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How to Become a Guard Dog Trainer: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Learn how to become a guard dog trainer. Research the job description and the education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career as a guard dog trainer.

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Do I Want to Be a Guard Dog Trainer?

A professionally trained personal protection dog is a serious investment, often costing tens of thousands of dollars. Guard dog trainers raise and train these dogs to bring out their protective instincts. This career can be highly physical, requiring trainers to bend, kneel, lift and run; it can also require analytical skills, so that trainers can assess how well dogs are responding to training and revise training methods if needed. Animal care and service workers also run a greater risk of workplace injury or illness than the average across careers.

Job Requirements

There's no formal career path to attaining employment as a guard dog trainer. Guard dog trainers have typically completed at least high school, although some employers may prefer candidates with postsecondary education in a related field and/or related professional credentials. The following table contains information on what's needed to become a guard dog trainer:

Common Requirements
Degree Level High school diploma or equivalent is usually required; some postsecondary education may be preferred*
Degree Field Animal science, biology or related field*
Certification Voluntary certification is available*
Experience Experience with animals can be helpful*
Key Skills Instructing, critical thinking, speaking, active learning, active listening, coordination, and judgment and decision making**
Additional Requirements Patience and stamina*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **O*Net Online.

Step 1: Learn to Train Dogs

Though a high school diploma typically is the only education required to work as a guard dog trainer, some prospective trainers choose to complete individual courses or a formal training program at the postsecondary level. For example, future trainers might benefit from classes that explore animal behavior and communication, conditioning or common behavior problems.

Alternatively, aspiring guard dog trainers might pursue an apprenticeship through a business that specializes in canine behavior. While some businesses offer apprenticeships as volunteer opportunities, others charge tuition for them. Apprentices typically complete a series of classes, in addition to hands-on experiences, that cover dog behavior, training techniques and behavior evaluation. Some programs also address such topics as agility and aggression.

Step 2: Test Your Training Skills

Prospective guard dog trainers also might opt to join a dog training club, such as the U.S. Mondioring Association or the Protection Sports Association. These organizations hold competitions for dog/handler teams that involve guard dog skills.

Step 3: Earn Professional Certification

The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers offers two voluntary certifications: the Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) credential for entry-level trainers and the Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge & Skills Assessed (CPDT-KSA) credential for advanced trainers. To qualify for the former, a trainer must have at least a high school diploma, meet experience requirements, submit references and pass a multiple-choice exam. The KSA designation requires a KA credential and passage of a skills-based exam.

Another option is the National Association of Professional Canine Handlers' (NAPCH) Master Trainer certification. This experience-based certification requires at least eight years as a handler, working with multiple dogs. Applicants also need proof of continuing education and the written support of other certified NAPCH Master Trainers.

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