Top Careers For Dog Lovers

illustration of top careers for dog lovers

Illustration: Wenjia Tang. © The Spruce, 2018

Have you ever wanted to work with dogs for a living? If you are a dog lover, then having a career involving dogs can be a dream come true. Every job has its pros and cons, and dog-related jobs are no exception. However, a dog-related job can be rewarding and fun if you choose the one that's right for you. 

Check out these top careers for dog lovers to see if one of these careers is for you and find out what you need to do to get started.

  • 01 of 10

    Animal Behavior

    Three pugs on leashes

    Photo Michael Blann/Getty Images

    Animal behaviorists work with pets and their owners to implement programs designed to solve unwanted behaviors in pets.

    • Applied Animal Behaviorists have completed postgraduate programs in behavioral science and passed rigorous requirements. They recommend behavior modification, desensitization, training, and other methods to help solve pet behavior problems. In a way, they are to animals as psychologists are to humans.
    • Veterinary Behaviorists are licensed veterinarians who complete internships, residencies and pass advanced requirements to become board-certified specialists. Veterinary behaviorists work similarly to applied animal behaviorists. Also, they can diagnose and treat medical conditions and prescribe medications if needed. In this way, they are similar to human psychiatrists.

    The downsides of this career:

    • Not all dog owners take the advice of experts and implement plans, which can be frustrating.
    • Injury from dog bites or scratches is a risk, especially with aggressive or fearful animals.
  • 02 of 10

    Boarding Kennels or Doggie Day Care

    A dog at a pet hotel

    Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images

    If you want to spend time with healthy dogs, consider working in a boarding kennel or doggie day care center. These jobs are often available to those with no previous experience, and training is done on-site. With experience, you may eventually become a manager or business owner.

    Doggie daycare workers supervise playtime for dogs that stay for the day. Kennel attendants care for and clean up after dogs that are ​boarding for days to weeks. Dog kennels and daycare centers sometimes operate under the same roof. However, some kennels are part of a veterinary practice, providing an opportunity to cross-train as a vet assistant.
    The downsides of this career:

    • Dog bites and dog fights can happen.
    • You'll come into contact with poop and pee, spending much of your time cleaning.
    • It's messy, hard work for little pay, especially at the entry level.
  • 03 of 10

    Dog Breeding

    Newborn puppies piled together

    Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

    Becoming a dog breeder is about more than just letting purebred dogs have puppies and then selling them. If this is your mindset, then it is not for you. Though dog breeding can eventually become a career, it is wise to start out thinking of it as a serious hobby.

    To become a dog breeder, one must be dedicated to maintaining breed standards and keeping the dogs healthy and happy. Before getting started, it is essential to network with other more experienced breeders with excellent reputations. You will ideally start out with a mentor who can help you learn the ropes. It takes a serious investment of time and money to be a responsible breeder, but it can be very rewarding in the end.
    The downsides of this career:

    • Breeding dogs can take a financial and emotional toll.
    • A profit may not be made for several generations, if ever.
  • 04 of 10

    Dog Grooming

    Grooming a dog

    Chris McGrath/Getty Images

    If you love the idea of primping poodles, coiffing cocker spaniels, and generally making dogs look and smell pretty, then you might want to consider becoming a dog groomer. Professional dog groomers are the cosmetologists of the canine world. They style dogs for conformation, photographs, and everyday comfort.

    If you are interested in grooming, try it first by going to work with a professional. As an assistant, you can learn the basics of grooming. To learn specialized techniques and styles, you can attend a dog grooming school and even go on to achieve certification and membership with the National Dog Groomers Association.
    The downsides of this career:

    • Some dogs will come in stinky and dirty. Some will even have parasites.
    • Injury from dog bites or scratches is a risk.
    • Some dogs will be difficult to handle.
    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Dog Sitting and Dog Walking

    Someone walking several dogs

    Miguel Villagran/Getty Images

    If you enjoy caring for dogs and being your own boss, then pet sitting, or dog walking might be just the thing for you. Many dog lovers make a living at it, while others enjoy it as a side job for extra income. Dog sitters go to homes to care for dogs while their owners are out of town.

    Duties include feeding, walking, medicating, playing, and cleaning up after dogs. Some are asked to spend the night, but many visit the home two to three times a day.

