When we think of a career working with animals we often think of low paid jobs or years of hard study. It is true that some careers working with animals are not the best paid, but who needs lots of money when you are doing something so vocational, that you love and that is so rewarding? There are other opportunities out there though that will still allow you to follow your dreams whilst living a comfortable lifestyle too.
Take the Time to Think About Your Skills, Passions, Work Ethic and Qualification Levels
Some jobs will require different qualifications or certification depending on the country that you live in and some may require some investment to get started. It may also be worth volunteering with an organisation before taking the plunge full time to understand if it is really what you thought it would be.
Some of the jobs working with dogs can be physically and emotionally draining, very hands-on and involve a lot of people skills too. Be honest with yourself about where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
Here are eighteen careers with dogs that may spark some inspiration. We have outlined whether qualifications are required if the pay prospects are good and what some of the pros and cons of the jobs are. No job is perfect and it is always better to be aware of what some of the downsides are before you make a final decision.
1. Dog Walker/Sitter
This is probably one of the most popular choices. You can set up your own dog walking company without too much investment, you do not need any specific qualifications (although a good understanding and experience with dogs is very useful), this service is much in demand and you get to work for yourself and be surrounded by dogs all day.
It is not always the easy and fun job that people may think though. It is a great responsibility looking after someone else’s beloved dog. Some of the things you will need to consider are as follows:
- Is there a lot of competition in your area/ will there be enough of a demand for the service
- Are you happy to be out walking even when it is cold, wet, windy and mucky
- You often have to do a lot of driving and will need a vehicle that is reliable and set up to safely transport the dogs
- You will need to make sure you have the appropriate insurance and licences were required
- It is not all just walking dogs all day, there is a lot of admin and marketing required and dealing with your clients can sometimes be a challenge.
- Walking multiple dogs can be a challenge. Some dogs may not be able to be off lead, some may not get along together, finding suitable places to walk can sometimes be tricky.
- There can be peaks and troughs in income; as you get started, if you take holidays, when owners are on holiday etc.
- There is a fine balance being able to earn a comfortable income and overstretching yourself. If you take too many dogs it can be dangerous for them, you and other members of the public. Take too few and you may not manage to earn an appropriate living.
- Are you also going to home board dogs? You may need certain licenses for this and think about any neighbours you may have, your own dogs if you have them and whether you want the 24/7 commitment that comes with this.
- You may need to invest in appropriate safe transport. Is your vehicle big enough? Is it reliable? Does it have room for crates to keep the dogs secure and separate?
If you love dogs and being in the outdoors, no matter what the weather, then a career as a dog walker may be a good choice
2. Dog Daycare Employee/Owner
Doggy daycares are becoming a more popular option for owners who are out for a long day or if they have a dog that does not like being left alone at all. They can also be good if you have a very social dog that likes to be in the company of other dogs.
As an owner don’t forget to do your research. Not all daycares are equal. You want one that promotes force-free training techniques, has plenty of space and sections that allow smaller dogs to be kept separate from the bigger breeds, and the same for puppies. If your dog does not get on with other dogs or the daycare allow crazy play/bullying behaviour then it is not likely to be the solution. A daycare facility should be happy for you to visit the facility during open hours to allow you to see how they operate.
As a dog lover, working in a daycare can be a rewarding job. You are surrounded by dogs all day and, if you have a good employer, you can get involved in different elements of the business.
It can be tough though. Dealing with a lot of dogs requires a lot of concentration and supervision. You need to be able to understand dog body language so that you can anticipate and avoid any potential scuffles. It can be messy, physical work and there is often a lot of cleaning too. Sometimes you may be involved in transport runs so you could be driving around a busy City with lots of dogs in a van for extended periods.
As a daycare owner, you will need the initial investment to be able to set up the business and this can be quite considerable, it can be a challenge to find the right grounds and premises and you have the responsibility of managing multiple dogs, employees and clients, along with a never-ending amount of paperwork. It is not for the faint-hearted.
