What could be better than making a living as a dog trainer?...

Making a living as a great dog trainer!

Our exclusive structured mentorship is open to a small number of up-and-coming trainers. You can make a living as a dog trainer! Even better, you can make a difference as a skilled and humane dog trainer.

  • Observe lessons and consultations conducted by a highly skilled dog trainer working with a variety of dogs and clients
  • Meet weekly with your mentor and fellow trainers. Discuss the fascinating details of life as a trainer. Ask all your questions in a nonjudgmental, supportive environment. One week, you learn from a presentation by your mentor. Another week, you may get individualized coaching on a training plan or case you present!
  • Follow the course materials to learn about canine behavior, instruction techniques, intake and consultation, and more
  • For those with an interest in a service dog specialty, learn about disability-related laws, tasks, finding your niche, and more
  • Access to our extensive written and video library of tip sheets, instructional videos, and more
  • $200 per month

Structured Mentorship

Observe a Master at Work
  • Flexible — Choose all online or hybrid (combine online and on-site in Hadley, MA)
  • Up to a dozen lessons, consultations, and classes each week
  • Observe live or watch recordings online from anywhere in the world
  • Pet training, behavior, and service dog topics
  • Puppy, manners, hearing alert, psych response, public access, temperament test and candidate selection

Our mentorship will make you one of the best dog trainers

Molly Buckley & Sam

Increased Confidence with Clients

“Before the mentorship I struggled with confidence. From the mentorship I have gained knowledge, confidence, and a better understanding of what can be done in each lesson and when (or when not) to advance dogs. I have changed a lot of my perspectives and gotten a lot of information I didn’t even know I needed. It’s changed the way I work with clients.” – Molly Buckley, Pittsfield, MA
Molly started the mentorship working as a grooming assistant. A year later, she is successfully running her own dog training business.

Transform your passion into expertise

We’re experts, but we didn’t start out that way. We’ve been where you are. We can help you get here, too. Learn how to be a dog trainer:

  • Improve the lives of even more dogs and people
  • Feel greater confidence with every case
  • Develop a niche specialty that will make clients seek you out
  • Take your professionalism to the next level and overcome challenges with clients and dogs

Get individual encouragement and support to reach your goal of not just becoming a dog trainer, but becoming one of the best dog trainers!

Greatly Enjoyed the Games

“I especially enjoyed the mock training sessions and games because I not only improved my dog training skills, but I also interacted with the other mentees in a space where we all felt comfortable to make mistakes and learn from them. I learned how to use positive reinforcement to train obedience and tasks, how to communicate with clients when discussing emotional topics, and how to prevent compassion fatigue. I greatly enjoyed this wonderful educational experience that introduced me to the world of service dog training.” – Abby W., Ames, Iowa
Abby was a college junior majoring in Animal Science when she took the mentorship. She now works at a veterinary hospital and plans to work in a service dog program.

Or email sharon@atyourservicedogtraining.com for more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, some of them do! In fact, some become dog trainers or launch a successful dog training business while they’re still participating – sometimes within just a few months of starting!

Many of our mentees use what they learn in our program to launch an animal-related career, such as starting a dog training business. Others who already work as pet sitters, dog walkers, or groomers use their improved skills with client interaction and business to make the pet-related business they already own or work for more sustainable. Both financially sustainable (lucrative) and emotionally sustainable, because they are better able to serve the needs of the dogs in their care. 

Some mentees simply take the course to deepen their passion and skills for a dog training hobby or to become better dog trainers with their own dogs. Others use the course as a stepping stone to a related field, such as psychology/social work, veterinary technician, dog daycare, or animal assisted therapy. 

Students who are already working as trainers find the internship invaluable for increasing their depth and breadth of knowledge in dog training and behavior consulting. (Which also allows them to charge more as professional dog trainers.) Some study with us as an adjunct to their dog trainer vocational program (e.g., CATCH or ABI). Many study with us to get their credentials as a certified professional dog trainer. Anyone who wants to further their careers and increase their professionalism will benefit.

In terms of what people do after they leave the mentorship, it runs the gamut. Our program can help lay groundwork for numerous careers because it will increase skills and understanding in

  • Behavior and psychology
  • Teaching and communication
  • Animal husbandry, training, and equipment
  • Running a business
  • Disability rights and life with disability

Intimate and Fun

“I really enjoyed the intimate, small group setting. It allows for everyone to be heard and given equal opportunity to work one on one with the mentor. Sharon does an amazing job of practicing what she preaches about letting loose and having fun with the process. As long as you put in the time, there’s no way you’ll walk away dissatisfied.” – Kadence Porter, Northampton, Massachusetts
Kadence now runs a thriving pet-sitting business which is booked several months in advance.

