licensed, having certification can have its advantages.

It can:

  • Cause clients to trust you more
  • Give you more prestige
  • Open up job opportunities

Video About The Career

Certification & Licensing

Even though it’s not required to have a certificate, there are advantages of getting your certification.

One of the most well-known certifications is through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.

This council was founded back in 2001 and it offers knowledge as well as skills-based assessments for certification.

The CCPDT requires a trainer to have credits through continuing education to keep certification.

Almost 3,000 candidates took the knowledge test with a pass rate of 85%, and in April of 2011, there were 2,044 CPDT-KAs.

The APDT was founded back in 1993 and they have a classification for those who have gotten the CCPDT certification or several other societies.  They also have associate and full memberships.

The APDT has more than 5,000 members so far, which is the biggest dog trainers’ association.

Average Training Program Duration: 6-12 Months

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Job Outlook and Growth for Dog Trainer

The overall outlook for dog trainers is projected to increase 22% between now and 2026, and this is a lot faster than average for all the other jobs.

Since many people own dogs and want to take good care of them, the need for dog trainers will increase.

Dog trainers in other fields, such as law enforcement and service animals, also will be needed.

Having people who are caring and who can train dogs as well as educate their owners on their care is a skill that will always be in demand.

Employment Growth Projection: 22%


That's a higher than average projected growth of 64,600: Interest Over Time

Should You Become a Dog Trainer?

Overall Satisfaction

Overall Satisfaction: High

People who have become dog trainers love their work, because they love working with animals.

They love helping people who need service animals by training the dogs for them.

They love helping the dog owners interact with their dogs.

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

Average Salary

Average Salary: Medium

The amount that you will make as a dog trainer will be based on several factors.

These are things such as:

  • Experience
  • Type of training
  • Where you work
  • Certification

The average amount that a dog trainer makes is $34,541, and it has a range of $18,324 to $59,304.The average hourly wage is $16.60, and the range is from $8.81 – $28.51.

Even though certification isn’t necessary, it can help you get clients and jobs, so it is worth looking into.

Job Growth Outlook

Job Growth Outlook: High

It has been said that it’s expected that the need for dog trainers is going to grow 22% between now and 2026.

The reason for this is because more people are owning dogs and spending the money to take care of them and understand them.

There is also a growing need for dogs trained to help law enforcement find drugs and weapons.

Trainers are also needed to train dogs to help those who need service dogs to help with mental and physical disabilities.

Education Duration

Education Duration: 6-12 Months

There is no formal training or certification required to become a dog trainer but having the training can help your career in a big way.

Training and certification initially takes 6 months to a year to complete.

Many trainers go on to further their education and learn how to train specialized dogs such as drug detection dogs or guard dogs.

Personal Skills Needed

Personal Skills Needed

Personal skills needed:

  • Great coaching skills – You’ll need to be able to motivate clients through tough and easy times.
  • Compassion, empathy and kindness – You will have to place yourself in our client’s shoes.
  • Excellent communication – You have to have the ability to communicate with many different clients so that they are able to understand. You can’t just communicate in ways that are good for you.
  • You should understand human psychology – Ask yourself what will motivate people? How will people learn? What kinds of biases do they have? What kinds of emotions are underlying? How important is the dog to the person? There are different techniques that you will want to use for training people based on the way that they learn. It’s not possible to use the same tools for dogs and clients.
  • Lots of patience for your dogs and clients

Frequently Asked Questions

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

Since it doesn’t require any type of certification or licensing, it actually doesn’t actually take a lot of time to do it. But if you want take courses, they often take 6 months to a year.

Q. How Much Does a Dog Trainer Make?

There are a variety of things that can affect how much you are going to make as a dog trainer.

However, the average salary for dog trainers is $34,541.

If you want to make more money in dog training, the amount that you make will depend on a few things.

The things that can help you make more money in dog training are:

  • Type of training that you do
  • Your experience
  • Where you work
  • Certifications that you have

Q. What can a Dog Training Certificate Get You?

Some people think that getting a dog training certificate isn’t worth it, since they can work without one.

But others have found that a dog training certificate is a good idea since it can open up many great opportunities.

A dog training certificate can:

  • Help you get more clients
  • Show that you are professional
  • Give you the opportunity to work in other places

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

Dog trainers work together with others to help dogs be better trained.

The duties of a dog trainer are:

  • Use many learning techniques so that the behavior of dogs changes
  • 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, even though some of them do work for head trainers or out of pet stores as part of the training program.

Some of them also work for veterinary clinics, boarding kennels or animal shelters.

Some dog trainers also work with the police department if the dog is being trained to detect drugs, while other dog trainers work to train dogs to become service dogs.

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