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For many dog lovers, a career as a dog trainer might feel out of reach. 

The truth is you can make your dog training dream a reality if you’re passionate, committed and willing to put in the work to get there.  

So, where should you start your journey to becoming a dog trainer? Right here, with the experts. Below we’ve laid out what you need to know about getting your successful career in dog training underway.

The 5 Traits of Successful Dog Trainers

Dog training is a fulfilling and rewarding career, but not everyone is suited for it. Dog training can be stressful and overwhelming for people who aren’t prepared or don’t have the qualities to handle the day-to-day of the job.

What are the characteristics you should have or work on that we see in our most successful dog trainers? Below are five of the most important:

Good Communicator — In many cases, trainers are teaching dog owners more than they’re teaching the dogs. To be a successful dog trainer, you need to be able to explain every part of your training plan to an owner in a way they understand so the owner can apply that training in their daily lives.

Attention to Detail — Safety should be every trainer’s top priority. That means mitigating the chances that anything could go wrong before training even starts. When a trainer is paying attention to all possible warning signs a dog is showing, they can set up training sessions in a way that ensures there’s zero chance something could go wrong.

Well Organized — Every effective trainer is a meticulous planner. Whether you’re in charge of five dogs for a board and train or traveling to five clients for in-home training, things will get out of hand quickly if you’re not organized or planning ahead.

A Drive for Learning — Dog training a never-ending learning process—there is no finish line. Successful dog trainers strive to get to a higher level by continually improving their education. This can take many different forms, whether it’s as classes, certifications or sport work with personal dogs.

Be a Professional — Nothing compares to the depth of knowledge that comes with experience. A lot of times, trainers are going into stressful situations. The ability to keep a cool head, understand each dog’s situation, lay out a clear training plan and adjust on the fly, even under difficult circumstances, is crucial. That will only come with time spent doing the job.

How to Start a Career in Dog Training

So, how do you get that depth of knowledge that a successful dog trainer needs? Hands-on experience.

Dog training isn’t a profession you’ll learn by taking online courses or studying books. Yes, there are basic concepts and theories you have to understand, but you need to be able to apply those concepts and theories in real-world environments where you’re handling different types of dogs, breeds, behaviors and scenarios.

That’s why the best way to learn how to be a dog trainer is using hands-on experience, and it’s where we recommend you begin your pursuit of a career in dog training.

Start by establishing base-level experience through a dog training school, like Koru’s Balanced Trainer Academy, or a mentorship. Our Master Program offers the best of both of those worlds.

Over the course of 14 consecutive days, the program uses a hands-on teaching method that gives students actual training experience with a variety of dog breeds and behaviors. Then, we offer mentorship programs for the right candidates so they can continue to learn and gather the depth of experience they need to succeed in their new career.

How to Find a Reputable Dog Training Course

The best dog training courses are reputable programs that offer real and relevant experience in the industry while preparing you to be an effective dog trainer when you’re in the field.

If you’ve done a search for a dog training course, you know there are a lot of options out there. Deciphering which ones are worthwhile and which you should avoid can be a challenge. That’s where we can help.

Here are four key skills that a valuable dog training course, like Koru’s Balanced Training Academy, will teach you during your time there:

1. The Core Basics — Good dog training courses start with the basics. You should be learning how to teach dogs place command, recall and heel, as well as how to address problem behaviors, like reactivity, and properly introduce and use communication tools.

2. Safety Protocols — When trainers cut corners with safety, people and dogs can get hurt. Reputable dog training schools like Koru K9’s Master Program teach students the proper protocols, in real-world scenarios, that must be in place to keep everyone safe and help protect dog trainers from liability.

3. High Level of Service — Learning how to clearly communicate with dog owners is as important as training dogs. Your customers need to know your training process and understand how it works. That means you need to learn how to explain it in a way that makes sense to them.

4. Business Acumen — From client communication, to cleaning facilities, to basic marketing, there’s more to being a successful dog trainer than just training. A good dog training course will teach you to organize your time, manage your expectations and, in the case of Koru K9, give you the chance to work with a team to help with those additional responsibilities so you don’t get overwhelmed.      

How Much a Professional Dog Trainer Makes

Generally, the salary ranges for dog trainers are across the board and depend on a variety of factors.

That said, there is the potential for dog trainers to make a substantial income. If you’re a professional who works with a reputable dog training company and possess the traits detailed above, it’s possible for you to work through a significant volume of clients and earn well into the high six figures.

How Much Work Flexibility Professional Dog Trainers Have

Under the right circumstances, dog trainers can have a lot of work flexibility and be successful. Essentially, you can be as busy as you want to be.

At Koru K9, our dog trainers can block off the times when they’re unavailable to take dogs. Operators of our board and train program, for example, will typically go through a cycle with client dogs in their home, followed by a cycle of 2–3 weeks without dogs so they can focus on their own families, dogs and personal lives.

We recommend our trainers take healthy doses of time off to recuperate. Dog training can be a stressful profession and it’s important to avoid burnout at all costs.