How to Become a Dog Trainer

One of the most popular requests we get here at K9 Magazine is the question: how do I become a dog trainer? True, it's a dream job for many (to become a dog trainer) and it's absolutely the case that the dream job can live up to expectations, but it all comes with these words of caution. 1 - If you want to become a dog trainer, you need to have a talent and empathy for dogs (believe it or not, not everyone who thinks they would like to train dogs actually has these fundamental skills). 2 - You need to be prepared work hard. Very hard. And for little pay, certainly in the first few years. So, if you think you're ready to begin the journey, here's our guide to help you on your way to becoming a dog trainer.

How to Become a Dog Trainer

Jobs training dogs aren't all that common as far as career opportunities go. In fact, you might just find you get little more than a puzzled expression if you speak a career advisor and inform them of your desire to become a professional dog trainer. But if you're here and you've asked yourself the question how do I become a dog trainer, then our goal is to put you on the path with some sound advice.

We spoke to a full time trainer and asked her to advise on what it takes to become a dog trainer and the best places to start....

How to Become a Dog Trainer

Qualifications For Becoming a Dog Trainer

There are no "qualifications" that are required before becoming a dog trainer.

There are lot of "bodies" out there who run courses/exams etc that allow you to put a variety of letters after your name but IME that means diddly squat.

What is MORE important is how many dogs you have owned/trained, what sex, what numbers,

University courses etc will not necessarily train you how to train dogs or, as is more usual, train people to train dogs.

However there is a lot to be learned from courses whether in house or correspondence, some of it will be around what is beneficial and sometimes you will learn what to avoid..........

I probably know tens if not a hundred "trainers" however I have learned several things over the years:

Some people can have an array of letters after their name, that is no proof of competency.

Some people have nothing after their name bar a full stop, that is no proof of incompetency.

Someone who declares they have "x" qualification in dog training should be supported by living proof of their competency ie dogs and handlers who have attained set standards of competency themselves in whatever discipline the trainer specialises in etc.

The best way to become a dog trainer is to observe how people are trained by the best trainers and to do some yourself.

Dog training courses will help you consider things like plans, structures,

You also need to decide WHAT exactly you want to do and how to achieve it.

Dog training is less about dogs and more about people, training dogs is simple, demonstrating to others the best methods to employ for the required results is not quite so straightforward as few attendees have dog training as their sole agenda when they come to classes.

Dog Trainer Or Canine Behaviourist?

How to Become a Dog Behaviourist

Dog behaviourism is a relatively new profession and as such no governing bodies or affiliated official register are in place. Subsequently, any person who considers himself to possess the relevant skills can practice as a dog behaviourist. However, the majority of work for a behaviourist is based on referrals from a vet.

Vets will be reluctant to refer a behaviourist who is not a member of any associations that are in place to standardise service. Also, referrals may not be forthcoming if it is considered that a person practicing as a dog behaviourist does not possess any formal or academic qualifications that are relevant to this particular field.

This is a demanding vocation and certain skills are essential for one to succeed. It is important for anyone considering this job to be able to combine a love and understanding of dogs with good academic qualifications and standards. (An honours degree indicates an aptitude for learning which is essential to this job. An honours degree in psychology or biological science would be even more useful.)

Communication skills are essential, as this job will require a person to be in contact with pet owners who will want to express certain problems and expect you to be able to give answers. This is a very skilled trade and as such, a behaviourist's expertise may be required in other areas. Courts may require a behaviourist when dealing with The dangerous dogs act, this will require any behaviourist to be articulate, knowledgeable and well presented. Informative or general interest publications may require the wisdom of a pet behaviourist, which means good English and written skills are essential. Behaviourists who choose to practice as self-employed will certainly need good business skills. A reliable means of transport is essential and as with all dog related careers, so is a good sense of humour.

A behaviourist can expect to be confronted with many unusual situations, but some of the more common ones include destructive chewing, excessive barking, inappropriate toilet going, and aggressive behaviour amongst others.

There are many routes in to this profession, as with many dog related careers people can start off as kennel-hand and gain knowledge and training from that. Other people may go to university to get the qualifications they want or need. However practical experience with dogs is essential to supplement any academic qualification. There are a number of courses on offer to help people wishing to enter this particular profession.

Further information can be sought from the following sources.

The centre of applied pet Ethology.
P O Box 18.
Tisbury Wilts.
SP3 6NQ.

Association of Pet behaviour counsellors.
P O Box 46.
WR8 9YS.

The animal care college.
Ascot house, High street, Ascot.
SL5 7JG.

