How to Become a Dog Trainer
Dog trainers use their knowledge of animal behavior to help people learn how to train their dogs. People most often bring their dogs to trainers because they want to teach them basic obedience skills or correct behavioral problems, but some specialized trainers prepare dogs for roles as police dogs, guide dogs, or therapy dogs.
What kind of training is required to become a dog trainer?
Prospective dog trainers can get their training in a variety of ways. There are no college degree programs that prepare people for careers in dog training, but some find specific courses helpful in understanding the science behind animal behavior. A course in psychology, for example, may provide some insight into principles of animal learning like reinforcement, punishment, motivation, and conditioning. Dog trainers can also learn through reading books by authorities in the field and from online resources, such as the Animal Behavior Resources Institute.
Beyond independent study, dog trainers can further their training by completing a course with a school that educates trainers, or by taking on an apprenticeship with an experienced trainer. The Association of Professional Dog Trainers(APDT) does not endorse any specific schools, but recommends finding a training program that thoroughly explores the history of dog training as well as principles of animal learning and dog behavior. Programs that teach trainers how to design classes, create instructional materials, and work with clients can be beneficial as well.
The APDT also recommends volunteering at animal shelters to gain experience handling and working with a wide variety of unfamiliar dogs of different breeds, backgrounds, and temperaments.
Are there any certification or licensure requirements?
There are no licensure requirements, but dog trainers can pursue voluntary certifications to show potential clients and employers that they have reached a certain level of knowledge and training. The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) is one such certifying organization, and it is generally considered the authority in the field.
Trainers are eligible for the CCPDT’s dog trainer “knowledge assessed” certification if they can show that they have at least 300 hours of experience as a dog trainer, and that 75 percent of those hours were spent leading classes as a head trainer. Once a trainer meets eligibility requirements, he or she can take a certification exam.
Trainers are eligible for the CCPDT’s dog trainer “knowledge and skills assessed” certification once they have at least 500 hours of experience as a head trainer and pass another exam.
How long does it take to become a dog trainer?
The time it takes to become a dog trainer depends on the path one takes in their training. It can take several weeks or several months to complete a training program or six months to a year to complete an apprenticeship.
What does a dog trainer earn?
The median yearly pay for animal trainers in the United States was $25,270 in 2012. The lowest ten percent of earners in this field made less than $17,580 and the top ten percent made more than $49,840 that year.
What are the job prospects?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment of animal trainers in the United States will grow by 15 percent between 2012 and 2020, faster than the average growth for all occupations. The BLS expects that demand for animal care services will grow over the next several years, and that job prospects will be good for animal care workers such as dog trainers.
What are the long term career prospects for dog trainers?
At the beginning of their careers, dog trainers may work for established trainers who own their own businesses. With experience, trainers with strong business skills may open their own training schools for dogs or even teach courses for prospective dog trainers.
How can I find a job as a dog trainer?
Dog trainers may be employed by large pet stores or dog training academies, or they may work independently. If you volunteer at an animal shelter or apprentice with an experienced trainer, you may be able to find job leads through the contacts you make in these positions. If you want to work independently, you will need to advertise your services and network with the animal care community in your area, including shelters and veterinarians.
How can I learn more about becoming a dog trainer?
Organizations like the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, and the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors offer helpful resources for those interested in becoming dog trainers. You can also learn more about becoming a dog trainer by talking with trainers, veterinarians, and other animal care workers in your community.