We’ve got answers! Making the choice to become a professional dog trainer is a big decision, and we want to help you make sure you have all the information you need to get started on your path. Check out the information in the list of Frequently Asked Questions below, which include the following sections (click to jump to each section):
- Dog Trainer Course (DTC) FAQs
- DTC add-on In-Person Track (IPT) FAQs
- Mentor/Faculty Advisor Program FAQs
- IPT Course Intensives FAQs
- Application, Registration & Tuition FAQs
- General FAQs
If you have additional questions after exploring the information on this page, you can always contact us directly at your convenience. If you are an already-practicing dog trainer interested in joining VSA as a mentor, please visit the Mentors page here.
Dog Trainer Course (DTC) FAQs
What is the Dog Trainer Course?
The Dog Trainer Course (DTC) is VSA’s premier learning experience and a flexible-length vocational online course designed to teach, assess and certify graduates with the skills, knowledge and confidence required to become a certified professional dog trainer. DTC students pair powerful online learning via the industry’s most comprehensive curriculum and a dedicated personal Faculty Advisor with whom they meet for regular video conference sessions throughout the course.
Is the DTC all online, or is there an in-person option, too?
The core curriculum is delivered via VSA’s Student Learning Center with 100% faculty-led, video-narrated lessons designed to engage and ensure optimal student learning. Each DTC student also meets weekly for a videoconference with their personal Faculty Advisor. VSA also offers all students the option to add the premium In-Person Track (IPT), where students attend two in-person learning intensives, shadow a local professional mentor, attend live Cyber Classes with VSA faculty, and benefit from enhanced learning assessments. For more information about the IPT, see the In-Person Track FAQ section on this page.
How long is the Dog Trainer Course?
Most students graduate from the Dog Trainer Course within 6 months, but students have up to 12 months to complete the course. The course length is dependent on factors completely within the student’s control, including whether the student has another full-time job, is currently a student at another learning institution, or has extenuating circumstances at home which limit available learning time, etc. VSA will support whatever time frame works best for each student. If a student needs longer than 12 months to complete the course, opportunities to delay or extend course access is available on a case-by-case basis.
Do I need to own a dog?
You will need access to a dog with which you can train and work through the course, though it does not have to be your own dog. The dogs you work with can be any breed, age or size, though they should be able and willing to work with you as your develop your training skills. Therefore young puppies or very old dogs are not recommended.
Will I be a certified dog trainer upon graduation?
Yes. VSA provides all DTC graduates with the designation ‘VSA Certified Dog Trainer (Online)’ or ‘VSA-CDT-Online.’ This designation tells the public that you have completed the rigorous VSA program of study and are certified by VSA to conduct business as a professional dog trainer. Graduates also receive CEU (or CPD) credits from certifying organizations such as the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). DTC students also enrolled in the In-Person Track receive the prestigious VSA-Certified Dog Trainer (VSA-CDT) designation.
Will I get to talk to a real person during the course?
Yes! Every DTC student is paired with a dedicated Faculty Advisor who will help guide you through the course. Each week, you’ll meet with your Faculty Advisor via videoconference for an ‘Office Hours’ session where you can ask questions, get clarification on the course curriculum, and discuss best practices as a dog trainer. Your Faculty Advisor will also conduct periodic skills assessments of your progress via videos and/or live demonstrations.
Do I have to travel during the course?
No. One of the main benefits of the DTC is that it eliminates the need to travel while preserving the highest quality education experience available. By utilizing VSA’s powerful Student Learning Center and providing each student with a personal Faculty Advisor, we ensure that your learning experience is dynamic, engaging and comprehensive. Students who choose to add on the premium In-Person Track do travel twice for in-person intensives.
Will I be a VSPDT after graduation?
The application process to become a VSPDT (a licensed Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Trainer) requires that applicants have a minimum of 2 years’ experience training dogs professionally before applying. In some cases, DTC students may have already been practicing dog trainers prior to attending the course, while others may start working professionally only after graduation. Eligibility to apply for VSPDT is considered on a case-by-case basis, but graduation from a VSA course does not guarantee acceptance as a VSPDT.
How long will I have access to the course once completed?
It depends. Students enrolled in a free Starter Course or the Fundamentals of Dog Training & Behavior Course will have lifetime access. Dog Trainer Course students have free access to the course for one year following their graduation, after which they can purchase ongoing access for a small fee.
Is the Dog Trainer Course certified?
VSA is authorized under the Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Institutions Act of 1990, and its courses receive CEU credits from leading certifying organizations such as the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC).