Dog Training Jobs

How to Become a Sniffer Dog Handler

In 1978, the first HM customs and excise sniffer dogs were introduced to detect cannabis being smuggled into the country. Twenty six years later and there are roughly sixty dogs working around the country, able to detect all manner of contraband from cigarettes to cheese, honey to hand guns, even cold hard cash and people, and guarding our country’s ports from smugglers and drug traffickers, these dogs are constantly revolutionising our national security practices.

How to Become a Guide Dog Trainer

The guide dogs for the blind are the largest dog training association in the world. There are over 4,300 working guide dogs in the U.K and over 2,500 more at any one time being used as breeding stock or in training.

Training starts early, and the first stage of training a potential guide dog is the puppy walking stage. This is done by a volunteer every day to provide a basic foundation for the advanced guide dog training. The dog is taken for long walks to help build his confidence and give him worldly experience.

Once the dog has finished puppy-hood the more challenging training will begin. This part of the training is more intense than the first stage as there can be no dogs that struggle in the last stages of training. This part of the training includes familiarising the dog with the type of surroundings he will be required to negotiate with his new owner. He will also need to develop a strong sense of self-confidence and must be able to concentrate and not be distracted before he can be handed over to the guide dog mobility instructor.

To become a qualified guide dog trainer, applicants will need to be eighteen years old or over and possess three G.C.S.E passes at grade c or above, or the equivalent. They must also have a full and current driving licence. An aptitude for learning is one quality that is looked favourably upon, as is a natural affinity with and understanding of dogs. Potential guide dog trainers must be physically fit and willing to work outside in all types of weather.

Dog trainers begin their employment as a trainee, and are constantly assessed and evaluated on their performance. Completion of each module results in a pay rise for the trainee. Upon completion of all of the modules the candidate is considered a qualified guide dog trainer.

How to Become a Security Dog Trainer / Handler

The British institute of professional dog trainers was founded in 1974 in order to compile a register of persons eligible to practice as professional dog trainers. This meant that the dangerous dogs register was needed to monitor and control any animals that acquired certain skills but were not in the correct state of mind to work.

Prior to 1974, security dogs were a lot rarer, therefore of the first sets of security dogs were lower in quality than those that we are used to seeing today at football matches and other events where high profile people may be.

Security dogs can be needed for many reasons, but they are only ever effective when under the control of fully trained and qualified security dog handler. The skills needed to become a security dog trainer are not easily acquired, and certain qualifications are essential before any person can practice as a security dog trainer. To become a security dog trainer a person must either complete a course held at an accredited training centre or pass an exam on the patrol dog training scheme.

The main issues relevant to the successful completion of the assessment of include:

Temperament. This includes appearance and general condition of the dog. A well kept and good looking dog will always command more respect than a scruffy, unhealthy looking dog.

Control. It is imperative that the handler be able to exercise complete control over the dog. Security work carries with it huge responsibly. Security personnel cannot afford to have a dog in which they do not have complete trust. This is why it is essential for the handlers and trainers to develop a good bond with any dog they work with. Potential security dog handlers will be required to demonstrate their control skills by completing five tasks. The dog must respond to 'stay', 'heel', 'sit' and 'stay', he must remain calm when the handler talks to a stranger, he must be able to get in and out of a patrol vehicle. He must also know how to get through a doorway in the quickest and most efficient way. The handler must be able to pick up the dog and carry him for ten paces.

Agility. This will constitute the dog having to successfully negotiate a hurdle jump and a solid wall jump. This can be done on or off the lead.

Basic detection and protection. This will involve an exercise in which an 'intruder' has to be tackled by the dog under the instructions of his handler. This is a good opportunity for the judges to see if the handler has a natural talent for training dogs.

Oral examination. This is when the examiner checks to see if the potential trainer is aware of the legal responsibilities he has as well as the veterinary issues he will need to be aware of in order to look after his dog properly. He will also be expected to fit a muzzle on the dog correctly.

The only way a person can become an officially recognized security dog handler is by completing the course set out by the British institute of professional dog trainers (security division.)

Further information can be obtained by contacting:

Bowstone gate,
Nr Disley,

Become a Guide Dog Mobility Instructor

A guide dog mobility instructor is responsible for completing the final part of a guide dog's training. The training of a guide dog is a long and intense process and each element of that training requires attention from a competent and dedicated member of the training team.

After the initial process of selecting prospective dogs and training them, it is a mobility instructor's duty to make the transition from training to being housed with a blind person as smooth as possible. It is therefore imperative that this person possesses superb inter-personal and communication skills. The mobility instructor will supervise and aid the initial meetings between the dog and his future owner. Frequent trips to the houses of working dogs are essential in order to monitor the progress of the dog in his new environment so a driving licence is needed.

