Certified Dog Trainer – Online Certification | Penn Foster Career School

Dog Trainer

Why Penn Foster Career School?

  • Regionally & Nationally Accredited
  • Self-Paced
  • Supportive
  • Low monthly payments

Online Certificate Program Overview

If you're an animal lover and want to learn how to become a dog trainer, Penn Foster Career School can help. Our Dog Obedience Trainer/Instructor career diploma program can help you learn to train dogs and teach pet owners to better handle their dogs. Course topics range from the basics of dog behavior to special obedience training areas.

With our online dog training school, you can begin working toward a career as a dog behaviorist or trainer - all from home and at a pace that's right for you. You can complete the program in as few as seven months.

If you want to become a dog trainer, Penn Foster Career School is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about how you can start your career in the obedience training field. 

Curriculum Details

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal

The Dog Obedience Trainer/Instructor career diploma program prepares students for a career as an entry-level dog obedience trainer.

Program Outcomes

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Identify the senses of a canine and know how they function, and define the learning theory and classical and operant conditioning
  • Describe common behavior problems and strategies for prevention and treatment, identify the pros and cons of punishment versus reinforcement, as well as the signals and displays that dogs use to communicate with each other and with humans
  • Apply knowledge of behavior problems by recommending behavior modification plans for the dogs in the three given scenarios
  • Define dog testing, state the functions of the American Kennel Club, and list its seven major groups of dog breeds
  • Apply knowledge of dog selection by selecting an appropriate breed for the persons in the case studies as well as selecting an inappropriate breed
  • Identify the various types of canine training, know the commands to teach dogs basic obedience, and recognize types of dog-training equipment
  • Apply knowledge of agility training by examining agility course diagrams and indicating correct and incorrect sequences and identifying handling techniques
  • Identify dog tricks are and know how to use them, describe what play is an why it's important for a domesticated dog, as well as name recreational activities involving dogs
  • Name the exercises required for classes of competition and describe the ways dogs are used to assist humans
  • Describe basic nutrition, reproductive function, and caring for a dog in old age, as well as know first-aid procedures for shock and wounds
  • Outline a dog training business plan, describe effective advertising and marketing strategies, and describe how canine day care centers are run
  • Apply knowledge of the dog training business by writing an evaluation of the demographics as they pertain to starting a dog training business and providing information necessary to develop a business plan

Unit 1

Starting Your Program

Succeed by learning how to use your Penn Foster program.


  • Understand how to use your Student Portal.
  • Access the Penn Foster Community and use it to find answers.
  • Connect with Penn Foster on various social media sites.
Introduction to the Dog Training Profession


  • Know the structure of the dog.
  • Understand the different types of training.
  • Know the history and ethology of the dog.
Additional Unit Material

Video: Introduction to Dog Training and Instruction

Unit 2

Sensory Abilities of the Dog


  • Recognize how dogs see, hear, taste, detect scents, and use touch.
  • Understand how to use your knowledge of a dog’s senses in the training process.
  • Know how to recognize hearing loss or poor eyesight.
Social Behavior and Communication


  • Understand how and why dogs communicate.
  • Evaluate a dog’s demeanor by watching “from head to tail.”
  • Understand a dog’s relationship with its human “pack.”

Unit 3

How Dogs Learn


  • Recognize the way in which dogs learn.
  • Identify and employ scientific theories of psychologists and behaviorists.
  • Understand how to use a dog’s learning abilities to teach and motivate.


  • Understand conditioning and how it relates to dog obedience training.
  • Recognize the difference between classical and operant conditioning.
  • Understand drive theory and its application.
Applied Dog Behavior


  • Understand applied dog behavior.
  • Know the difference between punishment and reinforcement.
  • Understand the difference between nature and nurture.
  • Recognize the effects of genetics.
  • Explain clicker training and the scientific principles behind it.

Unit 4

Testing and Selection of Dogs


  • Explain temperament testing.
  • Know how to use temperament testing to evaluate puppies.
  • Understand how to select the best dog for a particular client.
Housetraining and Crate Training


  • Recognize proper housetraining techniques.
  • Understand how to train a dog to go on command, in a litter box, or in one place.
  • Know how to choose and use a crate.
Graded Project: Dog Selection

Make recommendations to clients about what dog would be best for them.

Additional Unit Material

Supplement: Testing and Selection of Breeders

Learning Aid: Dog Breed Chart

Unit 5

Canine Equipment


  • Recognize the various types of equipment on the market.
  • Know how to choose proper food and water bowls, leashes, and toys.
  • Identify common grooming equipment.


  • Understand basic obedience training.
  • Differentiate between traditional, modified traditional, and clicker training methods.
  • Demonstrate hand signals.
Additional Unit Material

Video: Educate Your Dog

Unit 6



  • Know how to ensure a positive human/dog bond at an early age.
  • Demonstrate puppy house training.
  • Understand socialization and how to prevent problems in adult dogs.
Teaching Tricks


  • Instruct clients to teach tricks to their dogs.
  • Identify positive reinforcement techniques for the dog and handler.
  • Demonstrate fun and useful tricks.
Training through Play


  • Recognize play behavior.
  • Understand play in the context of obedience training.
  • Know how to increase the dog's motivation for training.

Unit 7

Behavior Problems


  • Identify common behavior problems.
  • Recognize strategies for the prevention and treatment of behavior problems.
  • Create treatment plans for behavior problems.
Basic Veterinary Issues


  • Recognize signs of illness or distress.
  • Demonstrate how to respond in the case of an emergency.
  • Understand how to address behavioral problems.
  • Explain reproductive science, medications, and how to care for dogs in old age.
Graded Project: Behavior Analysis

Determine behavioral problems in three scenarios.