Is there an additional charge to work with a mentor or Faculty Advisor?
No. VSA tuition includes course-long access to a dedicated Faculty Advisor and, (for In-Person Track students only) a professional dog trainer to shadow during two field units.
Do I have to devote a specific amount of time to course work every week?
The DTC is a flexible length program, so it’s up to you how much time you spend on the course each week. As a reference, students completing the DTC within the typical 6 month time frame generally end up spending an average of approximately 8-10 hours per week on their coursework.
What are the admission requirements?
To be eligible for enrollment, students must be fluent in English, at least 18 years of age, demonstrate the communication skills and professionalism required of a professional dog trainer, and have the physical and emotional capability to handle dogs of different sizes and activity levels. Students choosing to add the In-Person Track must also be able to travel to the location of the Intensives. Please see the VSA Student Handbook for a complete list of entrance requirements.
What experience is needed to be accepted?
The Dog Trainer Course is optimized both for students brand new to dog training & behavior as well as students with some previous skills and/or knowledge of dog training and behavior. No previous dog training experience is required.
What if I’m an experienced trainer – is the DTC right for me?
While the Dog Trainer Course is optimized for students brand new to dog training & behavior, it’s also appropriate for any experienced trainers (including graduates of other schools) who feel they may have gaps in their education. The DTC curriculum does include deep dives into including the knowledge required to tackle advanced training and behavior modification of more serious behavior issues. If you’re not sure if the DTC is a good fit for you, please contact us and we’ll discuss it with you. If you are an accomplished positive dog trainer, please consider joining Victoria’s global network: Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Training.
Can I work/go to school while doing the course?
The course does require a time commitment on your part. However, it is still considered part-time and therefore if you are good with your time management you should be able to successfully complete the program while you work/go to school.
DTC In-Person Track (IPT) FAQs
What is the Dog Trainer Course In-Person Track?
The In-Person Track (IPT) is a premium add-on, available to new, current, and past Dog Trainer Course students and graduates. In addition to all the student benefits and experiences included in the Dog Trainer Course, students who choose to add the In-Person Track also:
- Travel once for an in-person learning intensive with Victoria and VSA faculty
- Attend two 2-day virtual intensives from home
- Are assigned a local professional mentor to shadow in their area
- Attend live Cyber Classes with VSA faculty
- Perform enhanced learning assessments
- Benefit from the fellowship, peer review opportunities, and networking of a class of students undergoing the same learning experience at the same time.
Can I upgrade to the In-Person Track after I’ve already started the Dog Trainer Course?
Yes. Any current Dog Trainer Course student can upgrade to add the In-Person Track during their studies. Students who upgrade to the IPT will have priority access to join the next available IPT class once its course dates are announced and IPT enrollment opens. Enrollment to the IPT opens periodically throughout the year and early access is given to currently enrolled DTC students and graduates before enrollment opens to the public.
Can I upgrade to the In-Person Track after I graduate from the Dog Trainer Course?
Yes. DTC graduates may upgrade and enroll in an In-Person Track class anytime up to one year following their date of graduation from the Dog Trainer Course. Graduates who completed the Dog Trainer Course more than one year prior to IPT registration may be eligible for IPT enrollment on a case-by-case basis.
How long does it take to complete the In-Person Track?
The In-Person Track is a six-month program. Students can begin the Dog Trainer Course up to a year before enrolling in the In-Person Track. Visit the DTC In-Person Track page for additional information.
When does the In-Person Track start?
Each class of IPT students has a designated Course Start Date. Course Start Dates are announced periodically, and typically begin once or twice per calendar year. IPT students are able to begin or continue their Dog Trainer Course online learning before their IPT Course Start Date, and the only course completion requirements are that students must reach certain points within the DTC curriculum prior to each in-person intensive. See a list of all In-Person Track class Course Start Dates here.
Where do the in-person intensives take place?
Specific locations for the in-person intensives sometimes vary, but intensives are held every year in Atlanta, Georgia (for US-based classes) and Wigan, UK (for UK-based classes).
What if I can’t make the In-Person dates work?
If you can’t travel to the In-Person Track intensives or the scheduling doesn’t work out, you can always choose to enroll in just the Dog Trainer Course (which is completed entirely from home). The only logistical differences between the Dog Trainer Course and its In-Person Track add-on are that IPT students attend the in-person learning intensives, attend live cyber classes, and shadow a local mentor. Learn more about the online-only Dog Trainer Course here.
Do I get a special certification as an In-Person Track graduate?
