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Dog Trainer Course Details

Penn Foster Career School’s online Dog Obedience Instructor program can help students gain the knowledge and skills to take the first step towards a job in dog training. This program can be useful for students interested in working at Humane Societies, obedience training facilities, pet stores, or for students looking to learn how to train their own dogs.

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.

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 what dog tricks are and know how to use them, describe what play is and 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

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

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.”

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.

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

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



  • 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.

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.
  • Explain reproductive science, medications, and how to care for dogs in old age.
Graded Project: Behavior Analysis

Determine behavioral problems in three scenarios.

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

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.

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.

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.

Additional Details

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 in the Penn Foster Program. Prospective students should contact the state professional licensing board or similar regulatory body in the state(s) where they plan to work to determine their requirements before enrolling in this Program. Click here for contact information for state licensing/regulatory boards and certain industry licensing information.
Penn Foster Career School is not approved or regulated as a school by the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

Penn Foster Career School Accreditation & Licensing Details

Penn Foster has been accredited for over 50 years. Penn Foster Career School has been thoroughly reviewed and has earned several important accreditations, certifications, and licensing. Most importantly, Penn Foster Career School is both regionally and nationally accredited.

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Progress Tracking and Goal Setting Tools
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Sample Dog Trainer Lesson

Penn Foster courses are written in a way that is easy to understand, and materials are broken down into manageable lessons. Check out what a Dog Trainer course would look like:
Penn Foster Dog Trainer Sample Lesson
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.
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