Got Questions?

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):

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.

In-Person Dog Trainer Course (DTC) FAQs

What if I can’t make the In-Person dates work?
The In-Person Dog Trainer Course shares the exact same curriculum and learning delivery system with the Online Dog Trainer Course, so if you can’t travel to the In-Person course intensives or the scheduling doesn’t work out, you have the opportunity to apply for enrollment in the Online version of the course. The only differences between the In-Person and the Online courses are that In-Person students attend the enhanced in-person learning intensives and shadow a local mentor. Learn more about the Online Dog Trainer Course here.

How long does it take to complete the In-Person Dog Trainer Course?
The course takes six months to complete. Visit the In-Person Dog Trainer Course page for additional information.

How is the In-Person Dog Trainer Course structured?
The VSA In-Person Dog Trainer Course is a comprehensive program which combines two in-person Intensives and three Field Modules where students work with an experienced, professional dog trainer/mentor, online learning and bi-weekly real-time Cyber Classes. Students also benefit from a dedicated personal Faculty Advisor throughout their studies. Visit the In-Person Dog Trainer Course page for additional information.

What is the Course Start Date?
The course start date is the first day of the Introduction Module, which begins 60 days before Day 1 of the Primer Intensive. See a list of all In-Person class Course Start Dates here.

What certification do I get as a graduate?
Graduates of the In-Person Dog Trainer Course receive the prestigious VSA-Certified Dog Trainer (VSA-CDT) designation. In-Person course 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 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. The VSA tuition includes being mentored by a professional, rewards-based trainer during two Field Modules, and course-long access to a dedicated Faculty Advisor.

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. Even if you feel there are no qualified potential mentors in your area, it is our 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.

Do I have to devote a specific amount of time to course work every week?
During the in-person Intensives you’ll will spend eight hours each day to complete course work. The remainder of the course work occurs during the Field Modules and the time spent each week will vary depending on how many visits you plan with your mentor each week. Cyber classes meet once every two weeks and last approximately two hours. You can complete online lessons at your convenience as the length of time to complete varies depending on the online lesson content and length, but a good rule of thumb is to reserve approximately 8-10 hours per week for overall coursework.

What are the admission requirements?
To be eligible for admittance, students must be fluent in English, at least 18 years of age when their class begins, have a high school diploma (or equivalent), have the physical capability to handle dogs of different sizes and activity levels, and be able to travel twice 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 for students brand new to dog training & behavior, so no previous dog training experience is required.

How many students are in each DTC class?
VSA limits the number of students in each class to 25. This allows for more personal interaction and a better student-to-faculty ratio during intensives and other teaching sessions.

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 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 force-free dog trainer, please consider joining Victoria’s global network: Victoria Stilwell Positively Dog Training.

I don’t live in the UK or the USA. Can I still do the course?
Yes, you can enroll in the course 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 would work to match you with a mentor who lives in your area so that you could complete the Field modules and other course work from home.

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.

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Online Dog Trainer Course FAQs

What’s the difference between the Online Dog Trainer Course and the In-Person Dog Trainer Course?
While the curriculum and content taught in the two programs is virtually identical, the main differences are that DTC students travel twice for in-person intensives and are assigned a local mentor in their area. While Online DTC students don’t have to travel, they are still provided with a dedicated Faculty Advisor to guide them through the course and conduct assessments. The DTC is 6 months long and the Online DTC is flexible length (though usually between 6-12 months.)

Can I upgrade to the In-Person Course from the Online Dog Trainer Course?
Yes. Any Online Dog Trainer Course student can upgrade at anytime to join the next In-Person Dog Trainer Course, subject to scheduling and availability in the In-Person class. Upgrades to the In-Person track are permitted during and up to one year following graduation from the Online Dog Trainer Course.

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 graduates of the Online DTC 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).

Will I get to talk to a real person during the course?
Yes! Every Online 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.

Do I have to travel during the course?
No. One of the main benefits of the Online DTC is that it eliminates the need to travel while preserving the highest quality education experience available. By utilizing VSA’s powerful Online Student Learning Center and providing each student with a personal Faculty Advisor, we ensure that your learning experience is dynamic, engaging and comprehensive.

