Dream of a career in professional dog training? We’re here to tell you EXACTLY how to become a dog trainer in less than a year!
Read on as we answer some of the most frequently asked questions pertaining to this career path. Plus, we’ll break down 5 key steps for getting started AND tell you all about QC Pet Studies‘ brand-new Dog Training certification course.
So, on that note, let’s jump right in, shall we?
How Long Does it Take to Become a Dog Trainer?
The length of time it’ll take you to start a career as a dog groomer will ultimately depend on the type of training you choose to get. Some courses will run for a handful of weeks, whereas others can take months.
Typically, though, you’re going to want to look for a slightly longer course. There’s a lot that goes into being a dog trainer – and a program that’s only a few weeks long likely won’t teach you everything you need to know to do the job properly.
We’ll go more in-depth about your educational options a little later in this article!
What Qualifications Do You Need to Be a Dog Trainer?
Here’s the thing: technically, you don’t “need” any type of certification in order to call yourself a dog trainer. However, you’ll be making a BIG mistake if you choose to forego a proper education.
You see, this is the kind of field where a lot of things can go really, really wrong if you aren’t adequately prepared. After all, you’re going to be working with living, breathing creatures – and not all of them are going to be happy about it. While many dogs will be gentle and well-mannered, others may be anxious, scared, or defensive.
If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll not only be putting your own safety at risk… You could also be putting the safety of the dogs AND their owners at risk, too. And we know you don’t want that!
Key Skills Needed for a Career in Dog Training
Obviously, if you want to know how to work as a dog trainer, you’re going to need to know, well, how to train dogs. On paper, that seems like a no-brainer. In reality, however, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
Here’s a handful of examples of just SOME of the knowledge you’ll need to possess:
- The guiding principles of dog training;
- Fundamentals of safe training;
- The stages of development, as well as socialization stages;
- Canine communication;
- Calming signals and fear responses;
- Problem solving;
- Learning theory (and how to apply it);
- How to work with anxious and/or disobedient dogs, etc.
Furthermore, you’re going to need some of softer skills required for this type of career, too. For example, since you’ll often be working with pet owners, you’ll need to ensure that your people skills are on point. As part of this, you should be an excellent communicator; capable of explaining everything in a way non-dog trainers can understand.
On the flipside, you’ll also need to be good at listening. Each client will be coming to you for a purpose, and with a distinct goal in mind. It’ll be your job to help them achieve this goal as best as possible… and the only way you can do this is by hearing their needs and identifying where the areas of improvement are.
From there, you’ll be able to determine the correct course of action, and help teach them how to put that plan into practice.
Can You Make a Living Being a Dog Trainer?
In the beginning of your career, it’ll take time to gain some traction and build your list of clientele. However, so long as you’re passionate about what you do and willing to put in the effort, this can totally become a full-time career… And it can definitely pay the bills, too!
Take QC Pet Studies’ amazing instructor, Kim Cooper, for example. Kim’s been professionally training dogs for the past 35 years, and teaching dog owners how to train their pups for 29 of those years! Her business, Best Friends Dog Training, is located in Ottawa, Canada. Throughout her lucrative career as a dog trainer, Kim has:
- Certified 4 search and rescue (SAR) dogs to Ontario Provincial Police standards! For reference, only 20 dogs have ever achieved this certification – and Kim is proud to have coached 14 of them, and partner to 4!
- Gotten certified as a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Canine Search Specialist! This makes Kim 1 of only 2 Canadians to ever achieve this certification.
- Founded the Ottawa Valley SAR Dog Association
- Also became the Founding Director of the Ontario SAR Volunteer Association
- Gotten featured in CBC’s Podcast, “Someone Knows Something”, as well as in National Geographic’s, “Finding Dial”.
- Earned countless dog training awards!
- And SO much more!
These are all examples of career goals YOU can achieve, too! Of course, if you wish to focus your career primarily on helping dog owners to train their furry friends, then that’s okay, too!
Either way, one thing’s for sure: with the right drive, you can make this your full-time, long-term job.
It’s important to understand that there’s no “one-size-fits-all” salary for a dog trainer. Your income will depend on:
- Where you live
- Local competitors
- Demand for dog training services in your area
- Whether you’re booking clients full-time vs. part-time
- Whether you’re running your own business or working for an established company
- The efforts you put into marketing, client acquisition/retention, social media, your business website, etc.
- The types of dog training services you offer, etc.
