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How To Become a Dog Trainer in 5 Simple Steps

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Do you love dogs and want to work with them as a side hustle? Many jobs involving dogs don’t require much expertise, such as dog walking, dog sitting, and dog grooming. You don’t even need to get certifications to do such jobs.

As for dog training, it can be more complicated. However, nothing is too difficult to achieve. In this article, we teach you how to become a dog trainer and guide you through the steps you should follow.

An Overview of Dog Trainers: A Primer

Dog trainers are certified professionals who work with dogs teaching them to behave adequately and obey their owners.

Whether in private sessions or group classes, a dog trainer uses positive reinforcement techniques to encourage dogs to follow commands.

Positive reinforcement uses treats to reward dogs for good behavior instead of punishing them for unwanted behavior. In turn, it creates a positive association where the dog feels motivated to repeat the good behavior later on.

Aside from correcting dog behavior, some dog trainers specialize in more advanced cases. This includes training service dogs, therapy dogs, show dogs, or even dogs participating in agility competitions.

Whatever the purpose is, dog trainers have at least one of the following responsibilities.

  • Identifying and addressing behavioral issues in dogs, such as separation anxiety and aggression.
  • Working on reinforcing positive behavior in dogs and teaching owners some effective dog training techniques.
  • Teaching dogs basic commands, such as stay, sit, come, and heel.
  • Training dogs to navigate obstacle courses, including tunnels, hurdles, and weave poles.
  • Coaching dogs to assist people with disabilities.
  • Training K-9 dogs, including identifying drugs, scent detection, and tracking.

How Much Do Dog Trainers Make?

Dog training is a side hustle that is uncommon, yet lucrative. Determining how much dog trainers make depends on many factors. For example, dog trainers working for someone else usually get a fixed hourly rate.

When self-employed, the pay is determined by the number of dogs they train and how much they charge for a session.

Another factor is the type of session, as private lessons cost much more than group classes. The nature of the sessions also contributes to the pay, whether it’s basic obedience, agility training, pageant training, etc.

Taking all factors into consideration, your salary as a dog trainer may vary widely from $30,000 to $100,000 per year. However, the national average is around $39,000 per year.

What You Will Need To Become a Dog Trainer [& Associated Costs]

Dog training requires completing certain education programs and gaining proper experience. Before becoming able to work in such a job, you also need to obtain a few certifications.

Dog trainer training border collie, shetland shepherd and golden retriever dogs outdoors

All of this comes with a cost. So, here’s an overview of what you need.

  • Education: In most cases, businesses require a high school diploma or equivalent. However, some people prefer to get a degree in animal psychology, training, or science. Such a degree can cost you over $20,000.
  • Characteristics: Dog trainers should have a set of characteristics that allows them to deal with any situation. Patience, confidence, and communication skills are essential for a successful dog trainer. These skills don’t cost you any money but are vital for your job.
  • Training: You can find hundreds of online and in-person courses helping you pursue your dog training career. For example, Penn Foster School offers online dog training courses. Such training programs can cost between $250 to $20,000.
  • Books and Supplies: Aside from the course’s cost, you may need to spend extra money on books and supplies. This costs around $50–$100.
  • Certifications: Some training programs include the cost of issuing dog training certifications from an accredited organization, while others don’t. These certifications range in cost from $150 to $650.

How Much Does It Cost To Become a Dog Trainer?

The amount of money you should pay to become a dog trainer depends on how you plan to do it. If you decide to get the basic training and issue the needed certification, you should expect to pay between $450 to $20,000.

Although getting the needed certifications isn’t that costly, the total depends on which course you choose. Plus, if you studied for an additional degree, you need to throw in another $20,000 on top of that.

Overall, it requires a substantial investment to become a certified dog trainer. That’s why it’s essential to research your options and pick what suits you most.

Is It Hard To Become a Dog Trainer?

Working with dogs is one of the best gigs available, especially for animal lovers. However, there’s more to becoming a dog trainer than meets the eye.

Aside from the money you need to spend on becoming a dog trainer, there’s also time. Overall, it shouldn’t be too hard to pursue such a career. Yet, it requires a bit of free time, tons of hard work, and major dedication.

You may even need to accept spending a lot of unpaid hours on volunteer jobs to gain proper knowledge.

In addition to that, you can work in assisting other dog trainers until you develop your skills and become a successful dog trainer yourself.

How Long Does It Take To Become a Dog Trainer?

