Careers in Dogs
This resource guide -- Careers in Dogs -- was created especially for you.
Making a career choice that you will be happy with is not easy. There are many things to consider before you can really make the right choice for yourself.
Of course there are practical matters, such as educational requirements, that should influence the decision you make.
However, choosing a career that will allow you to do something you enjoy is very important.
Do you have a love for dogs? If so, there are many choices available to you that will allow you to combine a career with the love you feel for these wonderful animals!
As you read through this information, please remember the following:
- Keep an open mind
- Think of all the possibilities
- Do not limit yourself
- Explore your interests
- Have fun
We wish you the best in your search for a rewarding and satisfying career!
Professions in the Sport of Purebred Dogs
To understand what a handler does, you should understand what a dog show is and how it works. The sport of conformation, or dog showing, is a competition to determine which dog conforms the best to its breed standard. A breed standard is a written set of requirements that describe how a dog of that breed should look and behave. Only registered purebred dogs are allowed to compete in dog shows. Purebred dogs are dogs whose parents and ancestors are of the same breed.
Dogs from the same breed compete against each other to become Best of Breed, which is the dog that best meets the requirements of its breed standard on that day of competition. Some dog shows stop here. These are called specialty dog shows. All-breed and group dog shows go further. Dogs that win Best of Breed go on to compete for Best in Group. The American Kennel Club divides the more than 150 breeds it registers into seven groups. The seven winners of Best in Group then go on to compete for Best in Show.
At dog shows, the competition takes place in show rings. The show ring is the physical space where the dogs are shown and judged. A handler accompanies a dog into the ring and shows the dog to the judge by standing the dog for examination and moving around the ring with the dog. It may seem simple, but a handler's job is not as easy as it seems! The skill of handling a dog to show off its best qualities, while at same time not getting in the way of the judge's ability to observe the dog, is one that requires years to master. Professional handling can be a full-time job.
Professional handlers are paid to handle other people's dogs at shows. One of the most popular reasons to hire a professional handler is to help a dog receive the title of Champion. To become a Champion, a dog needs a certain number of points. Dogs receive points based on how well they do during the competition with other dogs of their same sex. This requires several trips to different dog shows. Once a dog receives its championship, the owner can "campaign," or compete with, the dog to accumulate more Bests of Breed, group wins and Bests in Show. All this requires time and travel, so many owners are happy to hire a professional handler to accomplish these things for them. Negotiating contracts between owners and the handler, filling out the necessary forms to participate in dog shows, and coordinating a travel schedule are also part of a handler's job.
In addition to showing, handlers spend their time preparing dogs for shows, which involves grooming and conditioning, with some training. Most professional handlers have assistants that do much of this preparation work. In fact, if becoming a professional handler interests you, consider becoming a handler's assistant. This is an excellent way to start acquiring the necessary hands-on experience and knowledge required of a professional handler. AKC Junior Showmanship is another way of getting hands-on experience. To participate, you must be between 9 and 18 years of age. In AKC Junior Showmanship, the handler is judged on how well the dog is handled in the show ring, not on the show quality of the dog.
Professional handlers usually charge their clients a per-dog per-show fee and travel expenses, with an additional fee to keep dogs in their kennel when they are not being shown. If the handler acts as an agent, negotiating potential breedings and related matters, he or she may also collect an additional fee. Even though the income potential may seem high, the expenses are substantial. Only after you have paid for travel expenses, maintaining your kennel, and salaries for your assistants, will you be able to draw your own salary.
To be happy as a professional handler, you will need a strong love for the sport of purebred dogs. You will also need to enjoy frequent travel. Strong interpersonal skills are a must, since you will deal with many different people, especially clients. You may not have much free time, but many of your social contacts in the dog show world have the potential to become good friends.
A judge at a dog show decides how well the dogs in the show ring match their breed standard. Even though the job of a judge may be simple to understand, judging dogs is no simple task. As with becoming a professional handler, becoming a dog show judge takes years of experience and in-depth knowledge of purebred dogs. Some dogs that enter the show ring may not be good specimens of the breed. However, most dogs that enter the show ring are good specimens, and it takes a very trained eye to notice all the details that make one dog better than the others.
