How to Start a Dog Training Business

Starting a dog training business requires a mix of passion for animals, understanding their behavior, and communicating effectively with pets and their owners. Launching a dog training venture can be a lucrative option for those exploring pet business ideas, such as how to start a dog treat business or how to open a pet store.

While certifications can boost credibility, hands-on experience is invaluable. A business plan is essential when considering how to start a business in this field, and this should include a business startup checklist and research into common business structures.

The choice of training location and services offered can also significantly impact business operations and potential profitability.

Dog ownership has always been strong in the US and has increased in recent years. People need trainers so that they can enjoy having a well-behaved pet, and this is where the question of how to start a dog training business comes into play. For those who also want to explore related ventures, it’s beneficial to learn how to start a dog breeding business or even how to start a pet photography business.

The Dog Training Business

For centuries, dogs were bred for a specific purpose or function. Past generations of humans often didn’t allow their dogs to be kept in the house.

Now, many dogs are a vital part of the family. They live indoors with the family and share the household.

However, many dogs don’t enjoy the freedoms they could have because they are not trained. They also don’t have the mental stimulation and connection with humans that they crave. This offers potential pet business ideas for entrepreneurs.

Training a dog often involves training the owner. The best dog trainers recognize that need and adapt their training to suit the learning pace and environment of all involved – humans and canines.

how to start a dog training business

Qualifications and Skills for Becoming a Dog Trainer

A dog trainer needs experience, a deep understanding of canine behavior, patience, and good interpersonal skills are crucial. A background in animal behavior or veterinary sciences can also be beneficial.

Gaining Proper Dog Training Certification

While it’s not mandatory to have a certification to start a dog training business in most places, obtaining one can enhance your credibility. Organizations like the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) and the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) offer certification programs.

Honing Your Dog Training Techniques

Depending on the type of dog training you want to conduct as your focus, there are many opportunities to attend seminars and other events to expand your knowledge.

One of the best sources for the information is the American Kennel Club or AKC. You may only know the AKC as the sponsor of the US’s biggest dog show, the Westminster Kennel Club show. But under the AKC umbrella, you’ll find information about all the dog breeds and the types of events the AKC organizes for dogs.

For example, if you want to train dogs for obedience, you could choose a local dog show in your area and attend the obedience competitions held in conjunction with the dog show. You’ll see great dogs perform and meet the people who train them. Finding a mentor or training class is a great way to get started and also improve your techniques.

how to start a dog training business

Understanding Dog Behavior and Psychology

Many dog owners come to a trainer so that their dog can learn typical, good citizen skills – obedience commands, walking nicely on a leash, not barking excessively and not jumping up on visitors.

Some dogs come with a complex background, such as dogs that come from animal shelters or rescues. Often, the actual history of the dog’s life is not known. The trainer who understands the dog’s body language and behavior can develop the best training program for the dog and owner.

how to start a dog training business

Identifying The Target Market for Your Dog Training Business

Many dog trainers offer a general obedience program, which may be called Life Skills or similar. Such programs are geared to helping the dog and owner share the household and family activities while the pet dog exhibits the proper behavior and is an enjoyable companion.

Most trainers also find a specific niche, which is their specialty:

Puppy Training

Here’s a sad statistic – the majority of dogs surrendered to an animal shelter are from 6 to 9 months old. That’s because it can be challenging to raise a puppy. There’s potty training, socialization, and learning of basic obedience commands. And early training is very important, because it lays the foundation for good behavior to continue.

how to start a dog training business

Dog Sport Training

Dogs of all types and ages can participate in dog sports, such as obedience competitions, agility, flyball and dock diving. There are even competitions called Earth Dog (the dog must enter a hole while pursuing scent) and Barn Dog (the dog must find a hidden, caged rodent in a barn).

Dogs can be trained for lure chasing (excellent for sight hounds such as Salukis and Wolfhounds), hunting, water retrieving and much more.

Therapy Dog Training

Therapy dogs provide comfort to individuals in hospitals, schools, nursing homes, and more. Specific training focuses on ensuring the dog is calm, gentle, and can handle various environments and interactions. A trainer provides certification that allows the therapy dog to provide the service at various locations.

A therapy dog is not the same as a service dog, which is trained to perform tasks for individuals with disabilities.

how to start a dog training business

Behavioral Modification

Separation anxiety is a common issue cited by pet owners. When the dog is left alone, it barks and is destructive, and may become very overwhelmed with fear and anxiety. Behavior modification to cure separation anxiety is a long process, but it pays off in the long run. The method includes many training sessions revolving around two main techniques – desensitization and counterconditioning. The training may start with a board/train stay with the trainer, then transition back to the dog’s house.

