Level up with an industry relevant online course for as little as $25 per week

Everything you need to know about becoming a dog trainer

If you’re a dog lover, chances are that you’ve wondered what it would be like to work with dogs as a full-time gig.

Caring for them, training them, diving deeper into their psychology and understanding exactly what motivates their natural behaviours…

Not to mention simply spending time with their gorgeous, furry little faces!

Yet although you may have generally recognised how exciting working with dogs could be, pursuing a career as a dog trainer can open up a number of specific advantages.

That’s why in this blog, we’re going to break down everything you need to know about becoming a dog trainer in New Zealand.

Personality is important

“Be the person your dog thinks you are.”

We’ve all seen this quote printed across posters, pillows and even the occasional t-shirt, but clichés aside it does hold some merit.

Because there are certain personality traits fundamental to becoming a successful dog trainer. This includes being:

  • Calm and confident (especially around the dogs)
  • Patient (with pooch and owner alike)
  • Enthusiastic and energised
  • Alert and observant
  • Determined

… and, most important of all…

  • A genuine animal lover

(See? All the qualities a dog loves in a human!)

Not only that, but in a professional capacity, you’ll also need to be excellent at clear communication and time-keeping, as well as being an expert planner and critical thinker. These are skills which will be essential to running effective, comprehensive training sessions.

What’s truly fundamental, however, is that you have an affinity for our four-legged friends and are motivated to deeply understand a dog’s emotions, behaviours and needs. 

Long-story-short, you need to be compassionate, invested and engaged.

But why do you need to be these things? What purpose do these personal and professional traits serve in this role? Well, this leads us neatly onto our next point…

Understand the responsibilities

Your role as a dog trainer may depend on which area you choose to specialise, but overall you can expect your duties to include:

  • Providing basic obedience training
  • Teaching the dog to recognise and obey verbal and non-verbal commands
  • Helping familiarise dogs with collar and lead etiquette, such as preventing their backing away and walking well on a lead etc.
  • Managing a dog’s aggressive or inappropriate behaviours
  • Instructing owners to manage their dog’s behaviours at home/in working environments
  • Teaching owners how to build upon the basic training
  • Supporting a dog’s socialisation (from puppy age upwards)
  • Recognising and decoding behavioural cues
  • Hosting individual or group training sessions 

And that’s really just an overview.

So as you can gather, whilst this career can be emotionally rewarding and invite plenty of opportunities to interact with lots of lovely pooch pals, it also comes with a number of serious responsibilities which shouldn’t be taken lightly.

A dog trainer is essentially there to understand a dog’s thought processes and instinctive drives, and help put the systems and tools in place to help owners or handlers productively manage them. 

There’s another good quote from Marley & Me author John Grogan that we’d like to highlight here…

“There’s no such thing as a bad dog, just a bad owner.” 

And although you might not technically be ‘the owner’ in this scenario, you’re the human responsible for this dog. Which means it’s your job to give that dog the best psychological, emotional and physical support to live a happy, healthy life.  

So, needless to say… there’s a considerable weight to those responsibilities. Yet the good news is that you’re not expected to be an automatic expert, especially at this beginning stage of your dog training career.   

In fact, if you’re relatively new to this world, a dog care certification can equip you with a solid understanding of topics such as canine psychology and natural behaviour, in addition to behavioural development. 

It can also give you the best foundation to begin building a solid, successful career in this industry, an entry point to grasp all the essential knowledge and rise up the ranks.

Which neatly leads us onto our next point…

Identify your professional prospects

The average annual income for dog trainers in New Zealand ranges between $39,452 – $82,642, whilst broken down this means you could approximately earn between $22.34 to $39.16 per hour in this role.

Nevertheless, it’s important to note that this is the average and training to become a dog trainer can actually open doors to multiple industries and sectors. 

For example, as a dog trainer you could potentially work with:

  • The police 
  • The New Zealand Border Force
  • Security companies
  • Service dog training programmes
  • Animal charities/animal shelters
  • Veterinary clinics
  • Dog training clubs/schools
  • Boarding kennels

Equally, you could be self-employed or work in a partnership, whatever best suits you and your long-term career goals.  

For a number of roles related to dog training, a formal qualification is not strictly required. Yet by undertaking additional training, such as our very own dog training course online, you’re not only increasing your knowledge and expertise in dog handling, you’ll also be demonstrating to future clients or employers that you have a legitimate investment in offering the best training possible. 

You’ll be highlighting your true commitment to positively shaping a dog’s behaviour, whilst supporting both the dog and owner’s improved quality of life.  

However, there are a number of additional steps you can take in conjunction with a dog care course, which will similarly help you to develop a successful career as a professional dog trainer.

Commit to the process

It’s important to evolve your knowledge of dog care and dog training beyond the theoretical. Actually, we’d say it’s vital that you combine any studies with hands-on, practical dog management experience.

If you’re at the start of your journey to becoming a dog trainer, this is the ideal time to undertake guided studies whilst gaining ‘real-life’ experience. It’ll not only help to deepen your understanding of how to implement different training techniques, it will also develop your ability to handle a wide variety of dog breeds, anticipate and manage various behavioural challenges, and increase your adaptability in numerous situations.  

Ideas to increase your practical experience include volunteering at:

  • Local shelters
  • Dog clubs
  • Dog kennels/daycare centres
  • Training centres
  • Dog behaviourists
  • Veterinary clinics 

Establishing a network of contacts across multiple sectors of the pet industry is also beneficial. You’ll then be able to utilise the expertise of those individuals to support your own understanding, ensuring you’re offering each dog the best possible calibre of training. Volunteering can help you to create those connections. 

You may also want to gain experience in a specific area or pursue specialised training, whether that’s progressing to train scent detection dogs, assistance dogs, police dogs, search and rescue dogs, agility dogs, or competition dogs.

If that’s the case, it would be equally beneficial to search out additional experience and mentorship in these more ‘niche’ areas, or even take additional advanced training courses.

In conclusion

Now you understand exactly what it takes to build a career as a successful (and effective) professional dog trainer. 

As we mentioned before, a simple yet powerful route into this industry can be completing a dog care certification online, as this will give you a comprehensive understanding of all the essential dog training techniques and dog care management strategies. 

It will also give you exclusive access to true industry experts (who are there to support you on your journey to completing your course), meaning you’ll be mentored by the best of the best, from the very get-go.   

If you have any immediate questions or would like further information about our Certificate in Dog Care & Dog Training, feel free to visit our course page here or shoot a message here.  

Otherwise, seriously take the time to consider… could becoming a professional dog trainer be the dream career for you?


Need help?

Ask us about our courses, or get help with your existing course

Are you a Learning Online student?

Have a question about your course?

Check out our Help desk. We cover topics like;


Enrol now!

Fill in the form below and one of our career advisors will get in touch

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.