If your goal is to judge, you will need to start learning as much as you can about purebred dogs. Often people start out with one or two breeds they are interested in. They own a dog or two of their favorite breed, and they learn all about the breed. They may enter the dog in shows and maybe even act as the dog's handler.
Some people may volunteer to become ring stewards. Ring stewards help the judge in the show ring with organizing the paperwork and ribbons. After acquiring lots of experience with the breed, perhaps they may ask to judge at their local kennel club's match show. A match show is like a dog show, except no points are given. It is held just for fun and experience. Once you are knowledgeable about your breed, you can consider applying to the American Kennel Club (AKC) to approve you as a judge for your breed. As you learn about other breeds, you can apply to the AKC for approval to judge additional breeds.
Making a living as a dog show judge is not really an immediate possibility for most people. As you slowly demonstrate your judging ability, more assignments may be given to you. Most people have another job for many years before they try to make a living from judging.
To give you a better idea of the experience you need before applying to become a new breed judge, here are some of the prerequisites: at least 10 years of involvement in the sport; breeding and raising at least four litters of one breed; and producing at least two breed champions from those litters.
What you can do now is go to dog shows. Compete in AKC Junior Showmanship. Join a local kennel club. Talk to breeders and consider getting a dog of your favorite breed. Learn as much as you can, and judging might be in your future!
Show superintendents perform the detail work involved in dog shows. Show superintendents are companies, even though some of the individuals are referred to as show superintendents, too. As the number of dog shows increases every year, so does the need for show superintendents.
Office staff and field staff divide the work of the show superintendent. The field staff are sometimes responsible for setting up and tearing down the ring equipment, which includes the partitions that form the rings, tables and chairs, as well as the boxes of materials prepared by the office staff. The office staff are responsible for producing the premium list and catalogs, as well as supplying the ribbons and trophies. Office staff also receive the entry fees that exhibitors send with their entry blanks from the premium list. The premium list is a booklet that includes the names of judges attending the show and the trophies offered, with a few entry blanks. The catalog includes information on the individual dogs entered, including the sire and dam (father and mother), date of birth, and registration number. The names of the breeders and owners of the dogs are also listed.
The local kennel club contracts the show super-intendent about a year in advance of the show. Show superintendents usually receive a standard fee plus an additional amount based on the number of dogs entered.
The best way to learn this business is to work for an established show superintendent. Only after several years of experience can you start your own business.
Professional Field Trialers
Professional field trialers train and handle dogs for field trials. Field trials offer practical demonstrations of a dog's ability to perform in the field the functions for which it was bred. Field events are open to pointing breeds, retrievers, spaniels, Beagles, Basset Hounds, and Dachshunds. Events vary according to breeds and the specific functions they were bred to perform, but in each case, dogs compete against each other for placements and points toward their championships.
To succeed at this profession, field trialers must know how to train dogs to compete. Getting started as a field trialer requires working for an established trainer and learning the skills proficiently. Professional field trialers keep dogs for years in order to train them. The salary depends on how successful a field trialer is, which is largely determined by the success of the dogs in events. Some of the most successful field trialers who train and handle 20 to 30 dogs at a time, can earn a healthy income.
Founded in 1884, the American Kennel Club (AKC) is the principal purebred dog registry in the United States. It is also the leading regulatory agency for dog shows and performance events. The AKC has more than 500 employees.
To fulfill the AKC's responsibility to oversee the sport of purebred dogs, the executive field staff attend dog shows and performance events, serving in many different roles. An extensive background in purebred dogs is a must for the executive field staff.
The AKC GAZETTE, published monthly, has a staff of editors, as well as an art and design department. Other AKC jobs are as diverse as customer service, finance and accounting, and computer software development.
Other AKC departments include advertising, public relations, public education, canine legislation, and a library. There are many career opportunities available.
Groomers are the barbers and beauticians of the dog world. Bathing, brushing, combing, trimming and styling a dog's coat are only some of the responsibilities of a groomer. Cleaning ears and cutting nails, as well as cleaning teeth and getting rid of fleas, are also part of a groomer's job. Several breeds have unique requirements that groomers must also learn.
Many groomer's clients are members of the dog show fancy, meaning people who are actively involved in the sport of purebred dogs. Groomers are an important part of the process in getting dogs ready for the show ring.
