How To Become a Service Dog Trainer

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: November 1, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Animals
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Are you interested in helping those in need? Do you love animals? When you learn to become a service dog trainer, you can mix both into a rewarding career.

As a service dog trainer, you’ll be able to train dogs to help those with disabilities. There are many people in need of a trained service dog. Let’s look at this career path and how you can become a service dog trainer.

How To Become a Service Dog Trainer

A Step-By-Step Guide to Becoming a Service Dog Trainer

1. Work with Dogs

A good way to see if this is a good option for you is working with dogs. You can get used to working with dogs by attending conferences and workshops in dog training. In addition, most vocational schools and community colleges will offer some types of workshops for animal learning.

Service dog trainers can also get the hands-on experience they need by volunteering at animal shelters. You might even be able to volunteer for a puppy-raising program through a dog training school. Any experience you can get working with dogs can help you decide if this is the right career path.

2. Complete the Necessary Dog Trainer Courses

Enrolling in a certificate program and formal courses can help you to get the training you need. Many colleges and universities offer this type of training program. You will also find dog training courses from dog training schools.

The type of program you choose will determine the duration of the training. Some courses will only last a few days, while others will last several months. You will need to learn more than just basic training techniques to become a service dog trainer.

Assistance Dogs International, Inc. states that dog training programs that teach you how to train a dog in just a few weeks won’t work. These programs don’t allow you to become a certified dog trainer. You need a program that will last longer and teach all the necessary training techniques.

You will want to gain training from a course that offers the following:

The program should also offer practical training to give you hands-on experience training with dogs.

The most reputable training programs will take more than a year to complete. If you want to become certified, you will also need to complete an apprenticeship.

3. Complete an Apprenticeship

You will find it difficult to gain employment if you haven’t completed an apprenticeship. Dog training schools will offer apprenticeships, which can last as long as four years. This will give you plenty of time to gain the experience you need from a professional service dog trainer.

You will likely handle basic tasks, such as picking up after dogs, processing paperwork, and running errands. With an apprenticeship, you’ll be able to gain the certification you need to become a service dog trainer.

4. Get Your Certification

In some states, you will need to be licensed or certified. However, in other states, there is no necessary certification. You can gain your certification through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. The program is voluntary, and you can enter into it after 300 hours of training. You will also need three recommendations before you can sit for the CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed) certification exam. The exam includes 25 questions covering animal husbandry, learning theory, instruction skills, and occupational topics.

5. Gain Experience

An apprenticeship allows you to get the experience you need, but working as a service dog trainer will require even more experience. You want to find a job you can work before going out on your own, in most cases. The more experience you gain, the better off you’ll be, especially if you can gain actual dog training experience.

Top Online Service Dog Training Programs

You can gain some of the necessary training you need through an online program. If you want to become a service dog trainer, the knowledge you can get from these programs will help you on this career path. The top options include:

With the right online training program, you can learn how to train your own dog. This is a great place to start. It will give you the ability to go through the training process with your own dog.

Types of Service Dogs

Several types of service dogs can help different types of people. Some of the types of service dogs include:

Sometimes, a service dog can fit more than just one category. For example, some dogs can be even be trained to monitor autistic children and help keep them calm during meltdowns.

How a service dog is classified will determine what the dog can do for you. For example, a service dog classification will allow the dog to go wherever the handler goes. Therapy dogs, on the other hand, may have some restrictions on where they can go.

Frequently Asked Question About Becoming a Service Dog Trainer

What is the average salary of a service dog trainer?

As a service dog trainer, you can earn an average annual salary of about $37K. However, the salary can range quite a bit, depending on your location and the type of work you do.

The salary range for a service dog trainer goes from $16K to $54K per year. If you work for yourself, you might be able to earn even more, depending on how you grow your business.

What type of skills do you need to become a service dog trainer?

You will be training a dog to work with humans and humans to work with the dog, too. As a service dog trainer, you will need excellent communication skills, along with love for animals. You will also need to be excellent at customer service.

It will be important to work with both dogs and humans. You will need to be able to provide great customer service and plenty of patience. Dogs can be difficult to train, and humans can be hard to deal with, as well.

Will you need a certification to become a service dog trainer?

Anybody can decide to train dogs and begin doing it without any training. There are no legal standards for service dog trainers. However, without some training, you may not get very good results.

It’s best to learn the right training techniques. Then, with a good certification program, you can gain the trust of your clients.

Are service dog trainers in high demand?

Service dogs have increased to become high-demand animals over the last several years. Unfortunately, this means service dog trainers have also become a high-demand career. More dogs are needed, so more trainers are needed to handle the demand.

How much does it cost to train to be a service dog trainer?

Depending on where you go to school or the certification program, you’ll need to spend as much as $5,000 per semester. However, many programs are not as expensive, and some training programs might even pay you as you train.

What kind of qualities will a service dog offer?

Service dogs need to be calm and friendly. They also need to be willing to please, and they will need to learn quickly. A good service dog will be prepared to follow the owner everywhere and be able to retain information, as well.

What type of dogs will you likely work with as a service dog trainer?

Depending on how you’re training the dog, you might work with several types of dogs. Service dog trainers will come in many different breeds, including:

There are many great breeds that you will likely work with when you become a service dog trainer.


If you love working with dogs and want to help people, becoming a service dog trainer is a great option. There are many great choices when it comes to careers with animals. However, this is one of the most rewarding if you spend your days working with dogs. Plus, you’ll know the final result will help someone needing the help.

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. I, personally, am the high school dropout son of two teacher parents. So how did I get here? That story is coming soon!