Unit 8

Dog Breeds


  • Know the origination of individual breeds.
  • Recognize physical and temperamental characteristics.
  • Identify the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) seven major groups of breeds.
Competition Obedience


  • Understand the basics of competition obedience.
  • Explain the various exercises required for different classes of competition obedience.
  • Know the scoring process for competition obedience trials.
Additional Unit Material

Reference: The Right Dog for You

Unit 9

Hunting Training


  • Identify the various hunting breeds.
  • Know the rules and regulations of various field trials and hunting tests.
  • Demonstrate different training methods.
Assistance Dogs


  • Identify guide, hearing, service, seizure alert, and therapy dogs.
  • Recognize how dogs can assist in medical emergencies.
  • Understand the legal aspects of working with an assistance dog.

Unit 10

Agility Training


  • Recognize navigating agility courses as a sport.
  • Understand speed and accuracy in competition.
  • Understand communication between dog and master.
Search and Rescue Training


  • Understand techniques in ground and water searches.
  • Identify which dogs are suitable for a particular rescue mission.
  • Identify organizations involved in search and rescue around the world.
  • Recognize certificates associated with this work.
Recreational Activities with Dogs


  • Understand sharing “down-time” with dogs.
  • Recognize different recreational activities, including catching flying disc and walks in the park.
  • Identify organized activities for the dog and owner.
Graded Project: Agility Handling and Courses

Learn the symbols used to represent agility obstacles and how the symbols are used to create a variety of courses.

Unit 11

The Dog Training Business, Part 1


  • Identify the demographics related to starting a dog training business.
  • Know how to develop a business plan.
  • Understand advertising and marketing issues.
  • Identify legal issues related to a small business.
  • Understand customer relations.
The Dog Training Business, Part 2


  • Recognize the requirements for boarding your clients’ dogs.
  • Know cleaning, feeding, exercise, and grooming schedules.
  • Understand canine day care center staff requirements and management.
  • Identify various training programs, including at-home, boarding (in-house), and group and puppy classes.
Graded Project: Creating a Business Plan

Evaluate the demographics of different geographical areas as they pertain to starting a dog training business.

Gather information that you would need to have for a business plan if you were going to have a dog training business of your own.

Computer Specifications
As you know this is an online academic program. This means you will need high-speed internet access to begin your program. In addition, you will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows 7® or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running OS X® or later, and an email account to participate in and complete your program.

We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.
Microsoft and Windows are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.
Apple, Mac, and OS X are trademarks of Apple, Inc registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.

Sample Lesson

To view a Dog Obedience/Trainer sample lesson, click here.

Dog Obedience Trainer/Instructor Program Details

In the Penn Foster Career School Dog Training program, you'll study topics such as:

State Licensing Information

Licensing and/or certification requirements for jobs in this field are not the same in every state and may include educational, testing, and/or experiential requirements beyond those offered by your Penn Foster Program. You should contact the state professional licensing board or similar regulatory body in the state(s) where you plan to work to determine their requirements before enrolling in your Program. Please click here for contact information for state licensing/regulatory boards and certain industry licensing information.

Dog Trainer Online Program

Dog obedience trainers train dogs and teach pet owners how to train and handle their own animals. As a dog obedience trainer/instructor, you can prepare dogs for law-enforcement or security, work for a dog obedience training facility or a pet store, or start a training business of your own. Here are a few qualities that effective dog obedience trainers/instructors have in common:

  • Patient: It takes time and practice to properly train a dog.
  • Communicative: You listen and talk through situations with dog owners, and are confident in giving commands to dogs.
  • Sociable: Spending time with others is fun and rewarding.
  • Compassionate: You care about the health and well-being of other people and animals.

The education I received from Penn Foster was amazing. The information in my Dog Obedience Trainer/Instructor Program was outstanding. It has made a difference in how I train my own dogs. I highly recommend Penn Foster. The website is easy to navigate. When I was preparing to enroll in my program, the person I spoke with on the phone was really helpful explaining financing, the curriculum, and she was very pleasant to talk with.

- Janine G., Dog Obedience Trainer/Instructor student

I am so happy that I made a career change with the help of Penn Foster. Penn Foster makes it easy, and they are always supportive and encouraging to you. Whenever I had a question, I just gave my instructors a call, and they were very helpful and easy to talk with. And, the online testing made it convenient.

- Christina R., Penn Foster Career School graduate

Your program includes:

  • Customized payment plans with 0% interest
  • Books and learning aids, including videos, references, and a dog breed chart
  • Goal-setting and progress-tracking tools
  • Instructional support from our experienced faculty
  • Access 24/7 to Penn Foster’s online community, plus immediate membership in the Dog Obedience Trainer/Instructor academic group
  • Your personalized online student homepage and learning portal
  • Additional resources such as our online library and career guidance from Career Cruising

What are the benefits of the Dog Obedience Trainer/Instructor Program?

The Dog Obedience Trainer/Instructor Program teaches students the necessary skills to successfully train dogs. This program can be useful for students to use on their own dogs, or for students hoping to work at Humane Societies, obedience training facilities, or pet stores.

More FAQs >

¹ Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, "Occupational Outlook Handbook," 2014-15 Edition, Animal Care and Service Workers, on the Internet here. Statistics found in the United States Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook are based on national data, so job growth in your area may be different.

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