Graduates of VSA’s DTC In-Person Track receive the prestigious VSA-Certified Dog Trainer (VSA-CDT) designation. In-Person Track students are also eligible to graduate with distinction. Learn more about VSA’s certifications and the concept of professional dog trainer certification in general here.
Is it my responsibility to find a mentor in my area?
No. VSA will take care of identifying and procuring a mentor near you – you don’t need to do a thing. It is VSA’s responsibility to find a suitable option for you, and while we will certainly listen to any specific requests you have regarding mentor selection, we must maintain control of the mentor selection process to ensure that you’ll have the most rewarding educational experience.
What is the time commitment for In-Person Track students?
In-Person Track students share the same online coursework and assessment requirements as Dog Trainer Course students (see above) plus several additional commitments. Beyond the two 5-day in-person intensives, IPT students also spend approximately 25 hours with their local mentor during both the Field Study and Field Training units. Additionally, Cyber Classes meet approximately once every two weeks and last up to two hours each, plus assigned pre-work before each class.
How many students are in each In-Person Track class?
VSA limits the number of students in each class to 25. This allows for more personal interaction and an optimal 1:4 student-to-faculty ratio during intensives and other teaching sessions.
I don’t live in the UK or the USA. Can I still enroll in the In-Person Track?
Yes, you can enroll in the IPT provided you are able to travel two times during the six-month course to Atlanta, Georgia (USA) or Wigan, Lancashire (UK) for the Intensives. We will work to match you with a mentor who lives in your area so that you can complete the field units and other course work from home.
Mentor/Faculty Advisor Program FAQs
What’s the difference between a Mentor and a Faculty Advisor?
Faculty Advisors are provided to every Dog Trainer Course student and are not local to the student. Mentors are assigned to students enrolled in the DTC In-Person Track only and are local to the student. Mentors provide shadowing and learning opportunities by sharing their time and workload with In-Person Track students, while Faculty Advisors meet weekly with Dog Trainer Course students (including IPT students) for weekly 60-minute Office Hours to discuss course curriculum and concepts, answer questions, and conduct skills assessments via videoconference.
When will I be paired with my mentor or Faculty Advisor?
Faculty Advisors are assigned to Dog Trainer Course students within one week of enrollment in the DTC. IPT students are paired with a local mentor before the first field unit and will connect with him or her for a phone call or videoconference meeting to begin planning your activities.
How often will I meet with my Faculty Advisor?
Students meet via scheduled 60-minute Office Hours meetings with their Faculty Advisors approximately once per week. These meetings are flexible and can be arranged around you and your Faculty Advisor’s mutually-agreed schedule.
How many times do I have to visit with or complete activities with my mentor?
The number of visits to complete activities with your mentor will vary depending on the number of activities the IPT student is able to complete during each visit. For example, if your mentor teaches multiple group classes and/or private lessons in one day, you can likely complete multiple mentor-led activities in one day. Your mentor will work with you to optimize scheduling, but in general students meet to shadow their mentors approximately every 10-14 days during the two field units.
Can only VSPDT trainers serve as mentors and Faculty Advisors?
No. VSA has many mentors and Faculty Advisors who are not VSPDTs, so don’t worry if there are no Victoria Stilwell-licensed trainers in your area. Our mentor and Faculty Advisor selection process is extensive and comprehensive – we hire only the highest quality mentors and advisors for our program, so you can rest assured that your online learning and/or your Field Study and Field Training units will be the most enriching educational experiences available in the field of dog trainer education.
What if there are no mentors close to me?
In the event VSA does not have a mentor in your immediate vicinity, we will work to pair you with a mentor within a reasonable driving distance, generally two hours. This allows you to successfully complete the Field Units with your assigned mentor, and consolidating visits whenever possible, resulting in a minimum amount of travel. In the unlikely event VSA does not have a mentor not available within two hours of the student’s home, VSA will work with the student to determine the most mutually convenient solution possible with a mentor in another area. In certain scenarios, we will provide remote mentor experiences to take advantage of additional mentor opportunities. In no case will a student complete the VSA Dog Trainer Course In-Person Track without the benefit of a qualified mentor experience.
DTC In-Person Track Intensives FAQ
How long are the intensives?
The in-person intensive is 6 days long. Most students arrive the day before and leave the day after the last day.
Do I have to bring my dog to the Intensives?
No, you do not bring your personal dog, and in fact we specifically request that you do not. But you will have an opportunity to work hands-on with a variety of dogs during the Intensive.
When do I need to arrive / when can I leave the Intensives?