Aggression in dogs is a problem that should only be addressed by a skilled dog trainer professional. The strategies and techniques used to fix aggression will most likely be specific for each dog. It takes a trainer with tons of experience to undertake an aggression problem.

Advanced Obedience Training

Many trainers expand their business by offering more advanced classes for their Basic Obedience graduates.

The advanced training can involve hand signals instead of voice commands, off-leash training such as long retrieves, or complex tricks. It can also involve training on agility courses to include tunnels and jumps.

how to start a dog training business

Specializing in Specific Dog Breeds or Behavior Issues

While fundamental training principles apply across breeds, some trainers might specialize in breeds known for specific behaviors or needs, such as herding dogs, hunting dogs, or breeds pred for protection and/or law enforcement work.

Trainers can also teach dogs for narcotics work or search-and-rescue. Dogs can also be trained to assist people with physical or mental challenges.

how to start a dog training business

Starting Your Own Dog Training Business: Step-by-Step

No matter which type of dog training you plan to offer, there are certain steps you should take to start the business:

Crafting Your Dog Training Business Plan

Put your dog training business plan to paper, and make sure to include these important elements:

  • Executive Summary: Brief overview of the business, mission statement, and goals.
  • Business Description: Details about the dog sitting service, location and operations.
  • Market Analysis: Research on the local pet market, competitor analysis, and target audience.
  • Marketing and Sales Strategy: How you plan to attract and retain clients.
  • Organization and Management: Business structure (sole proprietorship, LLC, etc.), roles, and responsibilities.
  • Service Offerings: Types of services provided (overnight stays, daily visits, etc.)
  • Financial Projections: Estimated revenue, costs, and profitability.

Setting Up Your Dog Training School

There are several options to getting started. Of course, using your own building may be the most expensive if you need to build first.

  • Dedicated Building:
    • Pros: Control over the environment, consistent setup, potential for multiple classes or sessions simultaneously. Other trainers may rent time/space at dog training schools.
    • Cons: High overhead costs (rent, utilities), commitment to a location.
  • Rented/Public Location:
    • Pros: Flexibility, lower commitment than owning a building, potential for diverse environments.
    • Cons: Less control, potential distractions, scheduling can be trickier.
  • Client’s Home:
    • Pros: Convenience for clients, training the dog in its natural environment, flexible scheduling. Also, training is most successful if the whole family is “on the same page” and understands what’s required.
    • Cons: Limited control over the environment, potential for more travel time, can’t host group sessions.

how to start a dog training business

Acquiring Dog Training Business Insurance

Small business insurance is a must for an owner running a dog training business.

  • Liability insurance is crucial to protect against potential claims from dog bites or injuries during training.
  • Care, custody, and control insurance covers injuries to the dog during training.

Building a Dog Training Website

An essential step in how to start a business is to create a strong online presence. A website startup guide can be beneficial in setting up a website that effectively communicates your services.

As your business grows, include lots of pictures and client testimonials. Be sure to include contact information.

how to start a dog training business

Marketing and Branding for a Successful Dog Training Business

Grasping what is marketing is crucial. Your best advertising is going to be word-of-mouth from satisfied customers. Networking with other pet professionals, like those who might be researching how to start a dog boarding business, can be beneficial.

Join local organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce. Your best advertising is going to be word-of-mouth from satisfied customers. You can offer a discount in training for customers who bring you new clients.

CriteriaDescriptionResearch MethodsApplication & Strategy
Geographical AreaDetermine the localities where potential customers live.Local demographics studies, Google AnalyticsTarget local advertisements and offer location-specific promotions.
Age GroupIdentify age segments more likely to seek dog training.Surveys, social media insightsTailor marketing messages to resonate with the most responsive age groups.
Income LevelAscertain the income brackets most willing to spend on dog training.Market studies, census dataOffer tiered pricing or packages catering to different income levels.
Type of Dog OwnersRecognize if your services cater to first-time dog owners, seasoned owners, or specific breed enthusiasts.Customer feedback, surveysCreate specialized training modules for different owner needs.
Dog Age GroupDetermine if your training is for puppies, adult dogs, or senior dogs.Customer inquiries, sign-up formsOffer age-specific training classes and tips.
Specific NeedsIdentify customers looking for obedience training, agility training, behavioral correction, etc.Questionnaires, direct feedbackDevelop niche training programs targeting specific dog needs.
Channels of DiscoveryRecognize where potential clients learn about dog training services (e.g., online, vet referrals).Google Analytics, referral trackingAllocate marketing budget based on the most effective channels.
Lifestyle & ValuesUnderstand if your market consists of busy professionals, families with children, elderly couples, etc.Demographic profiling, social media analyticsTailor your service timings and offerings to suit different lifestyles.
Commitment LevelAscertain if your target audience is looking for one-off sessions, monthly training, or long-term commitments.Sign-up duration, feedback formsOffer flexible packages and memberships to cater to varying commitment levels.
Feedback & ReviewsAnalyze customer feedback to understand areas of improvement or market segments that you might not be catering to currently.Online reviews, feedback sessionsImplement changes based on feedback to better cater to your target market's needs.