That said, I can give you some general figures to help you get a better idea of possible salary ranges, depending on your location…
- United States: Between approx. $14,000 USD and $69,000 USD per year. (Source: ZipRecruiter)
- Canada: Between approx. $33,000 CAD to $72,000 CAD per year. (Source: Glassdoor)
- United Kingdom: Between approx. £20,000 GBP to £26,000 GBP per year. (Source: Payscale)
- Australia: Between approx. $40,000 AUD to $60,000 AUD per year. (Source: Salary Expert)
- New Zealand: Between approx. $39,000 NZD to $50,000 NZD per year. (Source: Careers.govt.nz)
How to Become a Dog Trainer in 5 Easy Steps
Now that you know what it takes to be a dog trainer, how can you actually become one? Follow these 5 steps and you’ll be well on your way!
Step One: Get Trained and Professional Certified
Okay, now it’s time to circle back to your schooling. Without a doubt, this is the best possible place to start if you want to launch a successful career.
It’s up to YOU to decide whether you wish to pursue your dog training education online or in-person. Keep in mind that in light of the ongoing COVID pandemic, a brick-and-mortar institution might not be the safest environment to be in right now. Furthermore (and in general), in-person schooling is often much more expensive than its online counterpart – and offers way less flexibility for you.
Either way, when conducting your research into the various schooling options at your disposal, we encourage you to be very thorough! In particular, it’s critical that whichever program you decide to go with meets the following criteria:
- The school in question is properly accredited and recognized (such as with the Better Business Bureau).
- Moreover, the school’s courses are internationally-recognized – as are the certifications provided upon graduation.
- The school has a proper business website that contains full course breakdowns, student/graduate testimonials, and correct contact information. Bonus points if the institution is also on social media as well!
- You’re able to contact the school’s Support Team… and they actually take the time to talk with you and adequately answer your questions!
- Their dog training program offers a legitimate certification + designation once you graduate.
- You’ll be getting your money’s worth! This means that the program isn’t simply comprised of multiple choice quizzes and flimsy text material. Instead, the course curriculum should be content-rich AND ensure real-world, hands-on training assignments with actual dogs.
QC Pet Studies’ Dog Training Course
Fun fact: QC Pet Studies meets ALL of the above criteria – and then some!
For starters, QC has been a pioneer of online learning since 1984. We’re internationally-recognized and hold a solid A+ ranking with the Better Business Bureau. Additionally, we pride ourselves on our incredible Student Support Team, available 7 days a week and with one goal in mind: to make YOUR student experience the best it can possibly be!
Our brand-new Dog Training Course has been meticulously crafted. We ensure that you’ll learn everything you need to know in order to launch a successful, long-term career in the pets industry. This 8-unit program offers countless textbooks, instructional videos, and hands-on assignments.
Plus, in the final unit of the course, we’ll even help you prepare for the Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) exam. By taking – and passing – this exam, you’ll further your qualifications AND career by adding an additional certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers!
Why You Should Take This Course
On top of everything I’ve just discussed above, there are even more reasons why this is the dog training program you’ve been looking for!
Firstly, it’s 100% self-paced. When you first enroll, you’ll be given 2 full years to complete your course. However, you have complete and total freedom to use as much (or as little) of that time as you need! This means that YOU get to decide how long it’ll take for you to become a dog trainer.
Secondly, we not only offer competitive tuition; we also offer a budget-friendly payment plan. Yes, you can absolutely pay your full tuition upfront. Heck, we’ll even knock $400 OFF your total if you choose to do so. That said, if you’d prefer a slightly cheaper option, you can simply pay a small deposit at the time of enrollment. After that, your balance will be broken up into 18 affordable installments, which you’ll pay off on a monthly basis.
The best part?
Once you graduate, you’ll receive an internationally-recognized International Dog Training Professional™ (IDTP™) certification AND official designation! In turn, you can then add these to your resume, which will be sure to impress clients!
Want to learn even more about QC’s Dog Training Course? Click here for the full details and get started today!
Step Two: Practice, Practice, Practice!
Dog training is one of those fields where the more real-world experience you get, the better. And while your dog training course with QC Pet Studies will help you dip your toes in the water, you shouldn’t go into your career thinking that that’ll be enough.
On the contrary, you’ll NEVER be able to get enough experience!
So, as much as possible, practice all those invaluable skills you’ve learned. In the beginning of your career, it may be a bit tricky to attract legit, paying clients. As such, one thing we strongly recommend is maximizing your personal network. If you have any friends or family who could use some help training their dog(s), offer your services for free.
Sure, you won’t get paid for these jobs. But the experience you’ll get from them will be just as beneficial! Not only will you get the opportunity to hone your skill-set, you’ll be able to start developing your professional portfolio.
Moreover, your friends and family can then provide you with positive testimonials. These reviews on your website and social media will be worth their weight in gold!
