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Do you think of your first dog when you look back on your childhood? Do you visit your nearest animal shelter frequently just to play with the animals? Does your dog have his own wardrobe? If this sounds like you, why not take your love of dogs and start a career in the pet-care industry? This guide to working with dogs as a professional will explain some of the jobs available.

Pet ownership is exploding all around the world, but especially in the United States. More pets mean more of a need for pet related businesses and pet professionals and petpreneurs. There are many different areas of the pet industry that you could work in, including:

  • Doggy daycare
  • Dog health and wellness
  • Dog grooming services
  • Dog walking business
  • Dog breeding business
  • Dog training services
  • Manufacturing dog products
  • Dog food and treats manufacturing
  • Selling dog supplies
  • Dog boarding and kenneling
  • Online pet businesses

…and many more. In our Business section, we’re hoping to extensively cover at least one type of dog business every week, so make sure to follow Top Dog Tips to receive updated information on many different areas of the pet industry.

Guide to Working with Dogs as a Professional

I’ve taken a closer look at some of the most common professions for people interested in working with dogs. Whether you just want to work in one of these businesses or you’d like to own one, the possibilities are numerous. More dog related businesses are popping up all the time, and with the increase in the number of pets around the world, there seems to always be a strong need for more.

Photo: oddsock

1Boarding Kennels

Boarding kennels offer a multitude of job offerings. You can be one of the dog handlers or work at the front desk receiving animals from their owners and releasing them when their families come back to pick them up. Some kennels hire people to sit with the dogs over night as well.

There are kennel managers who run the overall day-to-day operations of a boarding kennel, including supervising the assistants, overseeing maintenance of the facilities, ordering food and supplies, receiving and releasing dogs from the kennel, and dealing with clients personally. If you’d be more interested in the management side, that would be a great option for you to look into.

RELATED: Best Obedience School for Dogs & How to Pick One

Some kennel owners offer additional services to make extra money. Some of the additional services include providing transportation for dogs to and from their homes to the veterinarian, airport, and other locations, extending boarding services to cats and other animals, and professional grooming. You could be involved in any of these services if you choose.

Photo: Newtown grafitti

2Dog Walker

Being a dog walker is exactly what the name implies–you are paid to walk other people’s dogs. Trustworthiness and reliability are crucial for a career as a dog walker. A love for dogs, a willingness to be outside in all kinds of weather, and patience in handling several dogs at once, are also necessary.

This is one of the few jobs for dog lovers that doesn’t require any special training or experience. Some companies, mostly in larger cities, hire dog walkers to walk dogs for their clients. However, many dog walking companies are just single people, or maybe two or three people, who organize and run their own dog walking business.

If you’re thinking a dog walking business may be right for you, you can check out our column How to Start a Dog Walking Business. It’s full of tips and tricks for starting your business as well as some in depth information about what it will take to get your business off the ground.

Photo: HBarrison

3Dog Sitter

A dog sitter, like a babysitter, takes care of a dog in his home when his owner is away. They make sure the dog has food and water and may also be asked to do things like water the plants, feed the fish, etc. As with dog walking, trustworthiness and reliability are crucial in being a dog sitter.

RELATED: 11 Vital Tips on How to Take Care of a Dog

This is another business that won’t cost you a lot of overhead to start yourself, but you could also work for a company that hires dog sitters. It really just depends on the level of responsibility that you’re willing to take on.

All the typical responsibilities of a pet owner will fall onto you while you pet sit. You’ll be required to follow their daily routine, clean up any messes they make, take them to appointments, and be responsible for them if any medical issues arise. It may sound like a lot of fun to be a dog sitter, but it’s also a lot of work and a lot of responsibility.

Photo: Georgie Pauwels

4Animal Behaviorist

An animal behaviorist is a specialist who examines issues with a pet’s behavior and figures out solutions for their owner. Sometimes pets are taken to the vet when they display a strange behavior and there is nothing medically wrong with them. That’s when dog owners may seek the help of an animal behaviorist.

The demand for animal behaviorists has grown as the number of pets and pet owners continue to increase. You really need to have a solid academic background in animal behavior and extensive experience and knowledge to make a living in this field. Without proper training you will not be taken seriously as an animal behaviorist.

RELATED: Dog Trainer Certification: Guide for Newbies

There are still only a small number of practitioners as this is a relatively new field, and acquiring the amount of knowledge and experience necessary to be competent can take years. There is years of schooling required to specialize in animal behavior and unless you’re willing to make that commitment, this is not the field for you.

