Hunting Dog Trainer: Salary and Career Facts

Explore what it takes to become a hunting dog trainer. Learn about job duties, required training and potential salary to see if this might be the career for you. Schools offering Animal Care degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Hunting Dog Trainer?

Hunting dogs require a unique form of obedience training, since they must be comfortable on the trail of wild game and in the presence of gunfire. A hunting dog trainer must first get a dog to become accustomed to human voices and touch, and then teach the dog how to respond to certain commands. Hunting dogs may need to know commands beyond the basics, like sit or stay, to do things like retrieve an animal or flush out prey. They also must teach the dog to work on land and in water to hunt things like water fowl. Hunting dog trainers also work closely with the dog owner/hunter to teach them to give the commands, as well as helping the dog get used to the sounds of gun shots. The chart below will outline the unique skills, salary outlook and training needed for a job in this field.

Training Required Self training, classes, apprenticeship
Key Skills Physical fitness, patience, keen understanding of dog behavior
Licensure Required Not required, certification or endorsements are available
Median Salary (2015) $26,610 (all animal trainers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Might I Earn as a Hunting Dog Trainer?

Your salary as a hunting dog trainer will vary based on many factors, such as the demand for hunting dogs in your location and your local competition. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) reports median hourly and annual wages that are found across all forms of animal trainers, including hunting dog trainers, horse trainers and service dog trainers. Among this group, the median hourly wage was $12.80 and the median annual wage was $26,610 as of May 2015.

What Will My Work Entail?

As a hunting dog trainer, you'll work in close contact with a wide variety of dog breeds. You'll typically spend significant time in the field in order to most closely simulate a live hunting environment. You may use a state park or private land, and you should be comfortable spending extensive time outdoors. You'll need to possess great patience, fitness, mental stamina and a sincere love of dogs.

You'll develop a multitude of hunting skills in the dogs you train. These include searching for game using scent, pointing and retrieving game. You'll also work on general aspects of dog training, such as walking on and off leash, staying when told and overall cooperativeness. You may employ your own methods of training, such as positive reinforcement through treats.

You may train hunting dogs for casual hunters, but more serious hunters may want dogs who've passed hunting dog certification programs. For example, the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (www.navhda.org) offers a comprehensive test of dogs' innate and trained abilities.

I Understand the Dogs Need to Be Trained; What Training Might I Need?

You can become a hunting dog trainer through self-training. You don't need to complete any type of formal education or certification program. The most common route to becoming a hunting dog trainer is to begin by training your own hunting dog, then working as an assistant to an experienced trainer. Many schools and businesses offer classes that can help you refine your skills. You may also benefit from reading about the many theories on dog training, which are perpetually evolving.

While you don't need official training, many organizations offer certification or endorsements for general dog training. For example, the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (www.nadoi.org) offers an endorsement as a hunting dog trainer for which you can apply. This endorsement demonstrates your experience and commitment to the field, as well as your adherence to ethical standards.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers are a few similar positions that only require a high school diploma or equivalent. These workers tend to receive on-the-job training to learn about coordinating and overseeing the work done in various kinds of agriculture establishments. Veterinary assistants and laboratory animal caretakers also need a high school diploma or equivalent. These professionals help care for different kinds of animals found in a lab or clinic. They may feed, bathe, exercise or help provide medical care for the animals.

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