Open Colleges

How to become a Dog Trainer

by Chloe Baird
Posted: March 25, 2021

  Return to blog home


Did you know that Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world? There are almost 29 million pets in Australia, with around 61% of households owning at least one pet. And more than any other pet, dogs are by far the most popular.

With the popularity of pets on the rise, there is growing demand for people with the specialised skills to help support and guide pet owners with raising their pets.

Dog Trainers help owners train their pets to obey commands, socialise with others and to reign in any negative behaviours. They also educate owners on how to take proper care of their dogs.

If you have a genuine love of animals and are passionate about teaching owners how to properly care for their pets, then becoming a Dog Trainer could be the perfect career path for you. Read on to discover what entails being a Dog Trainer, different career paths and how you can become a successful Dog Trainer.

Two Dogs

What does a Dog Trainer do?

While Dog Trainers work with puppies and dogs to help train them to respond to commands and enforce good behaviour, they spend most of their time working with the dog owners themselves. After all, it’s ultimately the owner’s responsibility to ensure that their pet is doing their homework once the training session is over.

For domestic pets, Dog Trainers commonly provide basic obedience training to a group of dogs over a period of weeks, or will work one-on-one with an owner and their pet. However, there are other types of dog training in specialised areas, such as search and rescue, law enforcement, livestock herding and therapy.

 The tasks and duties of a Dog Trainer may include:

  • teaching dogs to obey verbal/non-verbal commands
  • teaching dogs to be sociable and to decrease aggression
  • changing any undesirable and negative behaviours
  • educating owners.

Why is there a need for Dog Trainers?

Simply put, if the number of dogs as pets increases in Australia, so too does the demand rise for skilled Dog Trainers.

Dog Trainers are needed because they understand canine behaviours and how best to respond to different situations.

Training is incredibly important when it comes to raising a dog. Here are three reasons why:

1. Training forms a strong bond – well-trained dogs often have a happy, positive relationship with their owners.

2. Dogs need to know how to ‘mind their manners’ – it’s important for dogs to be well-trained and obey commands, especially when out in public.

3. Training is important for safety reasons – a Dog Trainer can help discourage negative behaviours such as biting. But it’s also important for the dog’s own safety. For example, if a dog is running towards a dangerous situation, it’s important that they return to their owner when called to avoid possible injury.

Police Working Dog

Different career options for Dog Trainers in Australia

1. Puppy Pre-School Trainer

What could be better than spending your days helping to train adorable puppies? Owners of a new puppy, especially first-time owners, may need a lot of help when it comes to understanding how to properly take care of their newest family member. Puppy Pre-School Trainers are there to help owners understand their puppy’s behaviour, and are also there to instil good behaviours in the puppy pre-schoolers.

2. Police Force Dog (K9) Trainer

The term K9 refers to the special police unit that uses trained dogs to help Police Officers perform their duties. Any police officer in the K9 unit is also a trained dog handler, which means they have the care and responsibility of their canine partner.

Police dogs are trained for different situations, and some may specialise in a particular area. Police dogs are commonly trained in obedience, agility, evidence searches and open area and building searches. They’re also trained to sniff out narcotics or explosives and can help to find missing people. Police Dog Trainers help to train police dogs for all sorts of situations and to obey specific commands. Proper training can also help police dogs stay safe in dangerous situations.

3. Herding Dog Trainer

In Australia, working dogs such as kelpies and cattle dogs help people working on farms to round up livestock. Many of these herding dogs have been bred for the task, but that doesn’t mean that every one of them is going to be a natural! Some dogs need to be trained to sharpen their natural instincts and work alongside their human colleagues. Herding Dog Trainers can help to get dogs ready for life on the farm; and some even train companion animals as a fun, interactive exercise that dogs and owners can both enjoy.

4. Assistance Dog Trainer

Assistance dogs are trained to help people living with both mental or physical disabilities. Assistance dogs have an incredibly important role to play by helping to aid in the quality of life of their owner. This could be by performing physical tasks (from retrieving a dropped item to pressing the button at traffic lights) and providing emotional support. It takes around two years to train an assistance dog, as they need to be able to respond to many different situations and be able to help out with very specific tasks.

5. Therapy Dog Trainer

Therapy dogs are sometimes confused with assistance dogs, but they’re not the same. Therapy dogs often visit people in the company of a handler with the intent of reducing anxiety and stress and making people smile. They may be taken to places such as hospitals, nursing homes, schools or even courtrooms. Therapy dogs need to be calm, friendly and not easily startled, and it’s the role of the Therapy Dog Trainer to help them adjust to different scenarios, as no two days as a therapy dog will be the same.

6. Shelter Dog Trainer

It’s a sad reality that often when dogs are brought in to shelters they’ve been mistreated, or have been living on the streets and aren’t used to friendly interactions with humans. They may also be totally unused to such everyday concepts as living inside or using stairs. This may make them anxious or aggressive. By helping to train dogs that have been brought into a shelter, you can get them ready for life with a loving, caring family in their forever home!

Woman Hugging Shelter Dog

9 Skills you need to be a good Dog Trainer

1. You must be a dog person! A natural affinity with and an interest in dogs is highly important.

2. Patient and understanding – all dogs (and sometimes owners) learn at different speeds.

3. Highly alert and observant – you need to be able to recognise potential health problems and be alert to when a dog is feeling threatened, frightened or anxious.

4. Committed – training a dog in any field takes time, dedication and determination.

5. In-depth knowledge – you need a thorough understanding of different dog breeds and their personality traits and anatomy.

6. Strong communication skills – which goes for verbal and non-verbal communication. Dogs will be able to pick up on even the most subtle body language.

7. Leadership qualities – dogs are pack animals. Most dogs will look for a leader within their human family and expect guidance and protection. A good Dog Trainer will be a strong leader and be able to get the best out of the dogs in their care.  

8. Creative thinking – dogs will respond to different training methods in different ways. Be prepared to think outside the box.

9. Diplomacy - some owners may not be treating their dogs as well as they could be simply through ignorance. It’s your job to let the owners know, diplomatically and tactfully, that there are better ways to raise and train their dog.

Is Dog Trainer a good career choice?

Becoming a Dog Trainer is a great career choice for anyone who has a love of dogs and is both patient and dedicated.

On average, a Dog Trainer salary is around $45,000 but this amount may change depending on whether or not you specialise in a particular field.

You don’t need to complete a formal dog trainer course to become a Dog Trainer. However, undertaking a course will provide you with a strong, foundational knowledge base to work from. If you already have a natural affinity with animals and a special interest in dogs, then a VET course may be the perfect starting point for your career as a Dog Trainer.

The ACM20117 Certificate II in Animal Studies is a great place for you to begin your studies and launch your career working with animals.

This online animal care course will teach you the ins and outs of the animal care industry, how to provide basic care of domestic dogs, how to give first aid to animals and how to interact with human clients, among other things. It also includes 80 hours of work placement.

What are you waiting for? Start your career in the animal care industry and turn your love of dogs into a worthwhile, rewarding job. Enrol with OC today.


Chloe Baird

Chloe is an Open Colleges alumnus who now works full time for OC as a Content and Copywriting Specialist. She is passionate about encouraging others to pursue their goals through education.

Recommended Course

Certificate II in Animal Studies

The Certificate II in Animal Care ACM20117 has been developed in consultation with industry experts to teach you the skills and knowledge you need to begin working in the animal care industry.

View Course

Course areas