You should plan to arrive in the Intensive city location the day before the first day of the Intensive to give yourself time to get settled in and rested in preparation for an intense learning opportunity! The last day of the Intensive will run until 5 pm. If you are flying out, it’s recommended that you to fly out the day after the Intensive ends so that you’re not rushed in leaving to make a flight. If you absolutely must leave the evening of the last day of an Intensive, the earliest possible departure time should be at least 8pm.
Is the cost of my travel to the Intensives included in the tuition?
No. The costs associated with transportation, lodging, and meals (with the exception of lunch each day) are the student’s responsibility. We provide a list of affordable accommodations that are convenient to the classroom and many students will share rooms and cars in order to reduce travel-related expenses.
Do students ever share travel expenses?
Yes, students are encouraged to connect with classmates to arrange room and car sharing. You’ll be introduced to your classmates upon enrollment and can connect and make arrangements. Remember, the Intensives are just that – intense learning opportunities! Please make sure that any arrangements you make provide you with the privacy and downtime you need to stay engaged, focused, and learning!
If my Intensives are in Atlanta, which airport should I fly into?
The closest international airport is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), which is located at 6000 N Terminal Pkwy, Atlanta, GA 30320.
Where will the Intensives actually take place?
The physical address for each Intensive will be provided upon your registration to the In-Person Track.
Will VSA provide hotel and lodging recommendations during the Intensives?
Yes, you will receive preferred hotel recommendations as part of your registration package, and VSA can sometimes help to procure discounted rates at local hotels upon request.
What can I expect at the Intensives?
Intensives include a variety of activities. Most days include a combination of classroom team and project-based learning, exercises in observation, and hands-on training and teaching activities where you’ll put the skills and concepts you’re learning into practice. Some days include field trips, e.g. to see a veterinary practice in action or visit with adjunct VSA faculty. Intensives typically meet from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.
What about Covid?
Nothing is more important to VSA than the health and safety of our faculty, staff, students and associates. As a result, we follow CDC guidance regarding COVID-19 and require all students, faculty and staff participating in any in-person event (including IPT in-person intensives) to be fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. This means all applicable primary initial doses plus booster shots. Read the full VSA Covid Vaccination Policy here.
Application, Registration & Tuition FAQs
What is the DTC enrollment process?
First, complete the online application and pay the $99 application fee. VSA will immediately begin processing your application, which may take up to 2 weeks. We will notify you via email whether you are accepted into the program, at which point you will pay your DTC tuition in full, begin making installment payments directly with VSA, or pay your down-payment if you are financing your tuition.
How do I apply for the In-Person Track?
If you are not currently enrolled in VSA’s Dog Trainer Course, begin the IPT application process the same way – by completing the Dog Trainer Course application, making sure to check the box indicating that you would like to enroll in the In-Person Track as well. Also be sure to designate the class you’d like to join (US, UK or other) on the application. An enrollment coordinator will get in touch during the processing of your application to discuss your IPT options. If enrollment for the IPT is not open at the time of your application, you will be notified and automatically placed in the queue to join the next available IPT class, but you can still continue your overall Dog Trainer Course registration immediately. If your desired IPT class is already full when you apply, you will be automatically placed on the IPT waiting list and you will be notified in the event that a place opens up for you. Upon successful registration you can choose your payment plan and/or explore financing options with VSA.
How do apply for the In-Person Track if I’m already a DTC student or graduate?
If you’re already a student in or graduate of the Dog Trainer Course, contact the VSA office via phone or email and let us know that you’d like to upgrade to the In-Person Track, as well as which class you’d like to join (US, UK or other). You can find the IPT Course Start Dates here. If enrollment for the IPT is not open at the time of your application, you will automatically be placed on the priority waiting list and you will be notified when enrollment opens for your class.
Is there an application fee?
Application fees are currently waived for both the Dog Trainer Course and the In-Person Track upgrade.
When should I submit my application?
You can apply for enrollment in the Dog Trainer Course at any time. To apply for the DTC In-Person Track either as a new student or as a current student upgrade, please submit your application as soon as you select an IPT Course Start Date. If registration is not open for an IPT class at the time of your application, you will be placed in a queue in the order applications are received. Because IPT class sizes are limited and applications are processed in order of receipt, it’s best to apply as soon as you determine a course date that fits your schedule.
What is the total DTC In-Person Track tuition?
The details regarding tuition and student financing options can be found on the DTC In-Person Track page. Full tuition including both the online DTC as well as the In-Person Track add-on is $7,450 (£6,773 for UK-based IPT classes). The application fee and registration fee are included in both of the above tuition rates. The tuition for those upgrading from the DTC to add the In-Person Track is $3,500.
