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- Best Overall: Karen Pryor Academy
- Best Runner-Up: International School for Certified Dog Trainers
- Best Budget: Penn Foster Dog Obedience Trainer/Instructor Career Diploma
- Best Variety: Animal Behavior College
- Best for Starting a Business: Dr. Ian Dunbar's SIRIUS® Dog Trainer Academy
- Best Trial: Victoria Stilwell Academy
- Best for Working Dogs: Top Tier K9
- Best Certification: Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
If you are a dog lover, you may be considering a career in dog training. Not only can it be incredibly rewarding to train dogs and help them become the most well-behaved they can be, but the field of animal training is growing as more and more pet owners seek professional training for their dogs.
While you don’t technically need a training certification to call yourself a dog trainer, it can be incredibly helpful when it comes to attracting clients to your business. Plus, many online courses help to lay the groundwork for dog training, as well as build upon the foundational framework you may already have.
If you’re considering a career in dog training, here are our favorite online dog certification programs to help you achieve your goals.
Best Overall: Karen Pryor Academy
Karen Pryor Academy offers a comprehensive training program with everything you need to set yourself up for a career as a professional dog trainer.
The course pairs hands-on training time at home and in the classroom (it has more than 25 workshop locations in the U.S. and worldwide) and online learning featuring upward of 250 teaching videos and a variety of downloadable exercises.
The program gives you all the time you need to absorb the material and provides 24/7 access to its cloud-based online classroom. It also prides itself on its small class sizes and its dedication to providing as much in-person coaching as each student needs.
Karen Pryor Academy’s training certification course costs about $5,300 and offers three program options with varying levels of in-person training time. The program typically takes less than a year and has had more than 1,700 students earn certification since it was founded in 2007.
Best Runner-Up: International School for Certified Dog Trainers
If you’re looking for a certification program that lets you work at your own pace from the comfort of your home, the International School for Certified Dog Trainers is a great resource.
This online service is designed to give you the knowledge foundation you need to become a certified dog trainer, starting with introductory training and ramping up from there. Each lesson is available online and offline in text form, with supplemental videos to assist with your understanding. Your homework assignments are reviewed by the school’s instructors, who are available via phone or email for additional support.
The International School for Certified Dog Trainers’ most basic certification course package starts at about $399 and includes roughly 18 lessons. The school also offers packages for around $1,999 and $3,999, which respectively include a two-week and four-month internship with Sublime K9 Dog Training, where you’ll work hands-on with expert trainers in Long Island, New York.
Best Budget: Penn Foster Dog Obedience Trainer/Instructor Career Diploma
Getting a dog training certification can be expensive, but the Penn Foster Dog Obedience Trainer costs only about $55 per month.
This online program is perfect for anyone who wants to become a professional trainer or for dog owners who want to learn more in-depth knowledge about training their own pup. Classes are pre-recorded, so you can take them on your own time. You will also be matched with a mentor who will help guide you and answer questions. This is an accredited program that can be completed in about six months, but you can go at your own pace if you need more time.
The full cost of the program is around $779, which includes all of the required coursework, online meetings with a mentor, and unlimited student support. If you are not satisfied with the program, you can request a full refund within six days, so signing up is fairly risk-free.
Best Variety: Animal Behavior College
If you’re interested in exploring a variety of programs in addition to dog trainer certification, Animal Behavior College has some of the best variety around, with veterinary assistant and grooming instruction courses, too.
Its dog training course, however, is highly varied, with 11 unique stages covering everything from basic obedience to problem-solving, as well as special topics like how to build a successful dog training business. Students will also be asked to spend a minimum of 10 hours volunteering at a local animal shelter.
While the course is designed to be done on your own time, it typically takes around 12 months to complete. The cost ranges from $3,399 to $5,547 depending on your payment arrangement. This covers your textbooks, merchandise, and externship. Outside of the school’s dog training course, the veterinary assistant program is priced at around $2,800, and the groomer training costs roughly $3,799 (both with promotion). There are also several other courses worth exploring, including certifications for cat trainers and professional aquarium maintenance.
Best for Starting a Business: Dr. Ian Dunbar's SIRIUS® Dog Trainer Academy
Canine behaviorist Dr. Ian Dunbar is a key name in the dog training industry, having developed his SIRIUS® off-leash puppy training program in 1982.