The time it takes to become a dog trainer depends on the path you choose to follow. Most basic training programs shouldn’t last more than 12 weeks. Other more specialized courses can take you several months to complete, not to mention the apprenticeship period.

With the addition of a higher animal-related degree, this period can extend to reach several years.

How To Become a Dog Trainer in 5 Simple Steps

Becoming a dog trainer can be harder than expected. If you’re considering such a career, knowing the steps you need to follow can help a lot in arranging your thoughts. Here are our recommended five steps to help you out.

A female dog trainer playing with a dog in the garden

Step #1: Do Your Research

Understanding the reasons behind dogs’ behavior is essential for your career as a dog trainer. Researching and reading books about animal psychology can help you a long way.

So, if you decide not to pursue a higher degree, online resources can make amazing alternatives.

Going out with your dogs and observing how they behave while keeping notes of certain moods is also great. In all cases, you need to understand how their minds work to be able to get through to them.

Step #2: Find a Training Program and Get Certified

Dog training programs help you get the needed education and experience to become a professional dog trainer.

There are many training programs offered by several dog trainer schools. Some of them grant you a dog trainer certification at the end of their course.

Research each association’s requirements and program schedule to know if it’s right for you. Getting certified can positively affect your pay amount and chances of landing a proper job.

Step #3: Practice With Your and Your Friend’s Dogs

If you consider working as a dog trainer, then you probably already have a dog.

Practicing the training techniques you learn on your dog is a win-win situation. While you get to improve your skill set, your dog gets free training.

You can also offer to train your friends’ dogs if you don’t own one. Noone rejects such a great opportunity.

Step #4: Find an Opportunity To Gain Experience

Even if you’ve successfully trained your dog, working with other people’s dogs is a whole different matter.

Getting comfortable with other dogs requires experience. That’s what volunteering teaches you.

You can find such an opportunity in a few local animal shelters. Not only does it give you more knowledge of the job, but it also helps you determine whether this is the right career for you.

Step #5: Determine Your Career Path

Once you gain proper experience and become eligible to work as a dog trainer, it’s time to choose your career path. Do you want to work with house dogs on basic obedient command or do you want to specialize in a specific field?

It’s essential to put that into consideration. That’s because a specialized career, such as a military or police dog trainer, isn’t available in all cities.

Reasons To Consider Becoming a Dog Trainer

Dog trainers are currently in better demand than ever. People are becoming more aware of the benefits of training their dogs.

Male and female professional dog trainers training German shepherd dogs outdoors

So, besides spending more time around fluffy dogs, here are four reasons to consider becoming a certified professional dog trainer.

  • No College Degree Needed: Getting a degree isn’t mandatory if you want to become a dog trainer. A certification program is more than enough for enhancing your professional credentials.
  • Great Option for a Part-time Job: It’s a great job in terms of flexibility, making it one of the best options for a part-time job. You can work with dogs in your free time or even train them overnight.
  • You Get To Be Your Own Boss: If you wish to have your startup company and become your own boss, dog training is an amazing business opportunity. You can even offer many more services, such as dog walking and animal boarding services.
  • You Receive Emotional Benefits: Any job that involves dealing with dogs has great emotional benefits. Studies show that dogs ease anxiety, reduce stress, and reverse depression.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it hard being a dog trainer?

Being a dog trainer is highly rewarding, but it’s not the perfect job for everyone. As is the case with other jobs, dog training has its drawbacks.

Some dog owners are tough to work with, leading to stressful situations. Although small, there’s also a risk of physical injuries.

What are the benefits of dog training?

Dog training has major benefits. It teaches dogs how to behave and act with confidence. This reflects on their safety, especially when outside the house.

It also teaches dogs how to socialize with other animals and reinforces the relationship between dogs and their owners.

Similar Gigs To Check Out

If you want to have a second job in your free time but think dog training is a bit of a hassle, check out the following gigs.

  • How To Become a Dog Walker: Dog walking allows you to have extreme flexibility in your working schedule, and it’s highly rewarding as well.
  • How To Become a Dog Groomer: Becoming a dog groomer enables you to meet new breeds every day and help them get a fresher look.
  • How To Become a Dog Breeder: If you’re passionate about the science of breeding dogs and developing new kinds, this job is for you.

Wrapping Up

If you have a passion for dogs and can see yourself working with them one day, you should consider dog training.

Whether you plan to do it full or part-time, it’s essential to know how to become a dog trainer.

We created this guide to help you take the first step in pursuing your dream job. So, if you don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered.

Write what you think about this article in the comments below, and share it with your friends if you think it was helpful.

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