What is the total for Dog Trainer Course tuition (without the In-Person Track)?
The details regarding tuition and student financing options can be found on the Dog Trainer Course page. Full DTC tuition during the launch promo period (now) is $3,950, with financing options available.
When do I register and pay my Dog Trainer Course plus In-Person Track tuition?
Upon notification of acceptance into VSA’s Dog Trainer Course with the In-Person Track, the registration and enrollment process is as follows:
- Determine whether you will apply for tuition financing. If using a VSA financing option, submit the tuition loan application. If financing via a third party (i.e., Climb Credit), complete that loan/financing application and notify VSA once it is processed.
- Register for your course and IPT class by signing the Enrollment Agreement and either paying in full or making your first installment payment of $1,335 (£1,213 for UK classes) registration fee within 5 days of notification of acceptance. This initial payment guarantees your placement in the course and the IPT class.
Do you offer tuition financing?
Yes, tuition installment plans are available for all qualifying students for both the Dog Trainer Course and the DTC In-Person Track. Please visit the Financing page for more details.
Can I get federal or state financial aid?
No, VSA students are currently not eligible for state or federal government financial aid.
Does VSA provide scholarships?
Yes. Employees of confirmed non-profit and/or rescue shelters or organizations are eligible for a 10% reduction in course tuition. Visit the scholarships page for more information.
What is the Fundamentals Course?
VSA’s Fundamentals of Dog Training & Behavior Course is a 10-hour online-only course designed for both dog owners and aspiring pet professionals. The Fundamentals course is a great option for those in the process of deciding which educational opportunities to pursue, as well as those currently figuring out whether a career as a pet professional is right for them. The Fundamentals course tuition is 100% refundable for those who continue on to the Dog Trainer Course or the Online Dog Trainer Course at a later date. Visit the Fundamentals course page for more information.
What are the technical requirements to take a VSA course?
All VSA courses contain an online component, so all students need to have a stable high-speed internet connection. Dog Trainer Course students will also need a webcam and access to a free videoconference tool such as Zoom in order to conduct skills assessments and office hours with their dedicated Faculty Advisor. Full specifics of the minimum required technical specifications for VSA students can be found here.
Do you provide job placement?
Because VSA aims to provide students with the skills, knowledge and confidence to open their own dog training business to offer clients training options such as group classes and private lessons we do not provide traditional job placement. In the event a graduate needs a reference for a future employer in the dog training field, VSA will supply proof of successful completion for VSA graduates.
Will I be a VSPDT when I graduate the VSA Dog Trainer Course?
No, not immediately upon graduation, but after gaining the requisite experience requirements Dog Trainer Course graduates are encouraged to apply to become a VSPDT. For more information about the VSPDT membership requirements, please visit www.vspdt.com.
How does VSA provide support to students?
The primary support mechanism for DTC students is via their dedicated Faculty Advisor with whom they meet weekly for additional learning, content clarifications, discussion, and skills assessments. Additionally, all DTC students have access to an online study group with VSA faculty, staff and fellow students where they can share triumphs, challenges and questions. After graduation, DTC students are provided a suite of business marketing and curriculum tools, access to a VSA Graduates Facebook group, placement and job opportunity postings, and ongoing communications from VSA’s graduate liaison office.
Does the course prepare me to sit for the CPDT exam?
VSA graduates will be well-prepared for the skills and knowledge portion of the CPDT exam. However, there are elements to that certification process which require longer periods of practical experience which you will continue to gain after graduation from the Dog Trainer Course.
Is Victoria Stilwell Academy a licensed school?
VSA is authorized under the Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Institutions Act of 1990.
Does the Dog Trainer Course result in certification or a title?
Graduates of the In-Person DTC become certified as professional dog trainers by VSA and earn the title of “VSA Certified Dog Trainer In-Person” or “VSA-CDT In-Person”. Graduates of the online Dog Trainer Course are also certified as professional dog trainers by VSA and earn the title of “VSA Certified Dog Trainer” or “VSA-CDT.” VSA Graduates are also able to refer to themselves as “Graduate VS Academy,” and use of the phrase “graduate of Victoria Stilwell Academy’s Dog Trainer Course” (or Online Dog Trainer Course.) See additional DTC graduate benefits here.
Got More Questions?
Contact us directly to explore how VSA can help get you started on your path towards becoming a dog training professional and chasing your dreams!