Animal Trainer

The Job and What's Involved

The majority of animal trainers work with dogs. However, they can also work with horses or wild animals, such as lions, elephants, dolphins or sea lions.

Dog trainers and dog instructors teach a wide variety of techniques to either domestic or working dogs and their owners and handlers.

Dog training can cover many different areas, including:

  • Obedience training, for domestic pets.
  • The training of working or service dogs for the police, search and rescue, the prison service or the armed forces.
  • Dogs that herd animals on a farm.
  • Gundogs.
  • Assistance dogs used to help the daily lives of people with disabilities.

Domestic dog trainers may run a series of classes or provide one-to-one support to teach recreational and general obedience skills. This may include:

  • Puppy sociability classes, training young dogs how to interact with other dogs, adults and children through games and gentle play.
  • Coaching owners on how to handle, groom and examine dogs correctly.
  • Teaching obedience and basic control techniques, such as walking to heel, sitting, staying and retrieving.
  • Informing people of the legal requirements of dog ownership.
  • Competitive obedience training, such as heel work to music (a controlled routine performed to music by the dog and handler) and trick training, for dog stimulation or preparation for competitions and shows.
  • Assessing progress and providing feedback.

Police dog trainers are more focused on getting police dogs and their handlers to form a strong partnership. Trainers design, plan and carry out programme's, which are usually delivered residentially in three stages:

  • Initial basic training, concentrating on general obedience.
  • Continuation training, teaching the more difficult elements of obedience, such as disciplined retrieval, distance control and agility.
  • Advanced training, teaching tracking, search, guard, detection and protection skills.

Police dog trainers can also be involved in the assessment and purchase of police dogs, liasing with dog breeders, rescue homes and other dog trainers.

Dog trainers who work with service and working dogs usually work around 37 hours each week on a full-time basis. However, this is likely to include some night training. Domestic dog trainers usually run blocks of day, evening and weekend classes. Many work part time.

They may work indoors or outdoors, in a hall or field, depending on the time of year and teaching content. Training is interactive and requires lots of movement.

Many dog trainers work privately, and may make home visits to deliver one-to-one training. A driving licence may be required.

A domestic dog trainer usually charges hourly rates. Working full time, they may earn between £13,500 and £15,000 a year.

A police dog trainer may earn around £21,000 a year.

Highly experienced dog trainers in the police or armed forces may potentially earn £30,000 or more.

Self-employed dog trainers usually have to deduct expenses from their earnings, such as hall rental or equipment costs. Some may supplement their income with another job.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The majority of domestic dog trainers are self-employed. Some may be employed by dog training clubs on a franchise basis, or work within animal rescue centres. Other employers include security organisations, the Royal Air Force (RAF) Police, the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, the police service and HM Revenue and Customs.

There are employment opportunities throughout the UK. The number of jobs is relatively stable, but competition for advertised posts can be high.

It may be possible to find work through personal contacts or by directly approaching training organisations. Vacancies may occasionally be advertised in local newspapers and on websites such as

Education and Training

Entry requirements vary. Whilst there are currently no minimum entry qualifications to become a domestic dog trainer, this is under review and new standards of training and experience are being developed. Experience of handling and training dogs is necessary for starting work and for entry to some courses.

Police dog trainers usually need at least three to five GCSE's (A*-C), including English and maths, and have dog handling and training experience, as well as employment and experience as a serving police officer.

Voluntary work is one way of gaining experience. This may provide a good introduction to working with dogs of different breeds.

A number of relevant courses can be taken before entering this work. These include:

  • BTEC Level 3 Certificate in animal management.
  • Level 2 Diploma in work based animal care.
  • Level 3 Award and Certificate and Diploma in work-based animal care.
  • Foundation degrees in animal management and behaviour and animal studies.
  • Degree in animal behaviour.

Candidates should check specific entry requirements with individual institutions. Most study options are available on a full- and part-time basis.

It may be possible to enter this career through an appropriate Apprenticeship scheme in animal care.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work, Careers Wales; and for Northern Ireland contact

The Diploma in environmental and land-based studies may be an advantageous qualification to have achieved prior to further study, an Apprenticeship or employment. Further information can be obtained at

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Short study courses are available in dog training and canine behaviour management. These are offered at colleges and training centres throughout the UK. They usually combine practical work and theory.

Membership of a relevant professional body is not essential, but may enhance job prospects. The British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers offers various levels of membership, depending on an individual's qualifications and experience. To join the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, applicants must complete a written, oral and practical assessment.

Dog trainers are expected to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) to maintain their membership with the above organisations.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Animal trainers working with dogs should be:

  • Confident handling all types of dogs.
  • Sympathetic and understanding to the different challenges faced by dog owners.
  • Patient, positive and motivational.
  • Good teachers.
  • Diplomatic and tactful.
  • Clear, self-assured presenters and communicators.
  • Imaginative, making classes enjoyable for all participants.
  • Well-informed about the latest dog handling techniques, dog behaviour and breed differences.
  • Well informed about the responsibilities and duty of care required under animal welfare legislation and codes of practice.
  • Knowledgeable about learning theory and how it is used to train dogs.
  • Well-organised, in order to structure the training.
  • Business minded, if self-employed or running a franchise.

Your Long Term Prospects

Self-employment is common for domestic dog trainers. With experience, some may join police dog sections as trainers or move into related areas, such as animal behaviour or psychology, or assistance dog training. Entry to some of these roles may require further specialist study.

It may also be possible to become a lecturer on dog training courses.

Get Further Information

Armed Forces
Army Advice Line: 0845 730 0111

Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT),
PO Box 17, Kempsford GL7 4WZ
Tel: 01285 810811

British Institute of Professional Dog Trainers (BIPDT)
Tel: 01908 526856

The Kennel Club, 1-5 Clarges Street, Piccadilly, London W1J 8AB
Tel: 0844 463 3980

Lantra, Lantra House, Stoneleigh Park,
near Coventry, Warwickshire CV8 2LG
Tel: 0845 707 8007
Websites: and

Royal Air Force Careers
RAF Advice line 0845 605 5555

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