If you love dogs and enjoy nothing more than teaching your dog new skills, you may have wondered whether it’s possible to turn your hobby into a rewarding career. A career as a dog trainer is incredibly worthwhile and gives you the satisfaction of transforming an anxious or destructive pet into a well-behaved dog. Whether you want to work with fearful dogs, lead doggy dance group classes or even train assistance dogs, it’s important to develop your training skills first to become the best possible dog trainer.

The tips and advice below explain exactly how to become a dog trainer, including information about becoming a certified professional trainer and where to go for hands-on training.

How to become a dog trainer - A woman training her dog within restricted area

What Is a Dog Trainer?

Dog trainers teach dogs new skills, such as recall or walking to heel. However, they also support and educate dog owners to help them understand how their dog thinks, what motivates them and how to use positive strategies to reinforce dog training at home. 

Most dog trainers work with dog owners and their pets, but that’s not the only career path available. You could also consider a role in training assistance, police, or military dogs to perform their jobs. 

A related career to dog training that you may wish to consider is that of a dog behaviorist. These professionals have expert knowledge of animal behavior and behavior modification and use it to help dogs and their owners tackle unwanted behavior, such as destroying furniture. A behaviorist will explore the possible reasons for the behavior that might not be obvious to the owners, such as stress, and suggest solutions. 

How Do I Learn to Become a Dog Trainer?

A career as a dog trainer is a good choice for people of any educational background, as long as you have the interpersonal skills to connect with owners and a desire to help dogs and their humans using proven animal learning strategies. However, you may find yourself at an advantage if you’ve already studied a subject related to dog training, such as veterinary nursing because you’ll already have a secure knowledge of canine psychology and animal behavior. 

There are many dog training schools offering courses to teach people how to become dog trainers. The quality of these dog training courses varies, so do your research to ensure the school you choose has a good reputation. The best dog training courses cover classical and operant conditioning methods extensively and give students a thorough grounding in animal behavior and how to motivate dogs to learn. Ideally, you should look for a professional organization that provides plenty of educational events and practical learning opportunities guided by an established trainer.

Aside from attending a dog training school, it’s a good idea to read widely on the subject of dog ethology, both in books and online. Experience with a wide range of breeds and temperaments will be beneficial as well. While having your dogs can help you understand the principles of dog training, volunteering for an animal shelter or working as a dog walker will give you the hands-on training you need to face the challenges of training dogs from all walks of life. 

What Qualifications Do I Need to Become a Dog Trainer?

There is no standard qualification to become a dog trainer, and you can begin working in the profession without any licensure or certification. However, obtaining a certification is worth considering because it shows potential employers you have the necessary knowledge and experience to deliver results. You may find it easier to find customers for your own dog training business if you’re a certified dog trainer through an organization such as the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP).

How Long Does It Take to Become a Dog Trainer?

A woman dog trainer during obedience dog training session in parkHow long it takes to become a dog trainer depends on your previous experience, the structure of the course you’re studying for, and whether you want to study at your own pace. You should expect to train for several months at least before you’re ready to take on your first professional role.

Depending on the level of IACP certification  you wish to obtain, you’ll need to complete various exams in addition to other education and training programs. There are various certifications that build off of one another, so having an idea of what level of training you’d like to complete is a good idea before starting courses. 

Alternatively, The Dog Wizard offers a structured training program for individuals interested in working within our already established network of training facilities around North America.

Is It Hard to Become a Dog Trainer?

Most people find the process of becoming a dog trainer highly rewarding, but you need to be prepared to work hard to achieve your goal. Getting started is usually the most challenging part. You’ll most likely need to accept donating a lot of unpaid hours as a shelter volunteer or assisting other dog trainers to gain hands-on experience and the knowledge you need to become a successful dog trainer.

The hard work doesn’t end when you clock out, as you’ll need to put in some study hours to gain a thorough knowledge of dog behavior modification and psychology. However, you may well enjoy all that work as it means spending more time in the company of dogs and building your understanding of dog ethology.

Is Being a Dog Trainer a Good Career?

Now is a good time to make the leap to become a professional trainer in terms of industry growth. According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, job opportunities for animal care and service workers are expected to increase by an impressive 22% by 2029 — equivalent to 75,500 new roles. Compare that to the 4% average growth rate across all industries and you can expect decent career prospects once you’re a certified professional dog trainer. 

While there should be plenty of new job openings for dog trainers over the coming decade, the median wage for animal trainers in 2020 was a relatively modest $31,520. However, it’s certainly possible to earn significantly more than this as you become more experienced, with the top 10% of animal trainers earning over $62,040. While it’s worth starting your career at an established dog training company, experienced trainers may be able to earn more by starting their own self-employed dog training business.

Perhaps most importantly, a career as a professional trainer offers plenty of job satisfaction, and no two days will ever be the same. While training dogs can be challenging, you’ll get to help canines and their owners overcome difficulties and enjoy more harmonious home life.

Not everyone is suited to a dog training career. Still, it could be a good option for you if you’re a people person with strong communication skills, a calm and assertive personality, and an understanding and empathetic attitude toward animals. 

Begin Your Journey to Becoming a Professional Dog Trainer With The Dog Wizard

Once you’ve decided to start the exciting process of becoming a dog trainer, it’s crucial to find the right trainer learning program to give yourself the best possible foundation in dog behavior and plenty of hands-on experience. The Dog Wizard Academy trainer course provides you with a complete toolset to tackle any canine training situation with confidence and helps you develop the skills you need to run a successful dog training business. Your mentor trainer will gradually assist you in developing the knowledge of training techniques and practical skills you need to design effective training programs, behavior classes, and private lessons centered around the needs of individual pets and their owners.