Have you wondered how you can turn your love of dogs into a career? It's common for dog lovers to want to spend as much time as possible with their furry friends in a work (or work-like) situation. Fortunately, there are many opportunities for doing this.
A few things to consider: are you looking for a true career, a full-time job, a part-time job, or will a volunteer situation fulfill your desire to work with dogs? It’s important to remember the distinction as you read this list of dog-centric "jobs."
Veterinarian: Imagine caring for dogs and other pets all day long, helping them heal and lead happy, healthy lives. It's a dog lovers dream job—if you have the time, the financial means, and the aptitude to be a doctor. To become a DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine) you need to complete an additional four years of veterinarian training after a four-year undergraduate program.
Veterinary Technician/Veterinary Assistant: These positions are just under DVM in the totem pole. To qualify as a licensed veterinary technician, you will likely need to complete a two- to four-year program. Veterinary assistants perform many duties in a DVM's office, but don't require the multi-year school commitment of a veterinary technician. A quick search on the Internet will reveal a list of schools that help people train as veterinary assistants. Before enrolling, investigate their curricula, history, placement services, and business practices. Your vet may be a good source of information if you want to pursue a career as either a technician or an assistant.
Dog trainer: There are many kinds of professional dog trainers, from behavior experts who help dog owners correct their pet's behavior problems to "celebrity" trainers who work with dogs that appear in movies, TV shows, and live performances. All successful and respected dog trainers have an acute understanding of how dogs learn and understand the world around them. It's important to remember that there's a big difference between training your own dog and being able to mold the behavior of other people's dogs. If you feel you have the aptitude and patience to become a dog trainer, you can start by reaching out to professional dog trainers in your area for guidance and, perhaps, a chance to learn from them as an apprentice.
Dog groomer: Top dog groomers develop a loyal following because they are equally good with dogs and their owners. Groomers are creative professionals who have the skill to transform a muddy mop of a dog into a stunning showstopper. For many wannabe dog groomers, the first step is to assist a professional in their local community. That's a great way to see if you have the talent to groom and, naturally, to learn from an expert.
All the dog-related careers listed above require a heavy commitment of time to learn a complex and demanding profession. So what happens if you want to work with dogs but can’t spare the time? Fortunately, there are still many other jobs that you can consider with learning curves that aren’t quite as steep. These include, but are not limited to:
- Working in a pet shop
- Animal control officer
- Pet sitting/walking
- Performing clerical work in a veterinarian's office
- Volunteering or working in a shelter
- Volunteering to help a service dog association
- Professional dog handler/assistant dog handler
The importance of volunteering simply can't be overstated. Shelters and breed rescues in just about every community need dedicated dog-loving volunteers to help with a wide range of chores. Ready to get involved? Look for volunteer opportunities near you at www.volunteermatch.org.