Some well-managed dog parks also employ staff to supervise the dogs using the area.
A well-managed daycare can be a great place to work if you want to be surrounded by dogs all day
3. Dog Trainer/Behaviourist
This can be a hugely rewarding job as you get the opportunity to help transform the lives of dogs and their clients when they have problem behaviours or just need some general training guidance.
The industry is not very well regulated at the moment and there is the option for people to set up as a dog trainer without any qualifications or real experience. Not only can this mean you may not attract many clients but, with those that you do, you could be giving them advice that causes more problems with their dogs and it could even be potentially damaging or dangerous. It can be a varied job; one day you may be helping with a dog that has no recall, the next you may be working on a more complicated case of separation anxiety.
We would always recommend doing your research and taking the time to undertake accredited and reputable courses that teach using science-based, force-free methods.
The courses vary depending on the country you are in but seeking advice from organisations like the Karen Pryor Academy, The Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) and Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) is a good place to start if you are based in the US.
For those of you wishing to take things further, you could consider becoming a qualified behaviourist rather than a trainer but this does require even more study and investment. Some people progress to this after they have been working in the dog training field and realise it is a true passion they wish to pursue even more deeply.
Some trainers will work with clients on a one-to-one basis, some in a class environment, some will also provide support to dogs in rescue centres, or even be employees there.
If you are working for yourself it can be a demanding job. People often do not understand the amount of study that goes into becoming a bona fide trainer or behaviourist and baulk at your fees, some just want a quick fix or are not willing to put the work in themselves. Much of the challenge of being a dog trainer is handling the human clients more than the dog side of things. If you are not a people person it may not actually be the best career choice.
If you are considering a career as a dog trainer, make sure that you are able to commit to the study and cost that would be required to gain suitable qualifications
4. Dog Shelter/Animal Charity Worker
For those of you that are keen to make a real difference to dogs lives on a daily basis, if you don’t have any qualifications or the money to gain these and you want direct contact with the animals, this could be a great place to start.
The most common role is a kennel assistant. You will be involved in the daily cleaning, feeding, exercising and medication administering with the dogs in a kennel block. You may also be involved in meet and greets with potential adopters. The job can be physically and emotionally very demanding, it involves a lot of poop cleaning and the pay is usually not very great but it is a very commendable profession and you can developing close and meaningful bonds with the animals in your care, helping them to have the least stressful experience in the kennel environment as possible. You may end up becoming so attached that you end up adopting one of your charges!
For those with more experience, there are other roles which can be considered, depending on the individual organisation. There are kennel supervisors and managers, some centres also have their own dedicated trainers, behaviourists, adoption managers and groomers.
If you don’t mind not being so hands-on with the dogs or have qualifications you would like to use there may also be opportunities to work in marketing, fundraising, education and more. These jobs often also offer a greater pay rate too.
Working as a kennel assistant in a rescue centre may not be the best paid but it can be hugely rewarding to know you are making a difference to dogs that are in need
This is the one that many animal lovers dream of becoming when they are little. The reality often kicks in when studying at High School begins. It is actually more difficult to be accepted to study as a vet than as a doctor in some countries!
If you have studied hard and achieved those grades and are ready for a number of years of very hard graft then this can be an exceptionally rewarding, often challenging and potentially diverse career.
As well as a general small animal practitioner (that deals with dogs), you can also become a specialist in certain fields of medicine and it is possible to travel overseas to work with charities on spay and neuter programmes and more.
The fees to study towards the qualifications are steep and it can often take a number of years to pay off these debts but, once you have, the salaries can be generous and the opportunities great.
It can also be a challenge dealing with clients, two and four-legged, you have to deal with some difficult and often emotional cases, make tough decisions and you always have to keep up to date with new treatments and technology. It can be stressful, emotionally draining and very mentally demanding. A lot of dogs have a fear of the vet, by also building up your knowledge on less-stress handling techniques you can make things more pleasant for all involved.
