1. The Right Preparation
Everybody knows that it needs a bit more than just a passion for dogs to become a professional dog trainer. Although to this date no federal or state certification is required meaning anyone can call themselves a dog trainer.
When I got my first Rottweiler puppy, I was so excited to learn the ins and outs of dog training and dog behavior. Before getting a dog, my family and friends told me that the hardest part of getting a pet is finding the time to walk them outside three times a day. This is simply the worst advice someone could give you to set your focus on taking the dog outside. There is so much more to it.
Plenty of Research
Doing the right research is crucial. Before learning different training techniques, you should become an expert on the fundamentals of dog behavior fist – animal psychology. You have to understand how and why dogs behave a certain way and how their minds work.
The Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) has their own recommendations, including How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves – Sophia Yin and The Thinking Dog – Gail Fisher. On the internet, you can find answers to behaviors like dog aggression, anxiety and barking.
You can also take notes and observe your own dog or your friends’ dog. On the next visit to your vet, you can ask him/her what sources he/she would recommend.
If you have the opportunity of getting an experienced dog trainer as a mentor, try to gain as much knowledge as possible. He/She is probably the best person to teach you everything you need to know and what it takes to become a professional dog trainer.
Even if you have plenty of experience with your own dogs, working with other dogs is very important as every dog is different and can challenge you in different ways. At your local animal shelter, you can ask for volunteer assistance. Many of the dogs there have behavioral issues and maybe you can help train them.
Also, consider registering as a foster home to take care of dogs in need before they come into their permanent home. This is probably one of the most hands-on experiences you could have with a dog in your own home to see what it takes to be a dog owner/ trainer.
As mentioned before, you don’t have to be certified but you surely can.
A degree in animal behavior can be helpful and will further educate you on the subject. You can look for four-year degree programs in colleges or universities near you. Keep in mind the time and cost that will come along with a degree.
Whether you have attended a college or not, you will need to have working experience in order to receive a certificate (CPDT-KA). You can get more information from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT). The certificate will cost you approximately $400 and you will have to continuously attend classes or work in internships to keep your certificate.
3. Working as a Dog Trainer
After you completed all these steps, you can then decide if you want to work in a dog training school or if you would like to build your own business.
First, think about if you would like to work with ordinary pets and their owners or if you want to specialize in a certain field, like police dog training.
Either way, you have to keep in mind that dog training is mostly about training the owner and not the pet, so you should be able to communicate and find solutions to their problems.
For finding a job, search on the internet and job platforms or ask around if schools in your neighborhood are currently recruiting. If you are not successful with that, try to find a job at a pet chain store.
Be sure that your resume is always up to date and reflects the skills and interests that you can bring into this job, as well as relevant experience.
Your cover letter or motivational letter should include an introduction of yourself, show that you are the perfect fit for the job, highlight the skills that you have and it should definitely encourage the recruiter to even look at your resume.
Dog Trainer Salary
The yearly salary of a dog trainer in the U.S. ranges from $22.900 to $33.000 with an hourly rate from $11 to $15. If you want to find out more about your exact state you can check out that website for more information on that.
The market actually seems to be looking pretty good with a 22% growth rate of employment between 2016 and 2026 which is higher than the average demand for all occupations.
Starting Your Own Business
If you decided on taking things into your own hands and starting a business as a professional dog trainer, you will need to consider some important steps.
In order to legally start a company you will need to:
- Get a business license
- Register your business name
- Receive your Federal Business Tax ID
- Create a business plan
- Consider start-up costs
- Put together client contracts and policies
- Set your fees and prices
- Get a liability insurance
- Decide on a workspace (or work from home)
If you need some help you can work with an accountant but it is not needed. Now for the more fun and business building part, you will need to:
- Design business cards (with Canva)
- Getting social media accounts (LinkedIn, etc.)
- Run marketing campaigns
- Establish yourself as the expert (for example through a blog, like me!)
Networking especially is a great way to increase the prominence of your business. Attend social events and build a community. You can also join professional communities online, like the International Association of Canine Professionals and the Association of Pet Dog Trainers.
Determine Your Ideal Client
Especially if you are just starting out in your dog training business you will want to have a profile of the exact person that you will want to sell your services to.
Consider these things when creating your ideal client profile:
- Who do I want to work with?
- What is it what I am offering
- How can that be of value to my potential client?
- What age group are they in?
- What interests do they have?
- Where do they live?
- What time of year, season are they most interested?
You do not have to be a generalist. Dog training comes with so many possibilities, maybe you would like to only train animals for movies or you would like to specialize in aggressive dogs and how to resocialize them into society.
You could also train military or police dogs, or service dogs, or dogs for medical purposes.
Let’s for a second see the perception people have on dog training with some cute statistics:
For example, you can see from this the importance of early puppy socialization for dog owners, maybe you could offer some puppy classes for your local area and drive some people through advertising to it?
If you have your own business the possibilities you have are nearly infinite.
If you would like to know more about this, you can always write me a message or comment under this post.