How to Become a Dog Trainer – In 5 Easy Steps

You are fond of dogs, you like spending time with them, playing all day long and you believe that becoming a dog obedience trainer is the right career path for you.

However, you have always been wondering what is involved in this profession and what kind of path you have to pass so as to become one.

First, you need to bear in mind that a dog obedience trainer is a very significant person to dog owners as his/her main duty is to help owners learn the way that they can interact with their dogs and get them to behave.

What Does a Dog Trainer Do?

We would like to mention all the things that a dog trainer does, being that a dog trainer’s job is so important for both dogs and their owners.

It is worth mentioning that various types of dog trainers are available, and when choosing from them, you need to pick the one that suits you best.


Some of the major duties of a dog trainer are the following:

  • 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?

Besides loving what you do, it is necessary that you earn a living, so we included in our short guide the amount of money that you can expect if you decide to work as a dog trainer.

The average amount an animal trainer earns annually is $34,541.

However, depending on numerous factors, this salary can range from $18,324 to $59,304.

The average hourly amount is $16.60, but again it can range from $8.81 to 28.51.

The amount that a dog trainer can earn depends on numerous factors such as:

  • Education
  • Experience
  • Type of training that they do
  • Size of the company
  • Where they live and work

Step by Step Guide to Becoming a Dog Trainer

Step 1. Get Some Experience With Dogs

So as to get some experience with dogs, you can get a dog for yourself.

This is considered the easiest way, being that when you own a dog, you will get some experience and learn all the responsibilities and obligations that come with a dog.

Plus, depending on your dog’s breed, you will be able to understand what are the specific needs of that particular breed.

Those of you who cannot own a dog due to various factors can choose to volunteer at a shelter or dog kennel.

Step 2. Take Some Dog Training Courses

Besides gaining experience, it is important that you get some kind of education as well, and numerous dog trainers decide to take courses at a technical or community college, or through organizations.

They can choose to attend either more generalized training courses or those more specialized, such as training service dogs.

Some of the things you will learn through these programs include interaction with the dogs and the great news is that attending these kinds of courses does not include any kind of requirements that you will need to meet so as to complete them.

You will simply have to pay the fee, but once you finish it, it can be helpful to get a degree that can aid in your success as a dog trainer.

Even though these dog training degree programs are focused on studying a dog as a species instead of dog training, people found them very helpful for a future dog training career.

Step 3. Get Your Dog Trainer Certification

You will be obliged to get a certificate only if you plan to train the K9 units in the police departments.

Otherwise, getting a certificate is voluntary, but you can take the courses and get their certification to improve your job prospects and recognition.

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

Step 4. Decide on a Dog Training Area

Among many different types of dog training areas of expertise you can choose one of the following:

  • 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 obedience training

Step 5. Add Training and Education to Advance Your Career

The majority of people want to advance in their career in dog training, and the best way is to open your own dog training business.

We suggest that you take some courses in marketing, sales, and management of a small business.

This is not related to dogs but can help you with finding and retaining new clients and maximizing your business’ potential.

Adding more specialty services is always an advantage such as large or small dog training.

Certification & Licensing

Having a certificate is not required, but still, there are advantages to getting the certification.

The best-known certification is the one that can be achieved through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, which was founded in 2001 with the aim to offer knowledge and skills-based assessments for certification.

The CCPDT also requires a trainer to earn credits through continuing education to keep his/ her certification active.

The APDT was founded in 1993 and they have a classification for those who have gotten the CCPDT certification.

The APDT has more than 5,000 members and it is the biggest dog trainers’ association.

Job Outlook and Growth for Dog Trainer

When job outlook and growth for a dog trainer are in question, future dog trainers should not be worried about their employment, as the overall outlook for dog trainers is projected to increase 22%.

This is considered a lot faster than average for all the other jobs, due to the fact that people who own dogs want to take good care of them and learn them to behave properly, so they are in need of dog trainers.

Furthermore, special dog trainers with a certificate in fields such as law enforcement and service animals also will be needed.

Should You Become a Dog Trainer?

Overall Satisfaction: High

You will see in the next paragraph that the salary of dog trainers is not huge, but people who become dog trainers are those who love their work because they love working with animals and do not think too much about their income.

Their satisfaction comes from their love for helping people who need service animals by training the dogs for them, as well as helping the dog owners interact with their dogs.

Average Salary: Medium

You should not expect a huge salary, but the job is rewarding so not many dog trainers really think about becoming rich.

The salary that a dog trainer gets will be based on several factors such as:

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

The average salary according to statistics is $34,541, but it can range from $18,324 to $59,304.

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

Job Growth Outlook: High

It is estimated that the need for dog trainers is going to grow by 22% in the years to come which is a good reason for you to start thinking about this career.

This number is high because more and more people are owning dogs and spending the money to take care of them.

Also, the need for dogs that must well be trained to help law enforcement find drugs and weapons is increasing.

Trainers are there to train dogs to help those who need service dogs, such as people with mental and physical disabilities.

Education Duration: 6-12 Months

Even though formal training or certification is not required to become a dog trainer, you will still need to pass a certain amount of training so as to know what to do once you start working.

Training and certification typically take 6 months to a year to complete, but it is up to you whether you would like to go on to further their education during which you will learn how to train specialized dogs such as drug detection dogs or guard dogs.

Personal Skills Needed

  • Great coaching skills – as your clients will need motivation through both tough and easy times.
  • Compassion, empathy, and kindness – It is necessary that you place yourself in our client’s shoes so as to understand their needs and feelings
  • Excellent communication – You will be constantly communicating with many different clients and you need to explain to them in a way that they are able to understand.
  • You should understand human psychology – You must ask yourself what motivates people and how important the dog is to the person. Being that different techniques can be used for training people based on the way that they learn, you will need to use various tools for dogs and clients, which are the most suitable for them.
  • Lots of patience for your dogs and clients.

Additional Resources