How To Become a Dog Trainer

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: September 2, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Animals
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If you love dogs, learning how to become a dog trainer might be the perfect career option. As a dog trainer, you will get to work with dogs of all ages and their owners. You will need to be very patient as you teach owners and their pets.

There are many things you will do as a dog trainer. Before you try to go into this type of career, it’s best to understand the full list of job duties. Let’s look at the job duties and the steps for becoming a dog trainer.

How To Become a Dog Trainer

Job Duties of a Dog Trainer

When you become a dog trainer, you will be working with owners and their dogs. You will be teaching them how to command their dogs properly. This is your main duty.

Most dog owners will go to a trainer to help with unwanted behavior, such as urinating where they shouldn’t, getting up on furniture, jumping up on people, or making too much noise late at night.

As a dog trainer, you will have specific duties. You might work with a specific breed or with all breeds. Some dog trainers will train for law enforcement, dog sports, therapy, entertainment, hunting, protection, or even search and rescue. These are all possible specialties.

If you enter a career as a dog trainer, you will likely have the following job duties:

When you specialize, you may have other job duties. Some dog trainers will teach owners and dogs commands for self-defense and more specialized types of training.

How to Become a Dog Trainer in 5 Steps

Step #1 – Do your Research First

Before you become a dog trainer, it’s a good idea to learn as much about this career as you can. If possible, work at a facility with dog trainers or shadow one for a few days. This can help you understand what you will be doing if you enter this career.

There are also seminars, workshops, and plenty of books to help. The more information you can gain, the better. It can even be helpful to take enough classes to learn how to train dogs before entering this career.

Step #2 – Get Some Experience

You don’t necessarily have to have experience as a dog trainer to become one. However, it’s helpful to have experience with dogs and other animals. Volunteering at a local animal shelter or working at a facility with dogs can be helpful.

It’s also helpful if you have trained your own dog. This can help show you have the skills to train other dogs, too.

Step #3 – Take on an Apprenticeship

In some cases, you can find a local dog trainer willing to take you on as an apprentice. This may last six months to a year and will give you plenty of hands-on experience. As an apprentice, you can interact with the dogs and learn the tricks of the trade firsthand.

Step #4 – Get a Dog Training Certification

You won’t need a federal or state certification to become a dog trainer. However, working for yourself or an employer may require a certification. This will become your credentials to show that you know what you’re doing.

Many employers will look for some type of certification when hiring a dog trainer. Some of the most common certifications come from:

There may also be a few others, but these are the main places to go for certification.

Step #5 – Join the Right Organizations

It’s very common for dog trainers to join the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT). This organization can help you network and find courses to learn new skills. They hold regular seminars and events throughout the year for dog trainers.

Most Common Skills of Dog Trainers

When you become a dog trainer, you will need to develop specific skills. Some of the common skills that will help you become a successful dog trainer include:

These skills will be important if you want to be successful as a dog trainer.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Dog Trainer

How much can I make as a dog trainer?

As a dog trainer, the average hourly pay is about $15 per hour, according to However, you can certainly make a larger salary if you work for a top employer. Some employers will pay $25 per hour or more.

Many dog trainers go into business for themselves, too. This can lead to a more lucrative career. Your location will also help to determine how much you make. Miami, Seattle, Denver, and Los Angeles all pay above the national average per hour.

What type of benefits will I get as a dog trainer?

It’s common to get paid time off and health insurance from your employer. Some dog trainers will also get other benefits, such as paid housing, professional development assistance, an employee discount, a 401(k), and more. It depends on the type of dog trainer you become and who you work for.

What is the cost of becoming a dog trainer?

If you want to become a dog trainer, you will likely need to spend money on a training program. Since there are no formal degree requirements, you won’t need to spend money on college for this career. The cost can vary quite a bit and you can even become a dog trainer at no cost.

Those opting to enter an apprenticeship can even get paid to become a dog trainer. However, for most, a training program, a few books or classes, and a few other expenses can be expected along the way.

What is the work environment like as a dog trainer?

Depending on your employer, you may work in many different environments. You might work in a dog training facility indoor or outdoor. Some dog trainers will work in the owner’s home or backyard, as well.

You might work with dogs and owners one-on-one or you might teach classes. Either way, you will likely spend extended amounts of time on your feet. It’s common for dog trainers to work in pet stores, dog training businesses, for non-profits, and at veterinary clinics.

How long does it take to become a dog trainer?

Usually, it will take up to six months to get the training you need to become a dog trainer. Some apprenticeship programs may last up to a year. However, most dog trainers can enter this career within just a few months, especially if you train your own dog well.

What are the types of dog trainers available?

The most common type of dog trainer is a family dog trainer. This type of career will include plenty of common training techniques to deal with manners, socialization, potty training, and more.

You can also become a behavior specialist. This type of dog trainer will deal with separation anxiety, resource gathering, self-destructive behavior, and how dogs react to people and other animals.

If you want to train dogs for competition, you will become a canine athletic coach. This means you will train dogs to compete in many different events, including dock diving, tracking, lure coursing, herding, and more.

A working dog trainer is another option. This type of career will put you working with service dogs, search and rescue dogs, or law enforcement dogs. You might also work with drug or bomb detection dogs and personal protection dogs. If you go into this type of dog training career, it will likely require specialized training.

Learning how to become a dog trainer is a step towards a very rewarding career. If you become a dog trainer, you can work with dogs and owners regularly. By training the dog and the owner, you can help create a better relationship for them. Plus, if you specialize, you might be helping dogs help humans or even law enforcement.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.