    Dog walkers are especially common in large cities, where apartment dogs need more exercise than their owners can manage. Many dog walkers also work as pet sitters (and vice versa).
    The downsides of this career:

    • Income can be unpredictable, especially at first.
    • One must be willing to keep a very flexible schedule.
    • Not all dogs will be easy to handle.
  • 06 of 10

    Dog Shows

    A dog show handler

    Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

    Working in the world of dog shows demands a deep love and solid understanding of the sport of purebred dogs.

    • Handlers are paid by owners to handle their dogs at shows. The goal is to earn champion titles. A handler must have a strong grasp of breed standards, lots of experience working in dog shows and a willingness to travel frequently. To get started, consider working first as a handler's assistant.
    • Judges have superior knowledge of dog breed standards down to the finest details. One can become a judge only after many years of experience in dog shows and breeding.

    The downsides of this career:

    • Becoming a dog show professional takes years of dedication and determination.
    • The work demands much of your time, but income can be unstable, especially early on.
  • 07 of 10

    Dog Training

    Dalmatian on a leash

    Scott Barbour/Getty Images

    Working as a dog trainer requires an understanding of the canine mind, an ability to educate, and a great deal of patience.

    Dog trainers teach commands from basic to advanced and help dog owners teach these commands to their own dogs. Trainers also work with future service and working dogs, and some teach canine "actors" to perform for television and film.

    Though no specific education or certification is required to become a trainer, such qualifications will boost your knowledge and credibility. To get started, apprentice under an experienced trainer.

    The downside of this career:

    • It is hard to deal with owners who encourage misbehavior and fail to follow through with training sessions.
    • There is a risk of bites and scratches.
  • 08 of 10

    Pet Supplies

    Dogs in a pet store on a dog bed

    Choja/Getty Images

    Dog owners want quality food and products for their dogs. They also want choices, hence the reason for so many different dog food companies and pet supply stores.

    With little or no experience, you can work in a pet supply store, meeting all kinds of dogs and learning about dog products. If you are interested in working behind the scenes, try a dog food company or toy manufacturer. Depending on the rules of the company or store, you may be able to bring your dog to work.

    In time, you can work your way up to management. With training and experience, you can eventually start your own dog food or dog supply business.

    The downsides of this career:

    • Retail salaries are rather modest.
    • Focusing on the business side means less time working with dogs.
    • Brick-and-mortar shops are less common as many consumers prefer online shopping.
    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Public Services

    Police dog with officer

    Lori MacDougall

    Working with dogs in service of the public can be a very selfless and rewarding experience. There are several ways you can handle working dogs to make the world a better place.

    • Police or military working dogs are teamed with a human partner (a qualified officer), often living with that person, even after retirement from service.
    • Search-and-rescue dogs are specially trained to find lost persons. They often live with their owners/handlers and are periodically called out for a search.
    • Animal-assisted therapy is a great way to allow your canine companion to touch the lives of others. Your dog can go through a training program for pet therapy. Then, the two of you can visit nursing homes, hospitals and schools to encourage and lift the spirits of others.

    The downsides of this career:

    • This is a long-term commitment for everyone. Think this through because a lot of people will be relying on you.
    • You might be put in physically or emotionally difficult situations.
    • Some of this work is on a volunteer basis, so you will not earn an income.
  • 10 of 10

    Veterinary Medicine

    Vet examining the eyes of a puppy

    Jetta Productions/Getty Images

    Working in the field of veterinary medicine, you will promote pet wellness and help sick animals. Veterinary medicine is a fast-paced, exciting, and rapidly-growing industry full of passionate professionals. 

    • Veterinarians complete 4 years of college followed by 4 years of vet school to become doctors of veterinary medicine (DVM). Some go on the complete a residency and become board-certified specialists.
    • Veterinary Technicians are veterinary nurses who have passed a test to become credentialed. In most cases, they are required to complete 2-4 years of school in a vet tech program.
    • Veterinary Assistants are similar to techs, but are not licensed and have not attended vet tech school. Because of this, they often cannot perform more advanced nursing duties (depending on state law).

    The downsides of this career:

    • Sick pets and emotional owners can cause stress and sadness, which can lead to burnout.
    • Even the nicest dogs may bite due to stress and pain.