Do you love dogs? Would you like to turn your love for dogs into a fulfilling career? Are you already a pet professional who wants to expand your knowledge and skills?
There are many career opportunities for people who want to work directly with dogs. You’ll find choices not only in the type of work, but in how often you work (part-time or full-time, daytime or evenings). You can build your own business or work for another pet business or animal organization. The flexibility and opportunities are unlimited.
What kind of careers involve working with dogs?
From medical staff to pet care providers to office staff, pet businesses need quality people in every role. Some common—and not so common—jobs that work with dogs include:
Dog Trainer | Groomer | Dog Walker | Pet Sitter | Pet Store Associate | Veterinarian | Veterinary Technician | Veterinary Assistant | Marketing or Communications Manager for a Pet Business | Animal Shelter Manager | Pet Resort Employee | Adoption Services Coordinator | Community Outreach Manager | Pet Insurance Manager | Service Dog Trainer | K9 Officer | Animal Control Officer | Dog Massage Therapist | Veterinary Acupuncturist | Pet Photographer | Behavior Specialist | Pet Blogger or Content Writer | Pooper Scooper | Search and Rescue | Veterinary Office Manager | Animal Shelter Trainer and more.
In addition, pet companies need business support. Positions such as customer service representatives, accountants, tech support and administrative assistants can be found on pet business hiring lists. Even if none of the business support roles appeal to you, you may find that there’s a career category waiting to be defined. We pet professionals are problem-solvers at our core and the industry is constantly evolving, so there’s immense opportunity for diving in, defining a challenge you want to work on and setting up a career to do just that. Many career categories in the pet industry didn’t exist 20 years ago and now do thanks to enterprising, passionate pet professionals who saw a need.
Two important aspects of building a dog-centric career
If you’re considering a career working with dogs then you’re likely passionate, love dogs and (we think) a pretty fun person. After all, we love dog people here at the Victoria Stilwell Academy. And loving dog people is probably going to be important for you too, if you choose a career working with dogs.
What many prospective pet professionals don’t realize is just how much people-work goes into working with the dogs we love. So this is important to keep in mind:
1- To work with dogs is to work with dog people.
It’s often assumed that some people choose an animal-related career to avoid working closely with other humans. However, our expert trainers at the Victoria Stilwell Academy will assure you the profession is quite people-positive!
Working with dogs includes successfully teaching and supporting dog owners. Whether you are a veterinarian, a dog walker or a dog trainer, each dog is often only in your direct care for a few moments or hours. If you’ve done your job well, the owner will be able to follow your instructions when they take their dog home – and for the rest of the dog’s life. Whether it’s educating owners in person, in a group environment, or even through writing or online, anyone working with dogs will likely work with people, too.
The second aspect of working with dogs has more to do with modern life:
2- Great pet business owners get comfortable with tech.
As we saw during lockdown, nearly every aspect of modern-day life needs to have an online or virtual component these days. Even if your dream is to run a business with 100% in-person services, tech tools can improve your communication with clients and streamline your daily work. From communication with clients, to teaching online, to marketing your business and accepting payment, you’re bound to spend at least part of your day on the computer in a pet business.
There are a lot of software options out there to help make it easier to work with dogs, including tools to track dog activity, book appointments and manage other day-to-day aspects of the business. Being willing to use these technical tools can make life a lot simpler if you dream of running or working for a dog-related business.
What skills will I need to work with dogs?
With so many different opportunities to work with dogs, skills will vary largely on the work role you fill. However, if you want to work directly with dogs, you will need to start out with a basic understanding of dog behavior and handling.
- Basic canine anatomy and ethology.
- Breed information.
- Understanding canine body language.
- Understanding and employing modern, effective positive dog training tools and methods.
- Canine health and science knowledge, and a good relationship with a veterinarian to consult for medical guidance.
You’ll also want to develop the soft skills that help make a pet professional successful with both dogs and their owners.
- Active listening.
- Creative problem-solving.
- Peerless human communication skills.
- Collaboration and teamwork.
- Effective leadership.
- Unbounded love for dogs and the desire to make their lives with their owners the best they can be.
No matter how you dream of working with dogs, we can help you develop the dog behavior knowledge and know-how you’ll need. Check out our courses for dog professionals >>
Can I make a living working with dogs?
Without a doubt—if dogs are what you are passionate about—YES.
- Working with dogs can be fulfilling part-time work for people who have another full-time or part-time job but who want additional income doing something they enjoy.
- It’s also an excellent option if you want to work for an already established pet business or organization. They are always in need of people with the skills, talent and drive to make life better for dogs.
- Or go ahead and take the first steps toward your business-owning dream. Research the profession you are interested in, attend workshops, take courses, and begin your journey toward independent success.
If dog training is on your radar as a profession you’d enjoy, you can read more here about how much dog trainers make.
What qualifications will I need to work with dogs?
Qualifications will largely depend on the type of career you are considering. Medical and nutrition professionals will likely require a college degree, ranging from an associate degree up to a doctorate. However, don’t let the lack of a college degree stop your dream of working with a veterinarian. Office, marketing, and animal care staff are very involved with veterinary clients and dogs, and some of these jobs may not require a degree.
Are you interested in becoming a dog trainer? Their educational path usually involves a certificate-granting dog trainer program like our Victoria Stilwell Academy. Most dog trainers end up running their own businesses during their careers, and the VSA Dog Trainer Course provides the skill, knowledge and confidence to become both an expert dog trainer and a knowledgeable business marketer/manager.
In other professions, individual employers may or may not require a college degree or private coursework, depending on the position. Some business owners are willing to train on the job or accept previous experience.
There are affordable and flexible ways to become qualified to work with dogs besides, or in addition to, college.
- Job shadowing.
- Volunteer work.
- On-the-job experience.
- Non-college courses, and certification by a private business or association like the Victoria Stilwell Academy.
Most animal careers have professional organizations that can provide training, certification, and continuing education. Animal sheltering, pet sitting, dog training, service dog training, and veterinary technology are just a few. If your schedule is tight right now, many courses and conferences are available online.
To work with dogs, all you really need is the desire to learn, the drive to seek out educational opportunities, and the passion to make the world a better place for dogs and the people who love them.
What is your next step?
So…do you love dogs? Do you want to see them live happier lives in their homes? Are you interested in working with them as a new career or as a rewarding side job? No matter what dog-related career you are ultimately considering, we believe coursework in dog training is a great place to start. You’ll gain crucial insight into the life of dogs and their relationships with humans.
Get started right now with one of Victoria Stilwell Academy’s free starter courses, “Building Your Dog’s Confidence” or “Being a Good Pet Neighbor.” Or jump right into our flagship Dog Trainer Course (online and in-person options available) and take the first steps into your dog training career!