How to Become a Dog Trainer in Missouri: The Ultimate Guide

Key Takeaways:

  • There are several pathways to becoming a dog trainer in Missouri including formal education, apprenticeships, and certification programs.
  • Choosing an accredited certification program that provides hands-on experience is recommended.
  • Gaining practical experience by volunteering, working with dogs, or shadowing a professional trainer is crucial.
  • Developing a business plan, marketing strategy, and competitive pricing structure is key to starting a successful dog training business.
  • Ongoing education through conferences, books, courses, and events allows dog trainers to stay current on the latest techniques.


A dog trainer teaches dogs basic obedience commands, addresses common behavior issues like jumping or pulling on the leash, and helps strengthen the bond between humans and canines. Dog trainers may work at kennels, animal shelters, dog daycares, boarding facilities, or have their own private training business.

There are many benefits to becoming a dog trainer in Missouri. The dog training industry is projected to grow 10% from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations. As more people adopt dogs during the pandemic, demand for trainers continues rising. Missouri also has minimal regulations on the profession compared to some states, making it easier to start a training business.

This guide will cover everything you need to know about becoming a dog trainer in Missouri including education, certification, gaining experience, starting a business, and continuing education. Follow these key steps to begin an exciting and rewarding career working with dogs and their owners.

Requirements to Become a Dog Trainer in Missouri

Missouri has no statewide laws regulating or licensing dog trainers, so there are minimal requirements to work in this field. However, most employers or clients will expect you to have:

  • A high school diploma or equivalent
  • Certification from an accredited dog training program
  • Hands-on experience working with dogs
  • Strong communication and people skills
  • A passion for animal behavior and welfare

While not mandatory, having a degree in a relevant field like animal science or biology can be preferred by some employers. Many dog trainers choose to get certified even though Missouri does not require it since it demonstrates credibility and expertise.

How to Choose a Dog Trainer Certification Program

There are two main types of certification programs:

Accredited programs: These are approved by organizations like the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) or the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (NADOI). Accredited programs usually involve rigorous coursework, exams, hands-on training, and continuing education. They allow you to receive a nationally-recognized credential.

Non-accredited programs: Offered by independent schools, these programs vary greatly in quality. Make sure to do your research to ensure the curriculum is comprehensive and instructors are qualified. These programs lead to a certificate of completion rather than a certification.

When choosing any dog trainer certification program, look for:

  • A focus on positive reinforcement techniques. Avoid programs that teach punishment-based methods.
  • Opportunities to gain hands-on experience through apprenticeships, internships, or training dogs.
  • Instructors who are professional dog trainers with years of experience.
  • A high pass rate for graduates who take accredited exams.
  • Continuing education requirements to maintain certification.

Tips for Success in the Dog Training Industry

Here are some top tips for launching a rewarding career as a dog trainer in Missouri:

  • Gain as much hands-on experience as possible before starting your own business.
  • Build relationships with local veterinarians, pet stores, shelters, and other businesses that could refer clients to you.
  • Focus on your niche like behavioral issues, competition training, puppy classes, etc.
  • Create social media profiles and a website to showcase your skills and services.
  • Continue learning new techniques and theories through books, conferences, courses, podcasts, and other resources.
  • Obtain business insurance and the proper licenses/permits in your city or county.
  • Join professional associations like the Association of Professional Dog Trainers to stay connected to the industry.
  • Be patient – building a thriving dog training business takes time and dedication.

Pathways to Becoming a Dog Trainer

There are several educational and career pathways to becoming a dog trainer in Missouri depending on your current experience and credentials.

Formal Education

Earning a degree in a field like animal science, biology, psychology, or veterinary technology can provide extensive knowledge about dog behavior, training techniques, health issues, and business operations. Some programs may offer hands-on training experience. A degree may be required for managerial positions at major training companies. Some options include:

  • Certificate: Can be completed in less than 1 year. Focuses on basic obedience training, learning theory, and instructor skills.
  • Associate's degree: Takes 2 years to complete. Includes general education courses plus introductory dog training/behavior courses.
  • Bachelor's degree: Takes 4 years to complete. Provides in-depth study of animal behavior, psychology, business, and training methods.
  • Master's degree: Takes 1-2 years after a bachelor's degree. For those interested in research, academia, or high-level behavioral positions.


Apprenticeships allow you to learn directly from an experienced professional dog trainer over a set period of time, usually 1-2 years. This involves shadowing a trainer, assisting with group classes, and hands-on practice training dogs under supervision. Apprenticeships can provide excellent real-world experience.

Online Courses

For a more flexible option, online dog training courses allow you to study on your own schedule and may cost less than in-person programs. Look for courses that include videos of training techniques, detailed lesson plans, exam prep, instructor support, and business advice. Hands-on practice is still essential.