Our mentorship program offers several ways to learn:

  • Read and view materials on behavioral psychology (how animals learn), canine ethology and body language, teaching and working with clients, and much more
  • Discover new training methods with hands-on training homework – how to apply different approaches based on the situation; how to better “read” dogs; how to work more fluently with diverse human clients
  • Observe daily lessons, consultations, and classes conducted by master trainers
  • Meet with your mentor and fellow trainers every week to ask all your dog training questions. Discuss the week’s lessons or get insight into your own dogs or current client cases.
  • Get exclusive access to our online group for mentorship participants and staff. Post videos and get feedback on your cases. Share successes and challenges, articles, research studies, and get support.
  • Invitations to workshops and trainings just for staff and interns
  • Access members-only client resources, including our Client Portal with over 150 unique training tip sheets and videos. Sit in on our private online group for clients – view client training videos, question and answers, training news and tips.

Yes! Most of our lessons and consultations are online, which means mentees can participate from across the country. You receive video recordings from daily client lessons. Reading and video assignments are also available online. Weekly mentorship meetings are held on Zoom. 

Local mentees are invited to observe client lessons on-site and may even assist group classes for barter (a reduction in that month’s tuition). Local mentees who wish to do more hands-on and live participation are encouraged to speak to their mentor about on-site opportunities.

There is a hands-on component to the mentorship. We are flexible about how to choose to do the hands-on training homework. Some trainers work with their own dogs, or dogs belonging to family, friends, and neighbors. In other cases, our mentorship trainers are already working with dogs as volunteers at shelters or puppy raisers for guide dog programs. Others have worked as grooming, dog daycare, or kennel assistants. Trying out the methods with these dogs is a great learning experience for new trainers as well as being enriching for the dogs and exciting for their owners.

If you are in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts or able to travel to Hadley, MA, you will be able to assist group classes or observe private dog training lessons in person as part of your mentorship experience! In that case, we will get you working hands-on with some of the dogs.

Jung Fitzpatrick & puppies

Knowledge and Practical Skills

“I’ve learned a TON. I love that the cohort is small and that we get a lot of time with Sharon during and between meetings. I have more research-based knowledge to draw from, and it has also taught me more practical skills and broadened my awareness of types of enrichment and tools. She checks in to see what is coming up for us and going on in our dog training work and will tailor the office hours to respond to our needs. She clearly cares about the professional interests, progress and well-being of her mentees!” –Jung Fitzpatrick, San Francisco, California

After a few months in the mentorship program, Jung has started to work with her first professional dog training clients.

Contact us for the Mentorship Application. Our head trainer will set up a convenient time to meet with you (by phone or Zoom) and answer all your questions.

If you’re ready to get started, you can begin right away! Or, if you want to get a hands-on feel for our program, attend a mentorship meeting for free. If you love it, pay your first months’ tuition and receive your course materials – an all-access pass to every corner of the business! And take the next step in your successful dog training career!

The mentorship course is $200 per month. You’ll receive a monthly email invoice to pay online.

The Marlena Willis Scholarship is awarded twice a year to an intern who fits one or more of these criteria:

  • Black, African-American, or Indigenous (Native American, Alaskan Native, First Nations, American Indian)
  • A person of color who is also low-income 
  • A person of color for whom English is not their first language

Willis scholarship recipients may participate in the course at no cost for the first six months. They may re-apply for another semester every six months. 

Local mentees who assist with group classes can have that month’s tuition waived or reduced, in accordance with the number of hours worked.

How long it takes depends on how much you already know and what you want to focus on. You’ll focus on the material that interests you most. If you want to become a professional, certified dog trainer and need “book learning” on dog training theory, behavioral psychology, and canine ethology, you’ll glean that from the reading and video assignments. If you want to become a better trainer with your own dogs, you can focus on the practical homework. Most of all, if you want to observe a skilled professional trainer solve many different training challenges each week, you’ll get that, too!

If you want to learn everything, you can! The first part of the program – on pet dog training – is equivalent to a year-long independent study course at a highly competitive college (e.g., Ivy League). A motivated trainer can complete all the pet training material in a year or less. The advanced mentorship, which covers service dog material, could be completed in another six months by a motivated trainer with time to devote.

However, because most of our participants are multitalented, busy people who are balancing work, family, and studies, the mentorship is self-directed. You are encouraged to work at your own pace. How long it takes to complete will depend on what works best for you.

Most likely, yes. Sharon is an Official Mentor Trainer for CATCH Canine Trainer’s Academy and has also been approved to provide Field Experience for Animal Behavior Institute (ABI) students. If you are enrolled in another dog trainer vocational course, speak with your advisor about whether the At Your Service mentorship fulfills their requirements for mentorship or observation hours. As a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner, Sharon likely fulfills your school’s requirements for a trainer mentor.

Although we are not affiliated with any colleges or universities, students have previously used our syllabus with their college to get course credit for an independent study. We are happy to speak with your academic advisor to see if our course fulfills your college’s requirements for college credit. 