Working as a vet requires top grades at school and many years of hard study, but it can be an exceptionally rewarding career with many different avenues available to pursue
6. Veterinary Tech/ Nurse
If you dreamed of being a vet but did not achieve the qualifications required, then perhaps becoming a Vet Technician/Nurse may be another option to consider. You will still be working in a practice helping animals on a daily basis and you still further your knowledge in animal science and medicine through study.
You are often involved in assisting with surgeries, providing aftercare for patients, involved in administering some of the more simple procedures and assisting in consultations too.
Considering there are a number of years of study required to qualify for this job, the pay is not the best but, through further training and with experience, the opportunities open up as the years go on.
It is also possible to seek out positions with charities at home and abroad.
If you do not have the qualification to work as a vet tech, some of the larger veterinary hospitals will also look for Animal Care Auxiliaries. The job usually involves exercising and feeding animals that are hospitalised, sometimes reception work, animal restraint, cleaning of cages, surgical areas and more. The pay is not usually all that great but it can be good if you want to understand if pursuing a career as a Vet Tech is for you. Some Animal Care Assistants go on to have the opportunity to study to be a Vet Tech whilst also continuing with their work in the surgery.
Vet Techs can still be involved with animals health and well being and the study regime is not quite as demanding as that of a vet
7. Dog Photographer
Have a passion for photography? You could combine this with your love of dogs and set up as a doggy photographer. Competition in the field is stiff and it can take a lot of work to drum up regular business. Sometimes it can be a job to do on the side whilst you build up a portfolio, a network of clients and you perfect your craft. There are photography courses that can be taken to build your skill and confidence levels but some people just learn on the job. Clients can judge for themselves whether they like your work.
Developing a particular style to your photography can give you an edge over the competition and working voluntarily for rescue organisations can be good for building your contacts, experience and also helping out with a worthwhile cause.
You need to be skilled in marketing, confident, fun and not mind rolling around in the mud with your doggy clients or have them poop in your studio!
If you can produce high quality and unique photographs of peoples beloved pooches then you could be onto a winner with a career as a dog photographer
8. Dog Writer
Have a background in journalism? Are you a passionate writer/storyteller? Perhaps you could turn your skill into a passion by writing about what you love.
Again, competition is stiff and you may have to work your way up with some lower paid gigs to build on your portfolio and experience but it is possible to make a career from writing about dogs!
Some organisations will look for full-time writers like some of the bigger charities or animal related websites and retailers. You may be able to get a regular column in a local publication or you could freelance and write for a number of publications. There are magazines that focus just on dogs too.
You will not be getting the direct contact with dogs that some people might crave but being able to educate and inspire can also be motivating.
This type of career can give you a great deal of flexibility and the opportunity to work from home but you do have to be very self motivated and it can sometimes be lonely, not being part of a team in person.
If you have the writing chops and a good working knowledge of dogs, maybe a career as a Freelance Writer could be for you
9. Dog Store Employee/Owner
Having done this myself for ten years I can tell you that if you love dogs, enjoy sourcing good quality products, enjoy marketing, building a rapport with clients, working long hours and living, eating, breathing dogs then setting up your own specialist shop could be the career for you.
Specialist dog shops with a deep knowledge and passion for the industry are often more popular with dog lovers than the big chain stores. Customers dogs are known by name, they get a very tailored service and the products are often more specialised, unique and high quality.
If you plan to run the shop yourself it will require deep research in terms of the area, the market and the products. You also need significant capital and the ability to work with no pay for at least a year. It takes time to build your reputation and, if you get there, a lot of hard work and dedication to keep it there.
It is also possible to work within a doggy or pet store. Make sure that you pick one that has the same ethos as you do, that you are proud to work for and be prepared for lots of heavy lifting (big bags of food), some tricky customers along with the lovely ones and an ability to multitask.