Grooming show dogs requires special bathing, clipping and brushing techniques. Pet dogs, which are also part of a groomer's clientele, usually do not require the same level of attention as show dogs.
Many groomers learn on their own. Some start as groomer's assistants and learn by observing the groomer. Nevertheless, the best place to learn is probably at a grooming school, especially if your experience with dogs is limited. The courses do not usually last more than a few weeks, financial aid is often available and most of the time the schools will help you find a job after you successfully complete the coursework.
Grooming has the potential of generating a comfortable income. There is plenty of flexibility in this career. You can work out of your own home and set your own hours. You can work part-time or full-time. You can also choose to work at a grooming shop, or open up your own shop. Some animal hospitals and pet supply stores offer grooming services.
To be happy as a groomer, you must be willing to deal with the occasional difficult dog and client. You also must be willing to invest the time it takes to build a solid base of clients. If you enjoy working with dogs hands-on, grooming can be a rewarding profession.
Dog obedience trainers teach dogs how to respond to commands. They also teach dog owners how to train their own dogs. As long as people continue to own and enjoy dogs, there will always be a need for dog obedience trainers. Dog owners who give their dogs at least the most basic obedience training are much happier with their pet dogs. The neighbors and the community are better off, and the dogs are happier, too!
There are many opportunities available for dog trainers, including basic and advanced obedience training; training dogs to work with the blind, deaf and disabled; training dogs to search for lost people, drugs and bombs; and training dogs to work in movies, television and theater. However, all of these opportunities start with the basics.
Some trainers are lucky enough to learn directly from other established and well-known trainers. Some trainers learn by going to a school for dog obedience trainers. Regardless of the method, to become a competent and successful dog obedience trainer requires hard work, years of experience and a strong love of working hands-on with dogs almost every day.
There are some trainers who make a living just from teaching individual dogs the basics, but most trainers make a living teaching owners. Trainers of dogs that compete in field events are a notable exception. Field events test how well certain breeds help their owners hunt. This kind of training is very specialized, so many owners choose to hire a professional.
Once a dog obedience trainer is proficient in teaching the basics and advanced training, such as giving hand signals instead of voice commands, the trainer may consider specializing in one or more of the kinds of training mentioned above. These specializations take even more time to learn and master, but there is a demand for them.
Animal behaviorists are to dogs what therapists and psychologists are to humans. They analyze behavior problems in pets and recommend solutions to their owners. As the number of pets and pet owners continues to increase, the demand for animal behaviorists will grow, too. The ability to make a living in this field is limited to those people who have extensive knowledge and experience.
This is a relatively new field, and there are still only a small number of practitioners. A solid academic background in animal behavior and extensive experience in dealing with a variety of animals in hands-on situations are necessities. Even if you specialize in only one or two animals, such as dogs and cats, acquiring the amount of knowledge and experience necessary to be competent will take years.
Much like a baby sitter, a dog sitter takes care of a dog in the dog's home while its owner is away. In addition to making sure the dog has food and water, dog sitters are sometimes asked to take care of miscellaneous things such as picking up the mail, feeding the fish or watering the plants.
Reliability and trustworthiness are essential to being a dog sitter. Basic dog knowledge is helpful as well.
Fees are usually based on a per-visit/time-spent basis with additional fees for taking care of any miscellaneous duties. Even though many dog sitters only work part-time, there are opportunities to work full-time, especially in urban areas. Some people have started their own full-time dog sitting agencies, with several part-time employees. Dog sitting is a growing field.
Dog walkers do just what their name implies -- they walk other people's dogs. In many urban areas, it is not uncommon to see a dog walker with three or four dogs going to the local park during the middle of the day. Dog walkers are less common in rural areas, but suburban areas also seem to be developing a need for them.
As with dog sitting, reliability and trustworthiness are essential for dog walking. Patience in handling several dogs at once, a willingness to be outside in all kinds of weather and a love for dogs are important.
Fees are usually based on a flat hourly rate. Again, as with dog sitters, many dog walkers only work part- time. However, there are definitely opportunities to own a dog-walking business with part-time employees.
Boarding kennels for dogs are like hotels for humans. Dog owners temporarily place their dogs in boarding kennels when, for whatever reason, they must be away from home.
