Animal Behaviorist And The Dog Specialty

For dog lovers everywhere, the thought of working with dogs and owners everyday seems like a dream come true.

As individuals across the United States choose to expand their family by one furry member, the demand for animal behaviorists who specialize in dog care is a growing one.

From obedience training for a new puppy to teaching owners how to properly care for a difficult dog, animal behaviorists who specialize in proper dog handling are needed everywhere.

Depending on the field that dog behaviorists decide to specialize in, the educational and certification requirements will differ. Individuals who work directly with dogs have various career opportunities they can choose from, taking into account their skill and commitment levels.

Dog Obedience Trainer

fox terrier obedience

Photo Credit: Artur Ciesielski

For those who wish to begin working with dogs immediately, a position as a dog obedience trainer is a rewarding career choice.

As dog owners become overwhelmed with the training and time requirements a new puppy requires, many decide to take their dog to obedience school for professional training assistance.

Some specialized dog obedience trainers work only with hunting or show dogs, teaching the animals the necessary skills for success.

Educational Requirements

While there is no formal requirement for individuals to become certified as a dog obedience trainer, most companies prefer to hire applicants who have obtained their certification.

In order to earn one’s certification, individuals can take courses from a local community college or career institute. These courses typically cover a lab component where students learn how to interact with dogs from a trainer’s standpoint of view.

One popular certification course, the Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed designation, is offered by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT). Being highly recognized in the dog training industry, this certification helps increase employment options for dog trainers.

Career Outlook

Based on research conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the growth rate of animal trainers is predicted to increase by 23 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is much higher than the national occupational average. The national mean wage for animal trainers is $30,340 a year, with Delaware offering the highest average annual compensation of $40,870.

Dog Psychologist

Dog psychologists, also referred to as veterinary behaviorists, help owners whose dog struggles with undesirable actions or behaviors, such as biting at guests.

Dog psychologists attempt to understand all aspects of the dog’s environment, helping to identify the specific triggers that cause the dog to lash out.

While most dog psychologists find employment at veterinary clinics, some decide to remain self-employed and set up their own practices.

Educational Requirements

Individuals who wish to become dog psychologists need to earn an advanced degree in animal behavior or biological sciences, with the specific degree required being dependent upon the level of certification.

The required curriculum of most dog psychologists is similar to that of a veterinarian, but most open positions at veterinary clinics are only available to individuals who have earned their Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine.

After graduation, continued certification and licensing is required for dog psychologists. All dog psychologists who are practicing in the United States need to take the North American Veterinary Licensing Exam, which is taken through the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners (NBVME).

Depending on the state, additional exams may be required before the individual is fully certified. After passing the necessary examinations, individuals need to enroll in an internship at an established veterinary clinic for an additional two to three years.

Career Outlook

Based on recent surveys released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the career outlook for dog psychologists appears to follow a similar path to veterinarians. The median salary for dog psychologists is $84,460 a year, with career opportunities expected to increase by twelve percent by 2020.

Police Dog Trainer

For those who love justice and enjoy working with dogs individually, a career as a police dog trainer may be the perfect fit.

The dog training required in this career is considerably different than the training a dog obedience trainer provides, making it difficult to transfer from one to the other after becoming certified.

This exciting career offers opportunities in the public sector as a K-9 police officer or in the private sector as an employee of a contracted dog training agency.

Educational Requirements

Individuals who are interested in working with a private sector dog training company do not need a formal education, but many employers prefer those who have taken courses that cover how to train law enforcement personnel and their dogs at a local community college.

These courses will provide the training and education students need to train dogs to respond properly to law enforcement personnel.

Obtaining a position as a K-9 police officer requires a college degree, and most local, state, and federal agencies require candidates to complete the necessary formal education.

Many employers encourage aspiring K-9 officers to pursue a concentration in criminal justice or law enforcement.

Upon graduation and before entering the work force, officers need to attend a required training course at a police academy. Once an active official, K-9 officers can decide if they would like to work in the department’s canine unit.

Police dog trainers in the public and private sector need to obtain their professional police dog trainers certification. Offered by the National Tactical Police Dog Association (NTPDA), the Professional Handler/Trainer Proficiency Certification is open to both civilian and law enforcement dog trainers.

Career Outlook

According to statistics accumulated by the BLS, the expected growth rate for civilian police animal trainers is three percent, with the median salary being $25,270 annually.

The employment outlook for police and sheriff patrol officers in the K-9 unit is predicted to increase by eight percent by 2020, with the median salary being $55,270 per year.

The opportunities for animal behaviorists who specialize in dog behavior and training are both rewarding and abundant. For dog lovers, a career in the dog behaviorist field may be a perfect fit, offering numerous employment choices and job stability.

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