What does a dog trainer do?

A dog trainer is a professional who assists dog owners with training their dogs to learn new commands and behaviours. Dog trainers can work with pets to teach them to obey their owners or stop unwanted behaviours such as excessive barking or damaging furniture. Dog trainers can work independently in their own business, or they may work for a dog training company. You can also train dogs for special purposes such as law enforcement roles or agility competitions. 

Dog training tasks vary but typical responsibilities include:

  • Train dogs to do simple and advanced tasks, from waiting, sitting, and fetching
  • Hosting classes to pass knowledge to dog owners
  • Visit client homes to work with the dogs one to one
  • Use knowledge of different breeds to help owners with problems such as aggression and separation anxiety.

What skills are required to become a dog trainer?

  • Communication- Not only do you need to be able to communicate firmly and clearly with the dogs, but you must also be able to communicate your training concepts to their owners so that they can use your instructions on their own.
  • Patience- Dogs learn at different paces, so patience is needed when repeating instructions or commands until the dog understands.
  • Knowledge about animal behaviour-  Understanding a dog’s body language and behaviour is useful to know when training the dogs so you can tell when a dog feels unsafe or unhappy.
  • Love of animals- As a dog trainer, you’ll spend much of your time working directly with animals, so having a genuine love and interest in dogs is important to excel in this role.

Do you need any qualifications to become a dog trainer?

Although you don’t need any formal qualifications to become a dog trainer, it is useful to take a dog training course to learn the key skills and best practices when it comes to training different breeds of dogs. 

The Institute of Modern Dog Trainers (IMDT) is the leading training provider for dog trainers and behaviourists. To obtain your dog training qualification with them you need to complete a 2 day ‘Career As A Dog Trainer’ course, a 4 day ‘Practical Instructor’ course and the ‘IMDT Membership assessment’. 

Some areas you’ll learn on the IMDT course:

  • Canine body language
  • Canine behaviour
  • Observational skills
  • How to plan a dog training class
  • How to assess a dog’s behaviour
  • Communicating with owners

You can also improve your skills by practicising with dogs who aren’t your own. You can work with friends and families dogs, or you can talk to local shelters to work with their dogs. Look up local apprenticeships in your area to get to work hands on with a dog trainer.

Steps to become a dog trainer:

Step 1: Learn about dogs:

Before beginning your career as a dog trainer, it is helpful to consider developing your knowledge of the industry and dog training skills. Successful trainers often have an expert understanding of animal behaviour. You can take courses on animal behaviour, read books or attend dog training workshops. There are plenty of excellent rescources around for this. If you have your own dog, it can be useful to practice obedience and basic skills with them aswell as more advanced skills.

 Step 2: Gain experience:

To build up your skills and knowledge of training dogs it is helpful to gain relevant experience. As you’ll be working with both animals and their owners, consider gaining experience in a role that exposes you to both in order to develop these skills. You can start as a dog walker or volunteer at a local animal shelter. In these roles you’ll gain an understanding of dog behaviours.

Step 3: Earn a dog training certificate:

Although it is not required, a dog training certificate can help you qualify and find more clients and eventually earn more money. After all, if you’ve done all the hard work in training to be a dog trainer, why not show this off to clients. If you want to work for a training service or company they may require a certificate. Having these credentials shows prospective employers that you are trained in the best practice. You can earn the title of a certified professional dog trainer with the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers and by completing 300 hours of experience of dog training.

Step 4: Apply for roles:

Once you have built up your knowledge and experience you can start applying for dog training jobs. You may find open positions at local animal shelters or kennels. You can also begin your career as an independent trainer where you can set up your own business directly to customers. Most trainers start their careers by joining a company first, and once their skills have advanced they move into their own business.


How much does a dog trainer earn in the UK?

The average salary for a dog trainer in the UK is £23,703.

Depending on whether you join a dog training company or set up your own independent business, the salary can vary as you are able to charge your own rates for the service you offer.

Is dog training right for me?

Dog training is a constantly evolving industry. If you enjoy learning new things, and keeping up with advances in dog training and behaviour, it’ll be a rewarding career choice. As a dog trainer you have the opportunity to work for yourself meaning you can set your own hours, and have the flexibility on when to work.

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