It may also be worth considering gaining a qualification in canine nutrition so that you are better placed to knowledgeable advise your customers on the different types of diets available.
Working in or owning a dog store can be a rewarding career if you enjoy a customer facing role and have a passion for the products you are selling
10. Dog Brand Employee
There are some wonderful doggy related companies out there with great products, ethos and employee working conditions. You may not be working directly with dogs every day but, if it is a product or a philosophy you are passionate about it can be a very rewarding career. You can often specialise in an area you might already be qualified or interested in (marketing, human resources, product development) if it is an area of expertise you may earn a more comfortable living and sometimes you can even bring your dog to work. Companies like Planet Dog and Ruffwear are known for their innovation, good working conditions, charitable giving and great products and there are lots more out there too.
Check out the range of Planet Dog products, one of my favourite is the Orbee Tough range of dog toys and I love the Ruffwear range too, all my dogs have worn the great Front Range Harness.
11. Dog Groomer
Whilst you can set up as a dog groomer without any qualifications or experience, this is generally a recipe for disaster. Not only could you infuriate clients by making a mess of their dog’s coat, you could actually cause an injury to the dog and you are also much more likely to attract and retain clients if you can show you have the credentials and you make a good job.
Once qualified, you can work for another groomer or one of the big companies that have their own salons or you can set up yourself. If setting up yourself, you can either become a mobile groomer and take your kit to the clients home or groom in a van or you can set up a salon of your own.
You will need the capital to pay for the grooming courses and then potentially the van, gear or even the building rental etc. Even just the professional quality clippers, the grooming table and the other equipment can be a big expense.
It can be a good career but it can be physically demanding, lots of groomers end up with back problems, clients can be very demanding and often have unrealistic expectations and you are often having to work with dogs that have an aversion to being groomed.
As well as needing the time and income to gain appropriate qualifications, groomers need to be able to cope with the physical rigours and have a patient and gentle manner with the dogs they are working with
12. Police Dog Handler
If you already work as a police officer and have a passion for dogs and dog training then, after you have completed an appropriate amount of service, you could consider applying to become a police dog handler. It is not for every officer, you and your family have to have the dog living with you and it can involve long hours, lots of ongoing training and you can face a lot of worry about the risks to your doggy partner.
Some dogs will work specifically in drug detection, some in the bomb squad, others working on the general beat. There are often training days and weeks and if you have a passion for training and behaviour and a real love of dogs, then this could be an area that you could consider. Competition for the positions can be stiff so if you can show a good knowledge of training and have already had experience working with dogs this is likely to set you up with an advantage.
Don’t consider joining the police just to become a dog handler. You are not guaranteed of securing a role and you also have to work the beat like other cops first and, if this is not something you would enjoy, it would be a mistake to apply.
If you are already pursuing a career in the police but have a passion for dogs, it may be worth considering applying for a position as a police dog handler during your career
13. Canine Hydrotherapist
Hydrotherapy is becoming an increasingly popular supplementary treatment to help dogs recover from surgeries or injuries. This involves having the dog exercise, under supervision and with support, in a special pool.
You will need to make sure that you have undertaken the appropriate qualifications as a good understanding of dog anatomy and physiotherapy is required.
After qualifying, if you do not have the money to invest, you could look for a position with an established business. If you have the capital you could consider opening your own business. Make sure you do plenty of research and that you will be ready for the hard work, long hours, marketing and client relationship building that will be required.
A qualified Dog Hydrotherapist can help a dog that is recovering from an injury to make a more speedy recovery
14. Dog Product Maker
Are you crafty, have a specialised skill like sewing or have come up with a wonderful new idea in the world of dogs? Perhaps you want to consider setting yourself up as a doggy product supplier or maker.
There are LOTS of people out there that have set up successful businesses producing their own line of doggy products, often with little investment and sometimes as a part-time job until it took off.
You could consider designing your own line of collars, dog beds or dog coats or maybe you have experience as a doggy nutritionist and want to look at launching your own line of healthy and tasty dog treats.