This job requires a person to walk long distances every day in all sorts of weather, so physical fitness is needed in order to be most effective in this job. This job can be very demanding as night shifts are sometimes necessary, but at the same time can be very rewarding.

A minimum of five G.C.S.E. passes (grade c or above) is essential and they must include English, maths and science. As well as academic achievement, candidates for this job should have experience and confidence with dogs.

Promotion opportunities are available to areas such as Area supervisor or Regional training manager.

Further information on becoming a guide dog mobility instructor can be sought from:

The guide dogs for the blind association (head office)

Writing Your C.V / Resume For a Job With Dogs

When preparing your c.v. it is imperative to remember to tailor the c.v. and it's contents to the interests of the prospective reader. For example, if you are applying for the post of R.S.P.C.A. inspector, it may not be relevant to go into detail about the fact that you once had trials for Bromsgrove Rovers. However, it is also important not to leave out any facts or information which could be of interest to the recruiter or employer. Even if they are not directly related to the job in question, certain tasks and jobs require the employee to develop transferable skills. Any information about transferable skills should be included.

Personal details should be set out at the top of the page in a clear and concise way. If the reader has any problem in contacting you then this could seriously damage your chances of employment. The personal details section should include your D.O.B., your full name, your home address, your marital status, your phone numbers and any other contact details that may be relevant.

All previous employers and job titles should be listed in reverse chronological order. The most recent entries should also contain a brief job description and details of duties carried out. The dates of employment need only be referred to by year of commencement and year of termination. This section should be set out in such a way that the reader can scan the dates to get an idea of employment history.

Qualifications should be recorded in reverse chronological order. Any supplementary information concerning dissertations or other issues need only be included if they are relevant to the job in question. The nature of all qualifications are not necessarily relevant. For example, 'nine G.C.S.E. passes at grade A-C' would be sufficient unless you think it is specifically relevant. All non-academic qualifications should be recorded in a section of their own to make for ease of reference.

As with all sections of your C.V. your personal skills and attributes section should be concise and only contain information relevant to the post that you have applied for. You should include past achievements (both professional and social, if relevant) and how you went about achieving these things. You should also use this section to sell yourself as a person whom the prospective employer will want to employ. You should include your career goals if you are changing direction professionally. For example, if you are a trained accountant and you are applying for the post of marketing director then you may feel the need to explain you decision in order to make yourself a more attractive candidate. If you were a marketing manager applying for the same job then it would not be necessary to do this.

The most important thing to ensure when preparing your C.V. is to be concise and relevant to the job for which you are applying.

So, there you have it. Our guide to help you become a dog trainer has, hopefully, given you some information on where to start, what course and qualifications you might want to explore and - most importantly - an insight in to what is required should you actually attain your dream and become a full time professional dog trainer. We wish you the very best of luck in your pursuit of what is truly a dream job for dog lovers (provided you're good enough!).

Specialist Dog Trainer Roles

As more and more people welcome a dog into their home, there will always be work for dog trainers. These people will need help to teach their dog basic manners, and how to fit in nicely with their family routine. The demand for dog trainers is increasing because people are more willing and able to spend money on managing their dog's behavioural problems or bad habits.

There are some areas where more specialized dog training is necessary. Dogs that have the type of jobs mentioned above need more than just obedience training.

Police and protection dog training starts with choosing the right puppy for the job. This role requires a confident pup who is assertive and doesn't show any signs of shyness. Police dogs that work in the field may be needed to show aggression; this too suggests that a timid pup isn't the best choice for police work. Many police forces around the world have their own breeding programs, and carefully breed pups with the physical characteristics and temperament they want.

Puppies spend their formative months with a puppy fostering family. While there, they are socialized and taken out and about in the community, including into shopping malls, schools and public transport. At 12-14 months of age, the pups are returned to the police force to start their training.

Detector dogs, which are often Labrador Retrievers, undergo a training program that is around 10 weeks long. They are taught to identify smells such as drugs or explosives. Cadaver dogs are taught to detect the scent of human remains, and are used to locate deceased bodies.

General purpose police dogs undergo a training program that takes around 18 weeks, and covers agility and obedience training, retrieving, search and rescue and manwork – the ability to grab and hold a criminal.

The cost of training a police dog and handler team is upwards of £50,000.

Guide dog training is another very specialized field. Again, guide dog services breed their own dogs, and the pups spend their first 12 months with a puppy caring family. They then undergo a temperament assessment to make sure they can work while surrounded by distractions. If they pass this assessment, they enter an obedience training program where they are taught basic obedience, and become familiar with the harness they have to wear. This can take up to 30 weeks.

At this point, they are then matched with a visually impaired person, and the dog-handler team undergo further training until they are a finely tuned partnership.