Charging for Your Dog Training Services

Charges for dog training vary according to the type of training. For example, a trainer may hold an obedience class attended by 5 people, with each person paying $20 for the one-hour class. Or a trainer may provide a private obedience lesson at a client’s house, charging $50 for the hour.

Off-leash work may require the use of acres of private land. Those classes may be more expensive since the trainer may have purchased or leased the land.

Here are more general figures:

  • Per Session: Dog trainers might charge anywhere from $30 to $100+ for group sessions and $50 to $150+ for private sessions.
  • By the Hour: Rates can range from $50 to $150+ per hour.

Some trainers offer “board and train” where the dog stays with the trainer for intensive training. Depending on the trainer’s expertise and the program’s intensity, these can range from $500 to $2,500+ per week.

how to start a dog training business

Building a Network with Dog Owners and Other Pet Professionals

Definitely build a network with pet-related businesses such as pet stores, feed stores, dog groomers and veterinarians. Even folks who are wondering how to start a dog walking business. But keep in mind that dog owners are everywhere – the person in line behind you at the grocery store, the parents you’re chatting with at your child’s soccer game.

You and a well-training four-legged companion are the best advertisement for your business. Wear clothing with your business logo, and always carry business cards.

Challenges and Growth in the Dog Training Industry

Growth in the dog training industry is relatively untapped. There’s a great need for it and not enough trainers. Although there is a need for specialized training such as search-and-rescue and therapy dog service, there is a much greater need for general obedience training.

A dog may not fit well into its household without general obedience skills. The owners love the dog but wish it would be better behaved. Enter the trainer. After weeks of training, the dog is greatly improved. All is well, and the interaction ends with the trainer and owner very pleased with the outcome.

But here is one of the biggest challenges in dog training – the training may not “stick” unless the dog’s owner continues to follow the guidelines. The dog trainer can offer “brush up” classes for past graduates to answer this challenge.

how to start a dog training business

FAQs: How to Start a Dog Training Business

How much does it cost to start a dog training business?

A dog trainer should have years of experience before hanging out a shingle as a Dog Trainer. The cost of that experience can vary greatly! The cost to start also depends on whether the trainer will conduct training on owned property, lease an area for training, or conduct training at a client’s house.

How profitable are Dog Training businesses?

Dog trainers who own a facility can make extra money by leasing space to other trainers.

For example, a dog trainer who specializes in obedience work may lease space to a trainer who specializes in training clients who want to exhibit their dogs at dog shows. The show-handling trainer may charge each client $20 for a one-hour session but pay the owner for the use of the building.

How can a new dog trainer establish trust with dog owners?

A new trainer should plan to spend an hour or two with the dog owners at the initial meeting with them and their dogs. The trainer should ask the clients what their goals are for the dog and mutually discuss how to obtain those goals.

How much does a professional dog trainer make?

A dog trainer may charge $30 to $100 per hour for a group training session or from $50 to $150 per hour for a private lesson.

How much the trainer can make depends on the number of training sessions scheduled per day.

Are there dog breeds that require specialized training techniques?

Within each breed are dogs are different temperaments and backgrounds. Dogs can come from very good breeding or careless breeding or come from a rescue with no information about its genetics. In other words, the foundation that the dog brings to training can vary greatly.

Most dog trainers have a training program that works for the majority of dogs. However, the experienced trainers are able to specialize the program as needed to suit the learning pace and ability of each dog and owner.

Image: Envato Elements

More in:

Lisa Price Lisa Price is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 4 years. She has a B.A. in English with a minor in journalism from Shippensburg State College (Pennsylvania). She is also a freelance writer and previously worked as a newspaper circulation district manager and radio station commercial writer. In 2019, Lisa received the (Pennsylvania) Keystone Award.