Some of the job opportunities that are available by working in a boarding kennel include owner, manager and assistant. Owning your own boarding kennel and having someone else manage it may be the most ideal situation, but to start out, assisting or managing a kennel is more likely.
Since operating a kennel requires many different tasks to be completed on any given day, kennels always need assistants. Some of the tasks that kennel assistants perform are cleaning and disinfecting runs and crates, as well as giving the dogs food and water. Occasionally assistants bathe and medicate dogs, too. Additional tasks include providing dogs with exercise, playtime and love.
Kennel managers run the overall day-to-day operations. These include dealing with clients personally, receiving and releasing dogs from the kennel, ordering food and supplies, overseeing maintenance of the facilities and supervising the assistants.
Fees are charged per-dog per-day with other fees charged for additional services. Even though owning and operating a kennel may provide enough income to make a living, many kennel owners do provide additional services to supplement their income. These additional services can make the difference between just getting by and making a comfortable living. Some of the additional services include professional grooming, extending boarding services to cats and other animals, and providing transportation for dogs to and from their homes to the veterinarian, airport and other locations. Kennel managers and assistants are usually expected to perform these additional services, too.
Dog Food and Pet Accessories
Dog food companies and companies that make pet accessories are closely linked to the dog world. As with any other large corporation, they offer many different career opportunities.
Typical jobs range from clerical to management to sales. Many of these companies also have special jobs for those people who want more involvement with the dog world. Some have representatives who travel to dog shows across the country. Many companies sponsor dog-related events and programs, allowing regular and direct contact with the world of dogs. Salaries at many of these companies are competitive.
Creating and selling dog-related novelty items can be a fun and profitable way to make a living. However, it may take some time and hard work to invent a unique product that people will want to buy. Some common novelty items include dog figurines, jewelry, toys and T-shirts.
Many dog-related novelty items are sold at dog shows and in dog supply catalogs. Both provide access to the people who are most likely to be interested in your product. At dog shows, vendors of novelty items rent booth space from the local dog club. As dog show spectators and exhibitors walk around, they wander past the vendors and almost always purchase something. If your dog-related novelty item is a success, consider renting booths at shows nationwide. Many of the same people you find at dog shows also receive dog supply catalogs. Catalogs are advantageous because you can reach more people at once than at a dog show.
How much or how little you make selling these dog-related novelty items is mostly up to you. It depends on the popularity of the product, whether you work part-time or full-time and how well you market your product.
Pet Supply Stores
Pet supply stores offer a wide variety of products for pets and their owners. In addition to pet food, most pet supply stores sell toys, books, pet furniture and other pet-related items. Employment opportunities include owner, manager and support staff.
As with any small business, owning a pet supply store requires specific management skills. As owner, you would be making business decisions that must enhance your store's income potential. To acquire these skills, consider taking a course on how to run a small business. Many local community colleges offer such courses.
Managing a pet supply store involves running the day-to-day operations. Some of the responsibilities include ordering merchandise and other supplies, bookkeeping, paying bills and delegating work to support staff. As a member of the support staff, some of your responsibilities would include stocking shelves, installing and maintaining displays, helping customers choose what products to buy, working the cash register and general cleanup.
Many pet supply stores offer additional services, such as professional grooming, to supplement their income. Some pet supply stores also work together with local animal shelters and dog clubs to educate the public about responsible pet ownership. These events are not only good for the community, but are also good for business by enhancing the pet supply store's status and introducing its services to potential customers. As a manager or member of the support staff, you would also be involved with these additional services.
Salaries are sometimes modest, but enough to make a living. If you enjoy working with people and want to learn more about animals, especially dogs, you may want to consider working at a pet supply store.
Health Care Professions
Veterinarians are the first people who probably come to mind when anyone thinks about a career with dogs or other animals. The job of a veterinarian is similar to that of a human physician, except that veterinarians work on animals. Some people might argue that veterinarians actually have a harder job than human physicians. While human physicians only have to know the human body, veterinarians have to know about many different kinds of animals, not just one. Also, animals cannot tell you their problems, which makes accurate diagnosis hard.
Just as there are many kinds of physicians for humans, there are many different kinds of veterinarians. Some examples of veterinary specializations include such diverse disciplines as dentistry, chiropractic, dermatology, pharmacology and ophthalmology. A veterinarian may choose to specialize in general animal care, although he or she usually specializes in either large or small animals. Large animals include farm animals and horses. Small animals include dogs, cats and other common pets.