It costs around £35,000 to fully train a guide dog. There is often a shortage of trainers with the skills to work in this area; in 2009 an Australian guide dog association had to advertise overseas to meet their demand for people with the skills and experience for this important role.

These training roles are usually reserved for extremely skilled dog trainers.

The general public can become involved with the therapy dog program. The Delta Society holds training sessions where you and your dog can become a pet partner team, and visit people in nursing homes and other facilities.


  1. I am interested in becoming a dog trainer after I retire next year can you recommend a good training school near surrey please
    thank you

  2. Muriel, are you in Surrey, UK or Surrey, BC, Canada? I can’t help with UK schools but there are a few in North America. If you know any professional trainers, ask if you can shadow them when they teach classes. If you don’t know any, volunteer at a local dog shelter where you will come in contact with their trainers. Read everything you can get your hands on regarding training animals and observe as many trainers as you can because not everyone uses the same methods with every dog. You will learn what you like that some do and what you don’t like. Practice with your own dog or a friend’s. Adopt this code as your motto and you won’t make a false step: DO NO HARM.

    Best of luck!

  3. Hi. I am going into my second year of college, so I’m fairly young. I’ve Always had an interest in dogs. Up at the college I go to, I volunteer at a reputable humane society. The more I work with those dogs, the more I feel that I want to become a dog trainer. This article has helped me tons. Thank you for that! I was just wondering if there were any additional steps I could take towards dog training. Also, when I get out of college, I want to become a licensed dog trainer. Outside of college I live in the Bay Area in California. I saw a few dog training locations while searching google. I was also recommended that taking online courses would be cheapest(particularly Victoria Stilwell’s). Is an online class better? Also, should I wait until I get my own dog in the future to start professional dog training? I’m sorry for pelting you with questions. Thank you for your time!

  4. I am shortly moving to S.W. Wales. If anyone down there is interested in coming into this profession, then I will be there to help and support your progress, give you the chance of gaining hands on experience, as well as recommending certain courses. This is a lovely profession to be in. The money is NOT good. Communication skills with HUMANS is as essential as having a rapport with dogs, as this is mainly about passing on skills to humans, and they can be the difficult and most draining aspect of the job. Trainer burn out is a major problem in the profession, mainly I think because people coming into the profession are not prepared for the complexities of what it on the other end of the lead.

    • Hi there. My partner is really interested in getting I to this field. Any advise from you would be appreciated. We are in Cardiff.

  5. If you are looking for good UK training schools to help in a carreer plan then just one place toi go (of many) would be the UK APDT web site at there they have a list of trainers, you could also go to the Kennel Club and ask for a list of ‘listed’ trainers.
    As a training school in Norfolk we are quite happy for people who would like to be trainers/behaviourists to sit in and watch what we do. I would imagine that any other schools who are confident in there practices would do the same.

    Good Luck

  6. I want to become a Guide Dog Trainer… Can someone help find a school where they can teach me and where i can get a certificate at the end… I’m in south London in Croydon… I have been looking for days and can find it.

    Thank you so much

  7. I’m Studying Canine Behaviour and Psychology, via the Canine Behaviour Centre in Cumbria.. It’s run by Deborah Bragg.

    I’m really enjoying my course, but what i am finding difficult is a place where they will take me on Voluntary..
    i’m half way through the course at the moment.
    I’ve had dogs all my life, i’ve currently got 2 Rottweilers, both girls.. Zena my eldest will be 2 in September and my Puppy called Bear is 6 months old.. I’ve owned/trained Rottweilers for over 12years. But that’s on a personal level. I’ve owned STB, greyhound and a GSD.
    What i do need is more experience with lots of breeds of dogs.. and to hook up with a Behaviourist locally!!

    Any suggestions around the midlands area would be appreciated
    Many Thanks

  8. I’m wanting to become a Certified Dog Trainer for my Community and town and we have no shelters for me to volunteer at. I don’t have alot of money to pay for a high dollar dog training program. I’m have a strong desire to work with dogs and to help people to have a better human and canine relationship. Please can anyone help me or any advice?

  9. I wonder if anyone can offer some advice. I am a Army combat vet. My friend (also a vet) before we lost touch he had a ptsd service dog. “poncho” the service dog really brought him out of his shell and definately aided him to socialize better. I am looking to become a dog trainer that specializes in ptsd – mental illness training. I love dogs Ive had a few and trained them myself. It just seems like a natural fit. Can someone recommend a school to help me learn?

  10. Hi
    I am interested in becoming a dog trainer can you recommend a good training school near please Watford


  11. Hello!

    I am interested as well, i think this is the only thing i would really want to do, not only a work but passion.
    I live in London and i couldn’t find any course (beside online courses) realting to animal care, dog trainer etc. any suggest?

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