Dog trainers train dogs and diagnose and treat their behaviour problems.
Experienced dog trainers in established businesses can earn
$31K-$45K per year
Source: Dog Guru, 2016.
Dog trainers are usually self-employed so their income depends on the success of their business. Starting out, they are likely to charge a lower rate and have fewer clients.
Typically, dog trainers earn between $31,000 and $45,000 a year. Some established trainers may earn more than this.
Source: Dog Guru, 2016.
- MoreBusiness.com website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website - information about minimum pay rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Dog trainers may do some or all of the following:
- work with clients to fix dogs' behaviour problems
- run a dog day care centre
- hold classes for people and their dogs, including dog obedience classes
- talk to the general public, media, and schools about dog training
- work with organisations such as animal protection bodies and the courts.
Skills and knowledge
Dog trainers need to have:
- knowledge of animal psychology and behaviour
- the ability to observe, assess and treat dogs' behaviour problems
- the ability to train and care for dogs
- knowledge of animal biology.
Because most dog trainers run their own businesses, they also need business, management and marketing skills.
- work flexible hours to suit their clients' needs, so may work nights and weekends, and be on call, or work regular hours if based at a dog day care centre
- may work from clinics, at their own or clients' homes, or at dog day care centres.
What's the job really like?
Helping dogs be well behaved
Simon Goodall has trained dogs – and their owners – all his working life. His vision is to help hundreds of people own "really nice dogs".
"You go in, you see the bad dog, you make some changes, and show the client what to do."
Simon's training model is based on gradually shaping a dog's behaviour – and he even uses these techniques with his own young children.
"My son had trouble sleeping. We'd pat him, stop, wait two seconds, pat, wait four seconds, pat, wait six seconds, pat, wait 10 seconds, in a couple of nights he was cured. My wife was staggered!"
Training the dog owners
In the long run, dogs have to listen to their owners, not to Simon. So after the initial two-hour session when he shows the owners how to keep their dog under control, he leaves them to practise the techniques on their own.
"I contact them a few weeks later and see how they are going. Some stuff they do; and some they don't and they give up, so I go back to see them again to give them the confidence to do it.
"It's brilliant. There's nothing better than seeing a proud client with their once-aggressive dog, walking along the beach."
There are no specific requirements to become a dog trainer.
However, a qualification in animal care, animal behaviour, zoology or psychology is useful, in addition to experience working with animals and people.
Useful subjects include science subjects, maths and English.
Dog trainers need to be:
- confident and assertive
- excellent at communicating
- patient and adaptable
- dedicated and motivated.
People skills are the biggest part of the job. You've got to be able to give owners confidence, and tell them what to do, without offending them.
Voluntary or paid work with animals is useful for dog trainers. This could include:
- dog and animal training
- work in veterinary clinics, or dog day care centres
- work at boarding kennels and catteries.
Dog trainers need to be strong enough to control large dogs.
Find out more about training
- Association of Pet Dog Trainers (New Zealand)
- International Association of Animal Behaviour Consultants
- International Association of Canine Professionals
- firstname.lastname@example.org - www.canineprofessionals.com
What are the chances of getting a job?
Hard to secure full-time dog training work
Full-time dog training work can be hard to find as dog owner numbers are stable and the occupation is small. As a result, dog trainers often supplement their income with work at a dog day care centre (which still allows them to use their dog-training skills), or other related roles.
Experience with animals and/or a qualification can increase your chances
Dog training is a small industry and there is strong competition for jobs from people interested in working with animals. However, experience working with animals in a dog day care centre, for example, or doing an animal health and welfare course, can increase your chances of getting dog training work. It also gives you more credibility with dog owners.
Many dog trainers work for themselves
Most dog trainers are self-employed, or work under a franchise for an established dog training company.
- Denby-Gibbs, P, president, Association of Pet Dog Trainers NZ, Careers New Zealand interview, March 2014.
- Goodall, S, director, Dog Guru, Careers New Zealand interview, February 2016.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
Progression and specialisations
Dog trainers who are employed by an established business may move on to set up their own business.
Last updated 12 June 2017