To become a veterinarian requires dedication, education and expertise. Starting in high school, you will need an interest and a very strong background in math and science. Potential veterinary students must complete four years of undergraduate school. Pre-veterinary studies include math and science, with a large emphasis on biology and chemistry, as the major components.
After you have successfully completed your pre-veterinary studies you will be ready to go to veterinary school. It takes four years of full-time study at an accredited veterinary school to receive a DVM degree, which stands for doctor of veterinary medicine. After receiving their DVM degree, veterinary school graduates must pass a licensing exam before they can work as veterinarians.
Once veterinary school graduates pass their licensing exam, they are ready to start their new careers as veterinarians. Usually these new veterinarians are not able to afford the costs involved in establishing their own practice or clinic. Some of the many start-up costs include purchasing or leasing space and equipment, as well as acquiring the necessary office and medical supplies. A common situation for a recent veterinary school graduate would be going to work at an established veterinary hospital for several years, and then perhaps becoming an equal partner with the other veterinarians who own the hospital or setting up a clinic of his or her own.
A typical day for a veterinarian who specializes in small animals might include checking on a dog or a cat that was just neutered the day before, performing surgery on a dog to remove a tumor, seeing clients, ordering blood tests, administering vaccinations, diagnosing illnesses and handling emergencies.
Veterinarians, almost without exception, make a comfortable living. It's important to keep in mind that even though their income has the potential to be lucrative, veterinarians have numerous costly expenses to maintain their practices. These expenses include insurance premiums and salaries for veterinary technicians and assistants.
A strong love for animals is necessary to be happy as a veterinarian. There are moments of satisfaction, such as when you are able to help an animal recover from an illness. There are also moments of frustration, such as when you have done all that you can, but you have no other choice than to euthanize the animal. Overall, the rewards can far outweigh other considerations, as long as you are willing to make the required commitments of time, energy and money to become a veterinarian.
Veterinary technicians and assistants share many of the same responsibilities. Since these two jobs are similar, sometimes the term "veterinary assistant" is used to describe both positions. However, veterinary technicians have additional training. Without the important help that veterinary technicians and assistants provide, veterinarians would have an almost impossible job.
A veterinary assistant's job is to assist the veterinarian with miscellaneous tasks. These may include caring for animals staying at the hospital or clinic overnight, helping clients, general clean-up of the facilities and clerical work.
If the veterinary hospital or clinic is large, veterinary assistants may only specialize in one or two things. If the veterinary hospital or clinic is small, veterinary assistants are often expected to perform a variety of tasks all by themselves. Most of these tasks are usually learned on the job.
Veterinary technicians are responsible for many of the same tasks as veterinary assistants. Additional responsibilities include operating laboratory and surgical equipment. Many of the technical skills required of a veterinary technician can be learned on the job working as a veterinary assistant. However, many schools now offer classes to become a certified veterinary technician.
Both jobs require a love of animals and an interest in veterinary medicine. Veterinary technicians and assistants must also be able to work in an office environment and deal with both pleasant and not-so-pleasant pets and their owners. Salaries vary, but usually range from modest to competitive.
Veterinary Science and Research
Veterinary science and research is a large field that offers several career opportunities. Some of the people involved in veterinary science and research have an occupation directly related to veterinary medicine, such as veterinarians, veterinary technicians and veterinary assistants. Many others, such as corporate executives, fund-raisers and clerical workers, do not. However, all these people are working toward the same goal.
In general, veterinary science and research is dedicated to improving the health and lives of animals. Many different kinds of companies support and sponsor studies to develop new methods of treating and preventing illness. Some examples are pharmaceutical companies, dog food companies and universities. Other funding sources include private donors, government agencies and charitable organizations, such as the AKC Canine Health Foundation.
As mentioned above, this field offers career opportunities to people with many different kinds of skills and backgrounds.
If your skills include administration and office support, perhaps you should consider a clerical or management position in a department at a pharmaceutical company involved in finding a cure to a genetic disease in your favorite breed.
If your skills include math and science, perhaps you should consider becoming a veterinary technician at a university conducting research on improving life expectancy for older dogs. The list of possibilities goes on and on.