The possibilities are endless. Know your market, have a product that distinguishes itself from the crowd, be ready to do a lot of marketing and off you go!
If you have a particular skill, like sewing, perhaps you could work on developing your own unique range of dog collars or coats
15. Canine Massage Therapist
This is another career that you should not pursue without first obtaining a relevant qualification. It requires an understanding of canine anatomy and physiology to allow you to apply the massage techniques that can be used to help relax muscles, work on stimulating the circulation and help with getting a better range of movement. It is often used for dogs that have suffered an injury, are recovering from surgery or have age-related ailments such as arthritis.
You need to have a good knowledge of dog behaviour, be able to understand dog body language given the direct body contact you are having on the dog and you have to have patience, a gentle manner and a good way with the owners who you will be dealing with too.
Some massage therapists work directly off referrals from vets, some have their own studios, others visit clients in their home and some also work with dogs in rescue.
It can be a rewarding job as you can see the impact the treatment is having on the dog and if there are a number of weeks of treatment a nice bond can develop with the individual dog.
16. TTouch Practitioner
Tellington Touch is a method of circular movements across an animal’s body that are designed to promote relaxation and well being, build an increased rapport and help support training and behaviour work.
A qualification can be obtained in this field allowing you to become a Certified Practitioner. Some practitioners work on referral and, whilst many do this as a part-time position alongside other work, there are those that have made this is a full-time job.
You have to have a calm, patient and gentle manner and be willing to undertake the study and training required (although the course can be completed in a shorter space of time than some, allowing you to start work more quickly).
17. Pet-Friendly Cafe/Restaurant
If you have experience in the catering or hospitality industry and enjoy this field, you could consider combining this with your passion for dogs by working for or owning a dog-friendly cafe or restaurant. Establishments that have a focus on welcoming dogs are becoming increasingly popular and, if you already have culinary skills and you have the money to invest, this could become a great career option.
If you have catering qualification or just a passion for cooking, you could combine this with a love of dogs by opening a dog-friendly cafe
18. Dog Portrait Artist
Already a skilled artist? Why not combine your love of dogs with your artistic abilities. Pet portraiture is becoming a very popular industry with many owners wanting to have a keepsake of their beloved pet, they are often popular gifts too.
If you are particularly skilled at drawing or painting, especially if you have a style that sets you apart from the competition, then this could be for you. It requires very little investment and you can be starting to build the business whilst you still hold down another job. Be prepared to market yourself, perhaps build up a portfolio by offering some free sketches, maybe you could work with a local rescue centre. Be creative, motivated and passionate and who knows where it could lead.
If you are a talented artist your skills could be used to become a dog portrait producer
Why Not Considering Volunteering?
If you already enjoy your full-time job or you want to build up your experience, why not consider volunteering? There are so many doggy related charities out there that would benefit from the help of dedicated volunteers. From helping out at your local shelter with walking and cleaning, to fundraising and helping with social media marketing, there are tons of ways you can help. If you have a specialist career you want to get into, think about the volunteering you are doing. If you have just qualified as a groomer, perhaps you could ask if the local shelter would allow you to groom some of their dogs for free. Not only will you be providing a valuable service but it builds up your confidence and experience and you are starting to network.
If you want to write in the field of dogs, reach out to charities to find out if they need help writing up adoption profiles or with developing content for their blogs or social media platforms.
Gemma is an official dog nut and passionate traveller. Originally from the wonderful city of Edinburgh in Scotland, Gemma is now wandering across Europe with her rescue dog Annie. For ten years Gemma loved being surrounded by all things canine 24/7 whilst she ran a specialist doggy shop. The shop was a great community hub and, along with working closely with local rescues, Gemma provided customer support relating to canine behaviour and nutrition. It was a passion project and one that Gemma felt privileged to have created. She is also studying towards an Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour and is a huge advocate of dog rescue and promoting scientific methods of dog training.