How To Become a Service Dog Trainer: Education, Career & Salary

Explore the career requirements for service dog trainers. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Animal Care degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Information at a Glance

Service dog trainers teach our four-legged friends how to help disabled or challenged people accomplish daily tasks that they can't do on their own. This could include guiding the blind, retrieving items for people in wheelchairs or being a calming presence for veterans with PTSD. Take a look at the chart below for a brief overview of the profession.

Certification Certification is voluntary
Licensure License required in some states
Key Skills Patience, compassion, physical stamina, customer-service skills
Job Growth (2016-2026) 11% (for all animal trainers)*
Median Salary (2019) $11.64 per hour (dog trainers)**

Sources: *Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

What Do Service Dog Trainers Do?

Service dog trainers don't just teach dogs tricks like 'sit' and 'stay.' They take canines through a lengthy and rigorous process that teaches them how to be of aid to disabled people. Training is tailored to the individual's needs. For instance, if the person has a hearing disability, the trainer would train the dog to alert their companion to noises. Or, if the person has limited mobility, the trainer might teach the dog to retrieve items, press buttons and help their companion navigate a room.

What Training Do You Need for this Career?

You don't need a degree to become a service dog trainer. However, doing it as a profession can take years of dedication. Most service dog trainers have been training dogs (usually professionally) for years and have devoted their lives to it. That includes working with dogs in other capacities, taking training courses and serving as an apprentice.

Do You Need Certification or Licensure?

Some states require service dog trainers to get a license, and several certification organizations exist. While none are mandatory, many professionals get this certification to give their business the credibility it needs to thrive. The requirements vary for certification. For instance, the International Association of Canine Professionals Service Dog Committee (IACP) requires certification candidates to have dog training certification, be a member of the IACP and have five years of experience placing service dogs with disabled persons.

How Much Do Service Dog Trainers Make?

According to 'Payscale.com,' the median pay for a dog trainer was $11.64 per hour in 2019. That equaled a median annual salary of $35,613. The top 10% of dog trainers earned $27.99 or more an hour, while the lowest 10% brought home $9.36 or less per hour, said Payscale. As a comparison, the median salary for animal trainers in general for 2017 was $28,880, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What's the Job Outlook for Service Dog Trainers?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a higher-than-average growth rate of 22% for all workers in the animal care and service industry between 2016 and 2026. For animal trainers, the growth rate for the same period of time is expected to be 11%, which is still well above the average for all other occupations.

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  • Penn Foster

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    • Anywhere: Burnaby, Richmond, Surrey
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    • Massachusetts: Worcester
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