Salaries in this field vary significantly, as do the kinds of jobs.
Regardless, there should be plenty of opportunities to find a career in veterinary science and research that will allow you to earn a sufficient income.
Law Enforcement Professions
Animal Control Officer/Humane Officer
Animal control officers work for animal control agencies. These agencies are either contracted or created by cities and towns to enforce animal control laws. Some examples are pet-licensing laws that require dog owners to obtain a license from the municipality and an identification tag for their dog, as well as leash laws that require dog owners to walk their dogs on a leash in public. Animal control agencies and officers may also pick up lost/stray animals and catch dangerous ones.
In addition to enforcement of laws, animal control agencies and officers try to find good homes for the stray dogs and cats they pick up. They also try to find the owners of lost animals. Investigating allegations of animal cruelty is yet another function they perform.
Humane officers work for privately funded humane organizations educating the public about responsible pet ownership. A municipality will often contract a humane organization to act as its animal control agency. In this case, the humane officers assume the role of animal control officers. If the local city or town creates its own animal control agency, the humane officers will often work closely with the animal control officers to achieve their mutual goals.
Salaries for these positions are comparable to those for police officers. To be successful in this field, you have to be able to work hands-on with people and animals. Animal control officers and humane officers provide an important and often forgotten service to the community.
Animal Shelter Staff
Animal shelter staff is often comprised of a large number of volunteers. These volunteers help with the more basic and time-consuming tasks, such as exercising the animals, cleaning their holding areas and helping people who come to the shelter to adopt a dog or cat.
Volunteers often fill a large number of staff positions at animal shelters because many shelters do not have large budgets, so they need to dedicate the funds they do have to caring for the animals.
Members of the animal shelter staff who do receive a salary are responsible for managing the animal shelter. Some of these salaried employees include managers, clerical workers and accounting/finance positions. However, even some of these positions can be filled by volunteers, sometimes leaving very little room for salaried employees. Availability of these salaried positions depends on the size of the animal shelter, as well as the size of its budget.
Salaries for animal shelter staff are modest, but it is possible to make a living. If you enjoy caring for dogs, this field is worth considering.
Police/Military K-9 Units
Police and military K-9 units use dogs to search for illegal drugs, bombs and explosives, missing persons and people who become trapped after natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes.
Sometimes police K-9 units also use dogs to apprehend criminals attempting to escape arrest. Military K-9 units use dogs during war to help with guard duty and to send and receive important messages.
Members of police and military K-9 units are responsible for the dogs in their care. Both the dog and the police/military handler work together as a team. The handler regularly trains with the assigned dog and gives the dog exercise and companionship. They also practice old commands and learn new commands.
Professional trainers are often responsible for teaching the dogs and handlers, but, after that, the handlers take over daily reinforcement.
Salaries are sometimes slightly higher than what an average police officer or a member of the military would make because of the specialized nature of the work. In addition to first becoming a police officer or a member of the military, you will need special training to work with these kinds of dogs.
Writers have many kinds of opportunities available to them in the dog world. Some outlets for dog writers include magazines, newspapers and books.
There are several general-interest dog magazines across the country that cover a variety of subjects, including how to choose a dog and basic training. Also, there are many dog magazines that target the dog fancy, such as the AKC GAZETTE, and include such topics as how to breed a healthy dog and important news from dog shows. Both kinds of dog magazines are usually open to hiring novice writers, as long as those writers have some dog knowledge.
All kinds of newspapers nationwide, from daily to weekly and big to small, usually have a regular pet column. Even if they do not have a regular pet column, most have feature articles about pets. Here again, novice writers have an excellent opportunity, especially with the smaller newspapers, as long as they have some dog knowledge.
Dog books are numerous and cover a wide variety of subjects. Topics include introductory dog-care information, advanced training techniques and individual breed histories. In addition to nonfiction books, the demand for fiction dog books is growing, especially children's books. With such a large number of areas to cover, there will always be space for ambitious dog writers. Of course, the more detailed the subject matter, the more specific the writer's knowledge of dogs must be.
Another outlet for dog writers are dog food companies and other dog-related retail companies. These companies provide different kinds of brochures and other handouts about their products and on basic dog care.
