5 min read

A Day in the Life of a Dog Trainer


Written by Emily Bayne

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 06/30/2022, edited: 06/30/2022


Are you considering a career in the dog training field? Professional dog training might be your calling if you enjoy spending time with animals and teaching your pets new skills.

Dog training goes far beyond teaching pups how to sit and stay. You’ll help pups become the best versions of themselves and take a lot of strain off their family. A good trainer can make a difference in not just the lives of the dogs, but the pet parents too.

Dog training is not for the faint of heart, though. It takes dedication, a willingness to learn, and the ability to problem-solve and create unique solutions. So what is a day in the life of a dog trainer like? And how do you become certified? Read on for these answers and more!

What types of dog trainers are there, and what do they do?

When most people think of dog training, they usually imagine one-on-one obedience training. But this is just one type of service in a huge field. Dog trainers can work either virtually or in person at private settings, board and train facilities, or group settings.

They may offer obedience courses, reactivity training, agility, behavior modification, and even specialized training (like search and rescue, medical alert tasks, and scent detection) — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Not to mention there are tons of different training methods, and many training programs combine multiple techniques. Some of the more common training methods include:    

How do you become a dog trainer?

There aren’t any federal or state requirements to become a dog trainer in the US. However, you'll find several programs to help you get accredited and grow your training knowledge.  

One of the most reputable programs is through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). But be warned — accreditation through this organization is a long and labor-intensive process.               

IAABC-accredited dog trainers must:    

  • Have at least 2 years of hands-on dog training experience in a professional setting
  • Complete at least 100 hours of IAABC Core Competency material, including classes and workshops
  • Have a thorough understanding of IAABC material and training principles
  • Pay a $125 application fee, and provide 3 professional references (2 must be from training clients) 
  • Apply their training knowledge on the IAABC-ADT application and give detailed descriptions of how to use these principles in a professional setting
  • Pass the application review process

The work doesn’t end once you receive your credentials. IAABC-accredited dog trainers must submit yearly dues and complete 36 continuing education credits every 3 years to keep their certification active.         

What skills do you need to become a dog trainer?

Dog trainers need a very specific skill set to do their job effectively. Below are some skills and traits trainers need to become successful.

A good dog trainer should:     

  • Have patience and empathy for both human and canine clients
  • Be able to communicate effectively and respectfully with their clientele
  • Have a thorough comprehension of science-backed training methods
  • Understand the science behind how dogs learn
  • Understand canine body language  
  • Be able to apply new training principles and learn as they go
  • Be able to tailor training plans for each individual case
  • Have basic business knowledge (regarding marketing, taxes, record-keeping, etc.) 
  • Be reliable, trustworthy, and punctual

dog trainer wearing green shirt kneeling in front of a white dog and holding their paw

How long does it take to become a dog trainer?

Learning the fundamentals of dog training takes between 6 months to a year. Still, trainers who want to specialize in certain training areas like behavior modification or K9 police work may need months or even years of additional education and training.

It’s also important to remember that pet parents are searching for a trainer with solid credentials who is educated in the training field. The more certifications and coursework you complete, the more successful you will be.

What is a day in the life of a dog trainer like?

You might be surprised to learn what a work day entails for these hard-working folks. Here’s a run down of a typical work day, according to real trainers.

You might be surprised to learn what a work day entails for these hard-working folks. Here’s a run down of a typical work day, according to real trainers. 

In-person training   

Naturally, trainers spend a large part of their day training, but that can look a lot of ways depending on the training they offer. Group trainers usually have a few training classes during the day, split up by category. For instance, they might teach puppy groups as well as basic obedience classes.

Private or in-home trainers will meet with clients one-on-one, either in the client's home or at a facility or public place to work on basic skills and behavior modification. According to private trainer and founder of Spirit Dog Training, Steffi Trott, ”We might work on leash walking, household manners, anxiety issues, resource guarding, OCD behaviors, tricks – you name it.”

Lead Trainer at North K9, Claire Brown, reiterates a similar sentiment, “I have a mix of dogs every day. I train sport dogs and companion dogs, and do behavioral work, so every day is different. I could be teaching competitive obedience or dealing with a resource guarding Cockerpoo, I love them all equally, even the ones that want to bite me.” 

After training sessions are over for the day, in-person trainers may prepare treat bags, print off information material for their clients, and get their training tools ready for the next day.

Dog trainers don’t spend their weekends lounging around either. Group class instructors use this free time to build their business and ensure the following work week goes smoothly. Marcella Ward, the founder of Dogs Speak Dog Training, says her weekends involve “putting together welcome to class packets, printing out flyers, making (training) graduation gifts, course planning and purchasing treats.” That sounds like a lot of work!

Virtual training

For many virtual dog trainers, the day begins with checking emails. They may go through training inquiries or applications and review and respond to client video submissions and training questions.

Virtual trainers use video calling platforms like Zoom to guide pet parents through training and respond to behavioral questions or concerns. Virtual trainers often spend time between sessions filming educational and promotional videos for their websites and social platforms.

 For digital dog trainers on the Wag! app, the training sessions take place in a video chat room accessible through the Wag! app. Digital trainers with Wag! finish each session by completing a report card for their human and dog clients. This card may include notes about the session, relevant advice, and training exercises clients can do with their dog to help them meet their goals.

At the end of the work day, virtual trainers will typically look over their messages and schedule once more and rest up to do it all again the next day!

Are you thinking of becoming a professional dog trainer?

Dog training is a lot of work. Between continuing education, teaching classes, marketing, and house calls, there isn’t much time for them to rest. But there’s a reason so many are passionate about this field. Meeting cute dogs, helping families foster healthy relationships, and giving pet parents the tools for success makes this job a dream come true for pet lovers.

Are you a dog trainer? Sign up to offer your dog training services through Wag! today! Marketing your services and finding new clients has never been easier!

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