If you’re interested in learning the ins and outs of starting your own dog training business in a convenient online program, his Udemy course is a great place to begin. While Dunbar’s program does cover essential dog training knowledge, this is really geared toward entrepreneurs who want to learn to run and promote their own business.
The academy's curriculum consists of four days of lectures (each day’s content is approximately six hours long), along with numerous eBooks, lecture notes, and a complete SIRIUS® syllabus for puppy and adult dog training.
The SIRIUS® Dog Trainer Academy course usually costs about $125. While it still offers plenty of detailed material on dog training, it’s best used by professional trainers seeking to learn more about how to run their own classes, work with clients, and become a better business owner.
Best Trial: Victoria Stilwell Academy
Not sure if you want to throw down cash for a dog training course? The Victoria Stilwell Academy gives you a free demo to try before you pay, allowing you to see if this style of training is right for you without investing a lot of money.
Founded by "It’s Me or the Dog" trainer Victoria Stillwell, this online training course focuses on three key areas: training dogs, training people, and running a business. The multi-faceted curriculum features online classes, mentor-led training modules, and in-person presentations and demos. The whole program takes six weeks to complete, and if you add on the premium upgrade, you will travel just twice to in-person intensive training sessions.
To enroll, you will pay roughly a $99 application fee. If accepted, the premium course costs around $6,950, but financing is available. You can also opt for the training without any in-person sessions for about $3,450. This dog training program is great for beginners, but even seasoned trainers can use it as a refresher or to lay the groundwork for starting a training business.
Best for Working Dogs: Top Tier K9
Top Tier K9 offers online training courses for dogs and trainers, and its certification has special programs for trainers who want to work with service dogs, law enforcement dogs, and more.
Its pet trainer program is an eight-week program for beginners to lay the groundwork for becoming a dog trainer. From there, you can do add-on classes in special areas of focus, depending on your interests.
For example, the service dog training class is 10 additional weeks focused specifically on training service dogs. The more advanced classes do require a trip to Florida for in-person intensive training (room and board fees paid separately).
The basic online class through Top Tier K9 costs roughly $1,950, while advanced-level classes can run between around $2,750 and $3,950. All online classes are live, so you can interact with a teacher rather than watch pre-recorded videos. This program is great for newbies who know they want to specialize in a specific line of dog training.
Best Certification: Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
One of the most well-known online certification exams is the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers.
Though not an online class, this certification exam allows you to take assessments to prove your abilities after you’ve completed your online training courses. The test is highly marketable and well-respected in the industry, so it’s a great way to stand out against the competition and help your clients feel confident in your dog training skills.
The exams must be taken at official facilities across the U.S. and Canada and will cost roughly $385 to take. You can also download a practice test for about $99 before traveling for your in-person exam. This is a great way to gauge your skills before investing time and money into an official certification. If you’ve taken online training courses, applying for and passing the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers is a great next step.
How We Chose the Best Online Dog Training Certification Programs
When it comes to online dog certification programs, reputation is very important. Because most dog trainers will want to use their coursework in marketing for their dog training business, we gave more points to those online dog programs with the best reputation among dog trainers.
Additionally, though, cost was a factor; but we were more concerned with the overall well-roundedness of the program and ones that offered broad focus. Programs such as Animal Behavior College and Karen Pryor Academy were both expensive, but the overall coursework and reputation in the field justified the pricing. Also, online programs with many facets to their training, such as the Victoria Stilwell Academy, made the cut on our list.
Is Certification Required to Become a Dog Trainer?
No, certification is not technically required to become a dog trainer. That said, if you want to attract clients, receiving a certification is pretty much necessary. By pursuing these voluntary certifications, you not only set yourself up for success in dog training, but you can instill faith in your clients of your abilities.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Dog Trainer?
While you don’t technically need a certification to call yourself a dog trainer, most programs take roughly six months to complete. Many dog trainers go through several classes over the course of their careers to keep their education up to date and ensure they are learning the most modern dog training methods.
How Much Money Can a Dog Trainer Make?
On average, a dog trainer in the U.S. makes about $16 per hour, according to ZipRecruiter. That said, starting your own dog training business can be much more lucrative, depending on how many clients you take on at a time. While some dog trainers prefer to work in larger organizations such as PetSmart, others would rather market their own skills and work independently.