Photo: recastle

5Dog Trainer

Dog trainers teach dog owners how to train their own dogs and teach dogs to obey commands. Dogs that have at least the most fundamental obedience training have much happier owners. The neighbors and the community are better off, and the dogs are happier as well. In short, a well trained dog is the best kind to have.

RELATED: How to start a Dog Training Business

Most trainers make a living teaching dog owners, though there are some trainers who make a living just from teaching the basics to individual dogs. A notable exception would be trainers of dogs that compete in field events such as hunting.

No matter what kind of dog training you would like to be involved in, you will need to be well trained yourself. Dog trainers must become certified and in most regions they must hold a valid dog training license as well.

Photo: zenjazzygeek

6Dog Groomer

Groomers are the beauticians and barbers of the dog world, but it’s not always as much fun as it sounds. Some of the responsibilities of being a groomer include bathing the dog and brushing and styling his coat. A groomer also gets rid of fleas, cleans the dogs teeth and ears and cuts his nails.

RELATED: How to Become a Dog Groomer

Groomers must also learn the unique requirements to groom certain breeds, such as poodles for example. For those who enjoy a hands-on approach with dogs, being a groomer can be a rewarding profession. Also, when working with dogs as a professional this is one of the most versatile positions you can have.

In order to be a groomer you will need proper training. Some secondary schools are offering dog grooming classes now and they are becoming more popular, but a lot of dog groomers get their start by apprenticing under an experienced groomer. You can learn more about becoming a dog groomer in our column How to Start a Dog Grooming Business.

Photo: SheltieBoy

7AKC Staff

The American Kennel Club (AKC) was founded in 1884 and has more than 500 employees. Not only is it the leading regulatory agency for dog shows and performance events, it is also the United States’ principal purebred dog registry. A job with a company like the AKC could lead you to much bigger things in the pet industry.

The executive field staff fulfills the AKC’s responsibility to oversee the sport of purebred dogs by attending dog shows and performance events. To be an executive staff member, you must have an extensive background in purebred dogs. This job isn’t for everyone, but if you have a favorite breed and you’re interested in putting in the time and effort, you could become qualified.

Other AKC jobs are as diverse as working for the AKC Gazette, computer software development, finance and accounting, and customer service. Other AKC departments include a library, canine legislation, public education, and advertising. The reason that I added this to my guide to working with dogs as a professional is because you could get a job in virtually any field with the AKC.

Photo: SheltieBoy

8Purebred Dog Handler Professional

Speaking of dog shows, the person paid to handle other people’s dogs at shows is called a professional handler. Wanting a dog to receive the title of Champion is one of the most popular reasons to hire a professional handler. A certain number of points needs to be made in order for the dog to become a Champion. Points are received based on how they compete with other dogs of the same sex.

RELATED: What Breed is My Dog?

The owner can compete or “campaign” for Best in Show, group wins, and Best of Breed once a dog receives its championship. Coordinating a travel schedule, filling out the necessary forms to participate in dog shows, and negotiating contracts between owners and the field handler, are also part of a handler’s job.

You’ll need extensive training for this profession as well, but if you love a certain breed of dogs it could be the right fit for you. To be happy as a professional handler, you will need a strong love of traveling and the sport of purebred dogs. You will also be dealing with many different people, including your client, so strong interpersonal skills are a must.

Additional Resources

For more detailed information about specific dog-related careers and jobs, contact these organizations:

The Graphic Artists Guild
90 John St., Suite 403
New York, NY 10038
1-800-500-2672
gag.org

Professional Photographers of America
229 Peachtree St., NE, Suite 2200
Atlanta, GA 30303
1-800-786-6277
ppa.com

National Animal Control Association
O. Box 480851
Kansas City, MO 64148
www.nacanet.org

Professional Handlers Association
17017 Norbrook Drive
Olney, MD 20832
301-924-0089

National Dog Groomers Association of America
O. Box 101
Clark, PA 16113
724-962-2711
www.nationaldoggroomers.com

Animal Behavior Society
Indiana University
2611 East 10th St. 170
Bloomington, IN 47408-2603
812-856-5541
animalbehavior.org

National Association of Professional Pet Sitters
17000 Commerce Parkway, Suite C
Laurel, NJ 08054
856-439-0324
www.petsitters.org

American Boarding Kennels Association
1702 East Pikes Peak Avenue
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
719-667-1600
abka.com

American Veterinary Medical Association
1931 N. Meacham Road, Suite 100
Schaumburg, IL 60173
847-925-8070
avma.org