wikiHow to Become a Dog Trainer

Three Methods:Doing Your ResearchBecoming CertifiedFinding a Job

Dogs make great companions and pets. Maybe you are a dog lover who is looking for a way to make a career out of your passion for animals. Becoming a dog trainer is a great way for you to make money and find fulfillment doing something that you enjoy. If you want to have a successful career as a dog trainer, you need to put significant time and effort into learning the necessary skills. There are several steps you can take to become a dog trainer.

Method 1
Doing Your Research

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    Learn about animal psychology. In order to be an effective dog trainer, you will need to understand the mind of a dog. In particular, you should do plenty of research about animal behavior. You can start by doing some reading. Look for books by reputable authors that analyze and explain why dogs behave in certain ways.[1]
    • The Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) offers a comprehensive list of educational resources. For example, they recommend books by Sophia Yin (How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves) and Gail Fisher (The Thinking Dog) to further your education. Nicole Wilde, author of It's Not the Dogs, It's the People, is also a great source to read.[2]
    • If you have a dog (or dogs) you can also start to carefully observe his behavior. Take note of different moods or habits, and start keeping a journal of your observations.
    • Your own dog's vet is a great resource for you. Ask her if she can recommend some reading material for you. You can also ask the reference librarian at your local library to give you pointers on which books to look for.
    • There are several common behavior patterns you will want to learn about, including: aggression, food guarding, barking, and whining. You can do some of your research online by looking at websites of organization such as the ASPCA and the Humane Society.[3]
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    Gain knowledge about the profession. There are many different types of dog trainers. Take some time to read about possible career paths, and decide which is the most interesting to you. Look for some dog trainers in your area and ask if they would mind talking to you about what they do each day. This type of personal information can help you to make an educated decision.[4]
    • Aside from basic obedience dog trainers, there are many other specializations. For example, you could consider training dogs for medical purposes. One way to do this is to become a trainer for seeing eye dogs.
    • As a dog trainer, you could also consider training police or military dogs. These animals are trained in supporting officers, and are sometimes used to find missing people or to alert officers to illegal drugs or bombs.
    • Another career path is to become a trainer who works with dogs who appear in movies and on television. You would likely need to live in an area where films are made to pursue this option.
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    Find a volunteer opportunity. Even if you have a lot of experience working with your own dogs, as a trainer you will need to be comfortable with other people's animals. A great way to gain more experience is to find a volunteer opportunity. Look for a local animal shelter and ask if they have room for another volunteer.[5]
    • Some programs will let volunteers assist with training dogs. Ask the person in charge of your local shelter if that is a possibility. It's a great way for you to get some hands on experience.
    • Volunteering can help you make sure that this is the right career path for you. Many shelter dogs suffer from behavioral problems. Being a volunteer can give you a good idea of what you can expect if you make training your career.
    • Consider becoming a foster home for dogs in need. This involves caring for dogs while they are between a shelter and a permanent home, and can last anywhere from 24 hours to several weeks or months. Fostering dogs is a great way for you to learn to interact with a lot of different breeds and personalities. Ask your local shelter if they have a foster program.

Method 2
Becoming Certified

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    Research programs. You can choose to attend a four year college or university that offers a degree in Animal Behavior. This type of program would give you the most thorough foundation in animal psychology. It also demonstrates to potential employers that you have invested a lot of time and effort into learning the necessary skills to become a dog trainer.[6]
    • Meet with an admissions counselor at a nearby college and ask for information about their degree program in Animal Behavior. Consider the costs and the time that you will need to put in in order to succeed.
    • If you do not have the time, money, or desire to get a college degree to become a dog trainer, there are other ways to further your education. One way is to go to trade school. Although these programs are not accredited in the same way that colleges are, there are many reputable programs. Do some research online, and read reviews from former students to learn what the experience is like.
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    Receive your certification. It is possible to earn your certification as a dog trainer without completing coursework. You can contact the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) for more information. However, you should know that you do need to have prior training experience before you can receive your certification. Also, be aware that the CCPDT charges approximately $400 for certification. [7]
    • Once you are certified, the CCPDT requires you to participate in continuing education, which means that you will need to take certain classes and seminars each year.
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    Find an apprenticeship. One of the best ways to learn the necessary skills is by working closely with an experienced dog trainer. Some training programs include apprenticeships, and the school will set you up with a mentor. Make sure to ask about this part of the program before you choose the coursework that is right for you. [8]
    • If you are not attending classes, you can still get guidance from a professional. Many larger dog training businesses offer internships. Contact the obedience schools in your area to find out if this is an option.
    • Be aware that interns/apprentices are often paid very little, and sometimes not at all.

Method 3
Finding a Job

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    Think about your priorities. As you are completing your training or education, make sure to be thinking about which type of training job you would like to pursue. Are you interested in working with ordinary dog owners who want to have a more obedient pet? Then consider joining a business that focuses on typical obedience methods.[9]
    • If you are interested in a more specialized training career, make sure that you live in the right area. For example, military and police dogs are only trained in certain cities. Are you willing to relocate? These are the types of questions you should ask yourself as you think about your career path.
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    Update your materials. Once you decide which type of trainer you want to be, it is time to start actively searching for a job. You should make sure that your resume is updated to reflect your most current level of education and all of your relevant experience. You should also ask several people if they are willing to serve as professional references. Great people to ask are former employers, co-workers, and instructors/professors.[10]
    • Make sure that you have a professional cover letter ready to send out with your resume. It should indicate why you are applying for that particular job and highlight your strengths as a dog trainer.
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    Search for potential employers. You can use job search sites to help you locate places that you might want to work. These are particularly useful because a lot of companies with job openings regularly update their information. If you know where you want to work, you can contact that business directly to see if they have any openings that might be right for you.[11]
    • When you are just starting out, you might consider trying to get a job at a chain pet store. These businesses often have many opportunities for new trainers. There could also be lots of room for advancement.
    • Use your professional network to learn about potential jobs. Ask people you know in the field and former classmates if they are aware of any openings. Networking is one of the best ways to find a new job.
    • Ask local dog trainers if they are looking for a partner. Working as part of a small team can be a great way to hone your skills.
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    Start your own company. If you start your own business, you can enjoy several perks, such as setting your own hours and being your own boss. When you start a dog training company, make sure you have a clear business plan. Make sure to consider your start up costs, how much you will need to make, and how much to charge clients. [12]
    • Market yourself. Make sure to set aside a portion of your start-up funds for advertising. You might want to print flyers to hang in your neighborhood or buy advertising space on a website.
    • Use social media. The internet is a powerful tool, and you can use it to your benefit. Get the word out about your new business using sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Ask your friends to make sure to "like" and share your posts.
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    Network. Networking is one of the best ways to either find a job or increase your business. Take time to get to know other members of your professional community. Attend social events and continuing education programs. By spending time with other trainers, you will begin to develop important professional connections.
    • Join the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (, the International Association of Canine Professionals ( and/or the Association of Pet Dog Trainers ( where you can network with other trainers online, attend conferences, and continue your education even if you are not a professional trainer just yet.

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