Step Three: Decide On Your Career Path
If you want to be successful as a dog trainer, it’ll benefit you to approach your career with a clear idea of what you want it to look like. So, before you go trying to bite off more than you can chew, sit down first and map out your trajectory.
For instance, would you prefer to join an existing dog training company, or would you like to start your own business? Do you want to do this full-time, or as a side job? Where would you like to see your career as a dog trainer in a year from now? What about in 3 years, 5 years, and beyond?
Furthermore, if you want to launch your own business, consider the following questions:
- What would you like to name your business, and what will you need to do in order to get that name registered?
- What do you want your brand to be?
- Who will be your target audience/ideal clientele?
- What dog training services do you want to offer?
- Would you prefer to offer your services in-person, virtually, or a combination of both?
- Do you want to offer one-on-one training classes? How about group lessons?
- Are you interested in specializing in certain types of dogs (e.g. dogs with behavioral issues, dogs with special needs, dogs with anxiety, etc.) or would you like to help train ALL types of dogs?
- How much effort are you willing to put into your social media presence?
- Furthermore, what about your online marketing?
Remember: the better prepared you are, the likelier you’ll be to become successful!
Step Four: Market Your Dog Training Services
If you get hired by an existing company, chances are, they’ll have someone already in charge of marketing. For this reason, I’m going to focus here on some tips and tricks for marketing your own business. After all, if you decide to go this route, it’ll be up to YOU to get your name out there!
And make no mistake, marketing your business efficiently will be FUNDAMENTAL to your success!
A good place to begin your marketing efforts is to start local. Build up the buzz for your business in your own area, before you trying conquering the entire world. Luckily, there are all sorts of ways you can market yourself in-person:
- Hang up business fliers around town.
- Get in touch with your fellow professionals (e.g. pet stores, dog groomers, dog walkers, animal rescues, veterinarians, etc.) and see if they’d be willing to help promote your business.
- See if you can get an ad for your dog training business printed in the local newspaper, mentioned on local radio stations, etc.
- Get involved in local events and see if you can provide your services there.
- Volunteer your time and skill-set to charities, not-for-profits, human societies, animal shelters, etc.
When it comes to business-savvy marketing strategies, never forget the value of the digital world as well! We all live online nowadays, so a HUGE portion of your marketing should be done via the internet.
Not sure what’s at your disposal?
Here are just some of the ways you can market yourself online:
- Get active on popular social media sites, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, TikTok, YouTube, and LinkedIn.
- Create a professional website for your business.
- Start your very own blog and post high-quality, SEO-friendly content.
- Invest in paid ads, etc.
Word-of-mouth will always have its place in the world of business marketing. In some cases, it can be the most effective way of attracting new, long-lasting clients. After all, when a trusted individual recommends you to their own friends, family, colleagues, etc., those people are more inclined to look into your business and give you a try.
With that in mind, don’t be afraid to ask your inner circle to recommend you to others. Chances are, they’ll be more than happy to help. Additionally, whenever you work with a new client, there’s no harm in asking them to refer you to anyone they know who might be in need of a professional dog trainer.
Just be sure to use your best discretion with this. Obviously, if the experience didn’t go the way you planned and/or they seemed unsatisfied, it wouldn’t be the wisest move to ask them for a referral. However, if a client seems happy with the services you’ve provided, they’ll probably be more than willing to rave about you!
Step Five: Network with Shelters, Pet Stores, and Breeders
In general, networking will be one of your BEST friends as you become a dog trainer. Plus, it’ll serve you well throughout the entirety of your career.
The more people on the pets industry that you get to know (and establish a positive reputation with), the likelier you’ll be to attract clientele. This is because your network can help refer customers your way, make you aware of job opportunities you might not have otherwise known about, etc.
As such, always be willing to proactively network with anyone and EVERYONE you can within the industry. Yes, this even means fellow dog trainers. Although they can be considered your “competition”, they’re also your allies.
Other experts you should definitely network with include animal shelters, pet stores, and dog breeders. Firstly, your training services could prove useful for their own operations. For instance, by lending your expertise to animal shelters, you can potentially increase the chances of those dogs getting adopted.
On the other hand, local pet stores might be in need of someone to help run training programs offered by their company. This could be a chance for you to hire yourself out as a contract expert!
Not to mention, networking with these specific businesses can also generate even more client referrals for you. Take dog breeders, for instance. Every individual who purchases a pup from them can be one new client they refer to you, to help these new dog owners get their puppy properly trained.
Our point is: get out there and build your network. It’s never too early to start that important step. One way or another, your network WILL help you advance your career at some point. That much we can guarantee.