Is becoming a dog trainer right for me?
The first step to choosing a career is to make sure you are actually willing to commit to pursuing the career. You don’t want to waste your time doing something you don’t want to do. If you’re new here, you should read about:
Still unsure if becoming a dog trainer is the right career path? Take the free CareerExplorer career test to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become a dog trainer or another similar career!
Described by our users as being “shockingly accurate”, you might discover careers you haven’t thought of before.
How to become a Dog Trainer
To become a dog trainer, here are the general steps you can follow:
- Gain Experience with Dogs: Start by gaining practical experience working with dogs. This can include volunteering at animal shelters, assisting in dog training classes, or working as a dog walker or pet sitter. Hands-on experience will help you understand dog behavior and handling.
- Educate Yourself: While not strictly required, obtaining a formal education in animal behavior, dog training, or a related field can be beneficial. Consider pursuing a degree or certificate program in animal sciences, veterinary technology, or dog training. There are also online courses and workshops available that provide specialized training in dog behavior and training techniques.
- Research Training Methods: Familiarize yourself with different dog training methods and philosophies. Learn about positive reinforcement training, clicker training, and other effective and humane training techniques. Stay updated on current research and developments in the field of dog training.
- Obtain Professional Certification: While certification is not mandatory, it can enhance your credibility and demonstrate your expertise as a dog trainer. Several organizations offer certification programs (see below). These certifications typically require passing a comprehensive exam and demonstrating practical skills.
- Gain Practical Experience: Seek opportunities to gain practical experience as a dog trainer. This can involve apprenticing or working under an experienced dog trainer. Practical experience allows you to work directly with dogs and clients, apply your knowledge, and develop your training skills.
- Start Your Own Business or Seek Employment: Decide whether you want to establish your own dog training business or seek employment with an established dog training facility or organization. Starting your own business requires additional skills in marketing, client management, and business operations. Alternatively, you can gain experience and build your reputation by working with an established organization.
- Continuously Learn and Improve: Dog training is an evolving field, so it's important to stay updated on the latest research, techniques, and trends. Attend workshops, conferences, and seminars, and seek opportunities for continuing education to expand your knowledge and skills.
- Build a Network and Client Base: Establishing connections in the dog training community is important for professional growth. Attend dog-related events, join professional organizations, and build a network of fellow trainers, veterinarians, and other pet professionals. Develop a client base by offering quality services, building positive relationships with clients, and leveraging word-of-mouth referrals.
There are several certifications available for dog trainers. Here are some of the most recognized and respected certifications:
- Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT): The CCPDT offers two certifications: the Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) and the Certified Behavior Consultant Canine - Knowledge Assessed (CBCC-KA). These certifications require passing a comprehensive exam and meeting specific experience and education requirements.
- International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC): The IAABC offers certifications in various areas of animal behavior, including dog behavior consulting. Their Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) certification requires a combination of education, practical experience, case studies, and passing an exam.
- Karen Pryor Academy: The Karen Pryor Academy offers several certifications, including the Certified Training Partner (CTP) and the Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT). These certifications require completion of specific training programs, hands-on experience, and passing assessments.
- Certification in Applied Dog Behavior (CAB): The CAB program, offered by the Victoria Stilwell Academy, focuses on positive reinforcement training and behavior modification. This certification requires completion of a comprehensive program and passing assessments.
- National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW): NACSW offers certifications for dog trainers specializing in scent work and nose work. Their certifications include the Certified Nose Work Instructor (CNWI) and the Certified Nose Work Trainer (CNWT).