As someone thinking about a career in dog training, one of the questions you’ve probably asked yourself is, “how much do dog trainers make?” The truth is, how much dog trainers make depends significantly on their location, experience, and business skills. However, there are some general benchmarks you can use to determine what a typical dog trainer salary might be, and even more importantly what YOU can make as a dog trainer.
The good news is that careers involving animals are getting better and better. The United States Department of Labor projects that between 2016 and 2026 the number of jobs in the animal care and service industry will grow by 22%. That is MUCH faster growth than average. Similar gains are happening around the world as more households acquire pets and spend more on their beloved furry friends. In fact, Forbes Magazine recently said that pet services like dog training are one of the fastest growing types of pet businesses right now. More prospective pet parents are becoming aware of the benefits of adopting their new pets from shelters. So the demand for specialty trainers and dog behavioral counseling is increasing, along with the perennial demand for puppy obedience and socialization classes.
How Much do Dog Trainers Make in a Year in Different Countries?
In general, annual dog trainer salaries in various countries tend to hover somewhere around the national average. That is pretty great for an amazing job where you get to be with dogs all day. In the US, according to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a dog trainer is $34,425. There is a significant variance by state. For example, dog trainers in New York make almost $11,000 more per year than their counterparts in North Carolina (where the cost of living is also lower).
In the UK, a dog trainer can make around £20,937 per year. Dog trainers in India make around ₹1,74,359 per year. And on-track earnings for dog trainers in India are set to increase by 68% over the next five years, making it an up and coming career choice in this emerging market.
The figures quoted above are average salaries, and there can be huge variations in how much individual trainers make. For example, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics rolls dog trainers into its assessment of animal trainer salaries. In 2015 the average animal trainer salary was $33,600. Highly paid animal trainers earned more than $57,170, and those near the bottom end of the range earned $18,160.
What Determines a Dog Trainer Salary?
Quite a few different factors go into determining the salary that an individual dog trainer might make. As noted above, location plays a big role, not only by state or country, but also depending on factors like whether the trainer is based in an urban or rural area, and the local economic situation. The more disposable income potential clients in the area have, the more likely they are to spend it on services like dog training. Just like in most jobs, level of experience is important, and dog trainers farther into their careers will make more money than those just starting out.
An official dog trainer certification can make a big difference in how much a dog trainer makes, as can whether they work for a company or run their own business. It might seem counter-intuitive, but marketing and sales skills can be almost as important as actual dog training skills when it comes to how much a dog trainer makes. Dog trainers who are able to effectively get their name out and communicate the value of their services tend to be much more successful.
How Much Can YOU Make as a Dog Trainer?
That’s the real question, right? One of the first things you should do when you are thinking about becoming a dog trainer is to look around in your area and determine what types of opportunities are available. There are two major ways to make money as a dog trainer. Either you get a job working for a company that offers dog training as a service, or you go into business yourself as a professional dog trainer.
Which one should you choose? That depends a lot on what jobs are available, and whether you prefer to work for yourself. You also want to consider your time availability, how far you want to commute, and whether you need a full-time or part-time job. One common route for dog trainers is to first get a job (whether as a dog trainer or in something completely unrelated). Then you can gradually build up a dog training business on the side until it is able to replace your other job.
Searching for a Job as a Dog Trainer
Potential places to look for jobs as a dog trainer include large stores like PetSmart or other commercial companies, which sometimes run training programs on the side. There may also be local doggie daycares or dog training businesses looking for help. Your local SPCA or other dog-related nonprofits may be in need of trainers. Maybe you also want to expand into training and handling animals besides dogs. In that case you can try zoos, animal parks, or wildlife centers in your area.
Look Everywhere, and Tell Everyone You Want to Be a Dog Trainer
Dog trainer jobs may be found on bulletin boards at your local pet store, veterinarian, or other animal-related venue. Also search on general online platforms like Indeed or Monster. You may even be able to utilize a specific online platform like Animal Jobs Direct. And don’t underestimate the power of word-of-mouth referrals. Did you know that up to 80% of jobs end up being filled via personal networks? When you are looking for a job, tell everyone you know. You never know who might know someone who knows someone who has the perfect job for you.
If you find a place where you would love to work that doesn’t have any vacancies at the moment, don’t despair! It is still worth dropping off your resume with a cover letter about how much you would like to work for them. They might realize they could you use after all. Even if not, when they do come to a point where they want to hire someone, you will be the first person they think of.
Market Yourself and Your Skills and Dog Experience
Make yourself more marketable by brainstorming all your relevant animal experience and listing that on your resume. Even if the experience was unpaid, it can still be valuable if it is relevant. What counts as experience with dogs? Training your own puppy. Volunteering at an animal shelter. Dog sitting for a neighbor. Even just growing up with dogs can sound good on your resume. You just need to present your experience and skills correctly.
You may feel that your experience is a bit thin or you are just starting out. If that is the case, you might want to invest in taking a dog training course. It helps to have a qualification to list on your resume to establish that you know your stuff, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience to list. In fact, even for experienced trainers, having a certification can make you really stand out as a candidate.