To be a successful dog writer, you must first become a competent writer. Learning to write well does not just happen. It requires years of practice and begins with learning the basics in school. Once you feel that your writing skills are up to the challenge, you will need to acquire experience. Writing for the school newspaper is a good way to start.
Salaries will range from modest to comfortable. It will all depend on your level of expertise in both writing and dog knowledge, as well as what kind of material you are writing and who will be paying you. Making a living as a writer is not always easy, but it is possible for those who have skill and determination.
The number of photographers specializing in animal imagery is growing rapidly. While some focus on wildlife or farm animals, many others focus on family pets. There are even some who focus exclusively on dogs, though that number is small.
Many animal photographers do not start out with the intention of becoming an animal photographer. The art of photography itself is what usually attracts people. Only after they have learned their craft and can make a living do they begin photographing animals exclusively. However, as the field becomes more established, this pattern may change.
You can learn about photography on your own as a hobby, from a friend or by taking classes at a local college or photography studio. Whichever way you choose, it will take time and money to learn the basics. It will take even more time to learn how to photograph dogs and other animals.
If you would like to focus on dog photography, one of the most common places to find work is at a dog show. Many dog clubs hire an official photographer to take pictures of all the winners. You can also meet people that would be interested in your work by renting booth space at the show. Other common outlets for dog photography are dog books and magazines.
Your salary will depend on whether you work part-time or full-time and how well you market yourself. However, quality is most important. Animal photography is an art. If done well, people will pay for it.
Illustrators specializing in animals have much in common with animal photographers. Some focus on wildlife, many others focus on pets such as cats and dogs. Some prefer a very realistic approach, while others specialize in cartoon-like illustrations. Both animal photographers and illustrators share many of the same clients, as well as the same outlets for their work. Additional outlets for animal illustrators include note paper, clothing, calendars and other similar products.
Illustration is an art that must be learned and done well before considering it as a career choice. While there are people that make a living as animal photographers, the market for animal illustrators is smaller. However, many animal illustrators do make a good living. Talent and self-promotion are vital to your success in this field.
For more detailed information about specific dog-related careers and jobs, contact these organizations:
Professional Handlers Association
17017 Norbrook Drive
Olney, MD 20832
National Dog Groomers Association of America
P.O. Box 101
Clark, PA 16113
Animal Behavior Society
2611 East 10th St. 170
Bloomington, IN 47408-2603
National Association of Professional Pet Sitters
17000 Commerce Parkway, Suite C
Mt. Laurel, NJ 08054
American Boarding Kennels Association
1702 East Pikes Peak Avenue
Colorado Springs, CO 80909
American Veterinary Medical Association
1931 N. Meacham Road, Suite 100
Schaumburg, IL 60173
National Animal Control Association
P.O. Box 480851
Kansas City, MO 64148
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
424 East 92nd Street
New York, NY 10128
Professional Photographers of America
229 Peachtree St., NE, Suite 2200
Atlanta, GA 30303
The Graphic Artists Guild
90 John St., Suite 403
New York, NY 10038
Recommended Reading List
The following books contain more information about dog-related careers and jobs:
- Barber, Kim. Career Success With Pets. New York, NY: Howell Book House, 1996
- Miller, Louise. Careers for Animal Lovers and Other Zoological Types. Lincolnwood, IL: VGM Career Horizons, 1991
- Pavia, Audrey. Careers With Dogs. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's Educational Series, Inc., 1998
The following books contain general information about purebred dogs:
- American Kennel Club. American Kennel Club Dog Care and Training. New York, NY: Howell Book House, 1991
- American Kennel Club. The Complete Dog Book, 19th Edition Revised. New York, NY: Howell Book House, 1997
- American Kennel Club. The Complete Dog Book for Kids. New York, NY: Howell Book House, 1996
The American Kennel Club (AKC) sponsors more than 15,000 dog competitions each year held by member clubs (the AKC only has dog clubs as members) and licensed clubs; supports and promotes the sport of purebred dogs; and has more than 550 member clubs and more than 4,500 affiliated clubs.
The American Kennel Club Mission Statement
- Maintain a registry for purebred dogs and preserve its integrity.
- Sanction dog events that promote interest in, and sustain the process of, breeding for type and function of purebred dogs.
- Take whatever actions necessary to protect and assure the continuation of the sport of purebred dogs.