The rapid growth of the pet industry shows little sign of subsiding. The industry continues to go from strength to strength, with almost $100 billion projected to be spent on pets in the United States in 2020. Coupled with the fact that over 63 million households across the country own a dog, you may begin to consider the possibility of a career working with man’s best friend.
There’s no doubt that working with dogs and improving their quality of life – in addition to the lives of their owners – is an extremely rewarding experience. But as with any career, it is worthwhile to explore the viability before making the switch. What is a typical dog trainer’s salary? Do you need a number of years of experience to be successful? Do you need an education or qualification to become a dog trainer? These are the questions you need to answer to help inform your decision.
At the School for Dog Trainers, we always strive to provide current and prospective dog trainers with the tools they need to forge a successful career in the business. This doesn’t only mean an education in dog training techniques; the curriculum of our Master Dog Trainer program also teaches important business aspects of the industry. This allows our graduates to not only become highly-skilled dog trainers, but it also gives them the knowledge to develop and grow a successful business after graduation.
To offer further information on the viability of a career as a dog trainer, we reached out to the dog trainer community via our anonymous Dog Trainer Survey. We wanted to get some cold, hard facts on the state of the dog training industry. This survey was open to any dog trainer in the United States.
Our questions asked our respondents to provide information on:
- How many years of experience they had as a dog trainer
- If they trained dogs full-time or part-time
- If they had any formal education in dog training or canine behavior
- Their annual income
- Which dog training services they currently offer
The survey took place between April and June 2020, with responses received from 37 different states in the United States.
Working full-time vs. part-time
One advantage of entering the dog training industry is that it can offer a level of employment flexibility for individuals. Whilst some dog trainers look for full-time work for a company at a dedicated training facility, others may prefer to start working part-time by themselves on evenings and weekends (there are some positives for making the decision to work part-time in any job).
Opening their own dog training business is the end goal for many who choose to get into the industry.
We asked our survey respondents if they trained dogs on a full-time or part-time basis:
The chart demonstrates that becoming a dog trainer is a career where it is possible to make a living on either a full-time or part-time basis.
For those who worked part-time, we asked how many hours they worked per week:
This shows that, even for part-time dog trainers, there is a lot of flexibility in terms of the hours you can work each week.
What is the average dog trainer salary?
We asked the respondents in our survey about their annual income from training dogs. As you might expect, we received a range of responses to this question.
Here is the breakdown of salaries for full-time dog trainers:
So, what did the data tell us about average dog trainer salaries in the United States?
- The average salary for a full-time dog trainer in our survey was $61,387.
- The median income for a full-time dog trainer in our survey was $45,000.
- Including part-time dog trainers, the average hourly rate was $51.09/hr.
Next, we looked at the impact of other factors on income for dog trainers. Is experience and education as important in the field of dog training as it is in other careers?
How experience affects your potential income as a dog trainer
We asked our respondents to tell us the number of years they have been involved in training dogs. We wondered if there was any correlation between their experience level and their income.
Although the data does indicate that those in our survey with over two decades of experience in the industry have the highest incomes, this perhaps is not too surprising. In many lines of work, as you accumulate experience, you become better at your work – and are therefore able to command a higher price for your services or negotiate a better salary.
The responses we received also show that those entering the industry have the opportunity to make a reasonable living almost immediately in the field of dog training. Even those with two or fewer years of experience are able to earn in excess of $40,000, with the obvious potential for this to increase as they continue in the industry.
Is it beneficial to have a certification in dog training/canine behavior?
We also asked our survey respondents if they had undertaken any formal dog training or canine behavior courses.
With over two-thirds of dog trainers in this survey indicating they had some level of relevant formal education or certification, does having a certification have any effect on annual income?
Based on the responses to our survey, professional dog trainers with formal education in the industry earn, on average, 40% more than their colleagues who have no education.
This demonstrates that individuals considering a career as a dog trainer should give serious thought to enrolling in a course of study – and those already working as dog trainers can benefit from obtaining formal certification.
Which services do dog trainers provide?
Dog training can take many forms. Even for straightforward obedience cases, trainers may choose to offer one-on-one private lessons, group classes, or even in-kennel training if they have an available facility. Some trainers may offer specialized dog sport training. There is also specialized training for service dogs and working dogs.
We asked the trainers in our survey to name which of the following dog training services they offered:
- One-on-one private lessons
- In-kennel training
- Group classes
- Service dog training
- Protection dog training
- Search and rescue training
- Other (please specify)
In addition to those listed above, respondents also mentioned the following as services they offer: trailing; decoying; trick training; and virtual (online) sessions.
These responses highlight the wide variety of services available for those in the dog training industry. Client demands are expanding beyond just basic obedience; some dog owners are looking to participate in additional activities with their four-legged companions.
What can dog trainers learn from these results?
The main takeaways from our National Dog Trainer Survey are as follows:
- Dog trainers can work either full-time or part-time; there is employment flexibility in the industry.
- The average salary for a full-time dog trainer in the United States is $61,387, and the median salary is $45,000. The average hourly rate (including part-time trainers) is just over $50/hr.
- Experience can play a part in your income potential as a dog trainer, but isn’t the biggest contributory factor when it comes to earning more money in the industry.
- Education is vital for dog trainers. On average, those with a formal dog training qualification earned an annual income of $64,800, compared with $46,222 for those without a qualification. The result? Based on these survey responses, qualified dog trainers earn over 40% more than non-qualified counterparts.
- Private lessons are the most popular service offering, but the variety of services available is expanding to meet changing customer preferences.
Becoming a professional dog trainer
Are you interested in beginning a career as a professional dog trainer? Do you currently train dogs and are looking to boost your earning potential with a certification in canine behavior?
At the School for Dog Trainers, we offer a variety of programs to suit anyone interested in the field of dog training and canine behavior. Our most popular course is the Master Dog Trainer program. This intensive six-month curriculum offers a mixture of hands-on dog training and classroom theory, in addition to offering valuable business insights to turbocharge your dog training career. The Master Dog Trainer program is one of the most respected courses of its type – 94% of graduates are either employed as professional dog trainers or have started their own dog training business.