Perspective-Changing

“Thank you for changing my entire perspective on training. You were patient with me, and let me learn in my own time the power of positive reinforcement. I’ll be able to bring everything I’ve learned to a new area and new job. You’re a one-of-a-kind resource.” – Brittany Miller, Durham, North Carolina
Brittany is completing her masters in social work with a focus on offering animal assisted therapy.
Brittany & Koda

Most likely, yes. Sharon is an Official Mentor Trainer for CATCH Canine Trainer’s Academy and has also been approved to provide Field Experience for Animal Behavior Institute (ABI) students. If you are enrolled in another dog trainer vocational course, speak with your advisor about whether the At Your Service mentorship fulfills their requirements for mentorship or observation hours. As a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner, Sharon likely fulfills your school’s requirements for a trainer mentor.

Although we are not affiliated with any colleges or universities, students have previously used our syllabus with their college to get course credit for an independent study. We are happy to speak with your academic advisor to see if our course fulfills your college’s requirements for college credit. 

Because much of the program is self-directed, we try to keep requirements to a minimum. As with any learning opportunity, the more you put into it, the more you’ll get out of it!

Participants must have reliable internet access that allows them to regularly use email, Zoom (video chat), and access our website for their reading and video assignments. Mentees are also asked to 

  1. attend at least half of the weekly mentorship meetings* 
  2. observe a minimum of one client appointment per week

*Please check with us about the current meeting schedule.

Yes! If you put in the time and effort, learn the material and practice the skills, you should be well-positioned to enter the dog-training field. You can make a good living working with dogs! In fact, the demand for dog trainers is very high right now, so it’s an excellent time to enter the pet training field. 

Some people prefer to work for another trainer and others start their own business. 

Some people ask if they’ll be able to work for us once they graduate. Due to labor laws, we cannot guarantee jobs to graduates of our mentorship program. However if we are hiring when you complete your mentorship, we would love for you to apply!

The assigned material includes the areas below. Of course, when observing lessons and consultations, and during mentorship meetings, we may cover virtually anything related to dog training or service dogs.

Year One: Pet Dogs

Module 1 – Learning Theory: The four quadrants; Understanding classical and operant conditioning; Understanding reinforcement, including Premack’s Principle; Single-event traumas and other unexpected forms of learning; Methods for training behaviors – modeling, shaping, capturing, luring

Module 2 – Canine Body Language, Ethology, and Emotion: Observation and interpretation of dog body language; Canine “evolution” and artificial selection and ethology; Basics on the biology/neurology of canine learning and emotions; Staying safe, preventing bites

Module 3 – Dog-Owner Relationship: Prevention, management, and equipment; Human-animal bond; Lifestyle and other cohabitation issues; Repairing damaged relationships between people and their dogs

Module 4 – Teaching People and Working with Clients: Building rapport; Providing clear instruction; Empathy and working with strong emotions; Creating agreement and understanding

Year Two: Service Dogs & Advanced Training

  • Service animal laws and terms – ESAs, SDiTs, etc.; ACAA, FHA, ADA; disability rights laws and history; learning the training rights in each state
  • Working with people with disabilities – Disability etiquette, life with a disability, disability service systems and logistics, social versus medical model of disability, spoon theory
  • Preventing compassion fatigue and burnout, coping with secondary trauma, maintaining boundaries, structuring a sustainable business
  • Behavior modification, taking a history, setting realistic expectations, implementing a behavior plan
  • Candidate selection, working with breeder, assessing dogs, temperament tests
  • Task training, stimulus control, how to create reliable cues, public access training and evaluation
  • Selecting a niche – specialty study on particular disabilities and types of service dog training

More details about each option are below, but here are some general guidelines.

Tandem consultations are most useful for professional trainers who want help with a specific case – often near the beginning of the case or when you’ve hit a road block. These are cases where you and your client need guidance at the same time. This is usually the best option for pet dog trainers who are new to service dog training. Learn more about tandem consultations.

On-tap consulting is usually best for trainers who want guidance on working with service dog cases, setting up their business around service dog consulting, or have more than one case that they want to consult about. This is usually the best option for trainers who have primarily trained pets and have started to take service dog cases. You may be discovering that similar questions are arising across cases, trying to decide which service dog cases to take and which to refer out, or how to better structure your business for service dog training. Learn more about on-tap consulting.

Our mentorship course is geared toward people who want ongoing guidance, support, and education about working as a professional dog trainer or specifically as a service dog trainer. Some of our students are considering careers as service dog or pet trainers; others are already working as pet or service dog trainers. Some are new to the field; others are experienced pet trainers who are now taking more service dog clients. If you are a college student or a student for one of the trainer vocational programs, you may be able to earn credit or observation hours through your institution. If you’re not sure which option is right for you, please contact us.

“Sharon’s intimate and supportive mentorship has really changed how I work with dogs.”  — Jung Fitzpatrick