If you find writing a resume and applying for a dog trainer job overwhelming, you are not alone. Many aspiring dog trainers struggle with marketing themselves in a resume. It can also be a challenge to interview well and convey your value to potential employers. Some dog training courses include tips for writing a resume or finding a dog-focused job. At the CanineClub Academy, for instance, our course includes an entire module on Landing a Job in the Dog Industry. The module walks you through the process of writing a compelling resume. It teaches you how to find and apply for dog jobs and get called back. Finally, it even helps you learn the skills to ace that interview and land your dream job working with dogs.
Starting Your Own Business as a Dog Trainer
Maybe dog trainer jobs are thin on the ground in your area. Perhaps you have limited availability, or can only work weekends or mornings. Maybe you’ve just always dreamed of going into business for yourself! If any of these apply, starting a dog training business might be for you. Even if you have a job already, you can work towards a goal of slowly building up your clientele. Eventually you will have enough work as a dog trainer to quit your job and do what you love full-time.
How much can you make as a dog trainer when you are working on your own? That is a bit harder to determine than just finding out salaries for jobs in your area. But you can still figure it out by doing a little online sleuthing. Or as we say in the business world, market research.
How Much Do Dog Trainers Make in Your Area?
To figure out how much other dog trainers in your area are making, pretend for a moment that you are looking for a dog trainer. Then take your question to Google. For example, if you live in San Diego you could type in something like “san diego dog trainer,” “dog trainers in san diego,” or even “dog trainers near me.” You can also try other similar searches like “dog behaviorist in san diego” or “puppy classes san diego,” especially if you know that is the type of work you would be interested in doing. If you live in a more rural area you might want to search the whole county (or even your whole state or province) instead of a city. On the other hand, if you live in a big city it might make sense to look in your individual neighborhood and neighbourhoods nearby.
Searches like this should get you a list of dog trainers in your area, along with their contact details and–crucially for you–their websites. Make a list of these websites. Once you have five to ten noted down, it is time to take a closer look. Visit each of the websites and look for a “services” or “prices” tab. Write down how much each dog trainer is charging for each different service. Typical services might include group obedience classes, private training sessions, puppy classes, etc. Some trainers also offer combined services like boarding and training or training during walks. Often there will be discounts for multiple classes. They might all offer slightly different services, but there should be enough overlap that you can start to see a pattern.
How Much Could You Charge as a Dog Trainer?
Next, come up with a hypothetical amount you would charge per service. It isn’t necessarily a good idea to go with the most expensive price. But you don’t have to be the cheapest either. Choose a price somewhere in the middle for each of the services you think you might offer.
Next you need to determine how many times per week you could offer that service. Take into account what times you are available, and also when it makes sense to offer different services. For example, people are most likely to be available to take their dog to a training session on evenings or weekends. But if you want to offer training sessions as a dog walker, late morning to early afternoon is prime time. Offering multiple different services is usually a good idea if you want to maximize how much you can make in the time you have available.
What Would Be Your Annual Dog Trainer Salary?
So ultimately, how much do professional dog trainers make? We’ll use a simple example to illustrate.
Say you have decided to offer a once-a-week puppy class that lasts six weeks. You enroll six puppies (and their owners) per class. Each owner pays $250. That’s $1500 total for the course. Run that course eight times per year and you will make $12,000 annually for one hour of your time per week. If you add on a similar course for adult dogs ($12,000 more per year), that brings your income up to $24,000 for what is still a very part-time enterprise.
You can see how adding just a few more services like behavioral counseling and private classes can quickly turn your dog trainer career into something you do full time. Many dog trainers also offer more ongoing services like dog walking and doggie daycare. These types of services enable you to turn your happy puppy class customers into ongoing clients.
So How Much Do Dog Trainers Make? It Depends a Lot on Their Marketing.
Keep in mind that one of your main challenges in creating this kind of income as a dog trainer will be marketing yourself. You want your earnings to stay on track. So you need to attract enough customers to consistently fill up your classes. Remember how you found the dog trainers in your market research? That’s right: their websites! A professional website, logo, business card, and other marketing materials are essential. You also need to network with your local dog community. Important connections happen when you volunteer at your local shelter or organize a low-cost pet vaccination day. Make an effort to get to know the dog owners in your area. Become a trusted resource for them. Before you know it, you will be well on your way to a rewarding career working with dogs.
Overwhelmed by everything you need to do to make a good living as a dog trainer? Don’t worry; the Canine Club Academy has you covered. We teach you the dog training and handling skills you need to be successful in your chosen career. But we also cover the business side: forming your business as a legal entity, creating a beautiful website, marketing yourself locally, and more! Curious to find out how getting certified with the Canine Club Academy can help you achieve your dreams? Download our student prospectus and unleash the possibility of a wonderful career doing what you love.
photo credit: "dog"by David Locke1 is licensed under CC BY 2.0