Choosing a Dog Trainer Certification Program

Earning certification from an accredited training program is highly recommended to boost your credibility and career prospects as a professional dog trainer in

Missouri. Here are some top certification programs:

Accredited Programs

  • Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT): Considered the gold standard in dog trainer certification, the CCPDT offers the Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and Certified Behavior Consultant Canine (CBCC-KA) credentials.
  • National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (NADOI): Provides the Certified Obedience Instructor (COI) certification requiring 200 hours of instruction and passing a comprehensive exam.
  • International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC): Offers the Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC) credential with eligibility requirements and exams.

Non-Accredited Programs

  • Animal Behavior College: Offers a Dog Trainer Professional Program including hands-on externships. Graduates receive a certificate of completion.
  • Starmark Academy: Provides a Dog Trainer Course with a focus on remote training collars, prong collars and other tools. Graduates earn a diploma.
  • KPA Dog Trainer Academy: Founded by renowned trainer Victoria Stilwell, this program focuses on positive reinforcement. Graduates receive a certificate.

When selecting any certification program, make sure to review the instructor qualifications, pass rates, hands-on training, fees, and reputation. An accredited program can provide the highest level of credibility.

Obtaining Dog Training Experience

Before launching your own dog training business, it is crucial to gain hands-on experience working with dogs and clients in real-world settings:

Volunteering at Animal Shelters

Animal shelters often need volunteers to help train and socialize dogs, especially those with behavioral issues. This allows you to practice addressing common problems like fear, aggression, separation anxiety and more.

Working as a Dog Walker or Pet Sitter

Working for a dog walking or pet sitting company provides daily experience interacting with all types of dogs and learning their individual personalities and needs.

Shadowing a Professional Dog Trainer

Look for opportunities to shadow an experienced dog trainer at group classes, private lessons, or board and trains. Observing their teaching methods can help you develop your own style.

Starting a Dog Training Business

Once you have completed the necessary education and gained experience, you can begin the process of starting your own dog training business in Missouri.

Follow these steps to launch your own successful dog training business:

Develop a Business Plan

Your business plan should cover your services, pricing, target markets, operations, marketing, and financial projections. Define your business structure – LLC, sole proprietorship, etc.

Choose a Business Name and Branding

Pick a memorable business name and create a logo that reflects your training philosophy and image. Get advice from professionals on branding.

Obtain Business Licenses and Permits

Research the business license and permit requirements for your city and county. You may need a sales tax ID number, occupational license, or zoning permits.

Set Up Your Business Location

Determine if you will train dogs out of your home, travel to clients, rent training space, or open a dedicated facility. Make sure to check local zoning laws.

Create Website, Social Media & Marketing Materials

A professional website and social media presence allows you to promote your business and share training advice to attract clients. Design business cards, brochures, etc.

Set Pricing and Service Packages

Benchmark local competitors when setting pricing for group classes, private lessons, board and trains, and other services. Offer bundled packages and discounts to provide value.

Continue Your Dog Training Education

Ongoing seminars, courses, certifications, conferences, and memberships keep your skills sharp as the industry evolves. Stay up to date on the latest positive reinforcement techniques.

Following these steps can help you build a thriving and rewarding dog training business helping local Missouri families raise happy, healthy, well-trained dogs.

Finding Dog Training Jobs in Missouri

Instead of starting your own business, another option is to seek employment as a dog trainer in Missouri at an established company. Some places that hire dog trainers include:

Pet Stores

Major pet retail chains like Petco, PetSmart, and Pet Supplies Plus frequently hire dog trainers to run group puppy and obedience classes onsite. This provides exposure to large numbers of puppy and adult dog clients.

Dog Daycares and Boarding Facilities

Facilities that provide dog daycare, boarding, or overnight stays often employ trainers to conduct training sessions and address problem behaviors. This allows you to train dogs in a group setting.

Veterinary Clinics

Some veterinary clinics and hospitals hire certified trainers to assist with behavioral issues, separation anxiety, fear, and aggression in canine patients. You work alongside veterinarians and techs.

Animal Shelters and Rescues

Shelters and rescues utilize trainers to work with dogs, especially those with major behavior challenges due to past trauma or lack of socialization. The goal is making dogs more adoptable.

Private Dog Training Companies

Larger dog training businesses like SitMeansSit or Bark Busters have trainers across the country who provide in-home lessons. You are assigned a territory in Missouri.

Mobile Dog Grooming Services

Mobile grooming businesses sometimes employ dog trainers to offer basic obedience training during grooming visits for added convenience to clients.

To get hired as a dog trainer without prior professional experience, highlight any hands-on experience from apprenticeships, volunteering, working with your own dogs, or shadowing other trainers. Some employers may prefer or require certification.

Building your resume through any dog training jobs, even part-time, provides valuable experience before eventually starting your own training business.


Becoming a dog trainer in Missouri can be an extremely rewarding career choice for animal lovers. With minimal barriers to entry compared to other states, Missouri provides a friendly environment to start a training business or find employment at an established company.

By following the step-by-step guide above, you can gain the proper education, hands-on skills, certification, business knowledge, and experience needed to succeed as a professional dog trainer. Your passion for improving the lives of dogs and strengthening the human-canine bond will fuel a meaningful career working with man's best friend.

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