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, Online 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. Online 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.

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Mentor/Faculty Advisor Program FAQs

What’s the difference between a Mentor and a Faculty Advisor?
Mentors are provided to in-person Dog Trainer Course students and are local to the student, while Faculty Advisors are provided to Online Dog Trainer Course students and are not local to the student. Mentors provide shadowing and learning opportunities by sharing their time and workload with in-person students, while Faculty Advisors meet weekly with online students for 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?
You’ll be paired with your mentor upon enrollment in the Dog Trainer Course – usually about one month prior to your Course Start Date – and will connect with him or her for a phone call to begin planning your activities. Faculty Advisors are usually assigned within one week of enrollment in the Online Dog Trainer Course.

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 you’re able to complete in 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.

How often will I meet with my Faculty Advisor?
Students meet via scheduled 60-minute Office Hours meetings with their Faculty Advisors nearly every week of the Online Dog Trainer Course. These meetings are flexible and can be arranged around you and your Faculty Advisor’s mutually-agreed schedule.

Can only VSPDT trainers serve as mentors and Faculty Advisors?
No – we have 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 experience and/or your Field Study and Field Training experiences 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 Modules 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 program without the benefit of a qualified mentor experience.

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DTC Intensives FAQ

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” or “VSA-CDT”. 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 – Online” or “VSA-CDT-Online.” 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.

How long are the intensives?
Both the Primer Intensive and the Core Essentials Intensive are 5 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 both the Intensives.

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 each 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 DTC.

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 will help to procure discounted rates at local hotels.

What can I expect at the Intensives?
The Intensives include a variety of activities. Most days include a combination of classroom presentation-style 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 see husbandry training in a zoo. Intensives typically meet from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day.

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Application, Registration & Tuition FAQs

What is the In-Person DTC application process?
First, complete the online application and pay the $100 application fee. VSA will notify you that we have received your application. We will begin processing your application, which will take 2 to 3 weeks. We will notify you via email whether you are accepted into the program, at which point you must pay the $1,395 registration fee (£1,200 for UK-based classes). Upon registration you can choose your payment plan and/or explore financing options with VSA.

What is the Online 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 Online DTC tuition in full, begin making installment payments directly with VSA, or pay the $100 down-payment due if you are financing your tuition.

Is there an application fee?
There is a refundable application fee of $100 US dollars for the In-Person Dog Trainer Course ($99 for the Online Dog Trainer Course) which is due upon submission of your application. If accepted, this amount is credited towards your total tuition. If you do not enroll in the course, VSA will refund your application fee.

When should I submit my DTC application?
Please submit your application as soon as you select a class date. The deadline to apply is 30 days in advance of the Course Start Date. Because 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. Online DTC applications may be submitted at any time.

What is the total DTC tuition?
The details on tuition and student financing options can be found on the Dog Trainer Course page. Full tuition is $6,950 (£5,950 for UK-based classes). The application fee and registration fee are included in both of the above tuition rates.

What is the total Online DTC tuition?
The details regarding tuition and student financing options can be found on the Online Dog Trainer Course page. Full tuition during the launch promo period (now) is $3,450, with financing options available.

When do I register and pay my In-Person DTC tuition?
Upon notification of acceptance into VSA’s In-Person Dog Trainer Course, the registration and enrollment process is as follows:

  1. Register for your class by signing the Enrollment Agreement and paying the $1,395 (£1,200 for UK classes) registration fee within 5 days of notification of acceptance. The registration fee is applied towards your total tuition and guarantees your placement in the course.
  2. Determine whether you will apply for tuition financing. If yes, submit the tuition loan application (US-based classes only).
  3. Finalize Enrollment by paying either the full tuition balance due or your first installment payment (if approved for financing) no later than 2 weeks prior to the Course Start Date.

Do you offer tuition financing?
Yes, tuition installment plans are available for all qualifying students for both the in-person Dog Trainer Course and the Online Dog Trainer Course. Please visit the DTC Financing page or the Online DTC Financing page for more details.

Do you offer 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.

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General FAQs

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.

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.

Does the course prepare me to sit for the CPDT exam?
VSA graduates will be well-prepared for the 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.

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