Dog Trainer

    • Job Tracking ID: 512912-642865
    • Job Location: San Francisco, CA
    • Job Level: Mid Career (2+ years)
    • Job Type: Full-Time/Regular
    • Date Updated: November 12, 2018
    • Years of Experience: 2 - 5 Years
    • Starting Date: ASAP
    • Campus Location: Mission
    • Status: Regular Full-Time
    • Department: Header: Behavior & Training
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The SF SPCA seeks a full-time, experienced, credentialed dog trainer to join the Behavior and Training team.  The dog trainer conducts daily evaluations and implements behavior modification plans for targeted shelter dogs and dogs considered for the adoption program at the San Francisco SPCA, with an emphasis on reducing dogs’ length-of-stay at the shelter and increasing retention once in their new homes. This candidate will also conduct basic and advanced group training classes and private training sessions for the public and participate in post-adoption and public-facing support and education related to force-free training. The ideal candidate is a problem solver, has a positive, outgoing and optimistic attitude, and is passionate about helping people understand and train their pets.

Essential Duties and Functions:

Shelter Animal Care & Training

  • Perform ongoing behavior evaluation for dogs currently in our shelter program
  • Implement behavior modification plans related to various behavior problems such as fear, leash reactivity, dog-to-dog interactions, resource guarding, impulse control, etc., provide training and socialization for the shelter dog population and conduct regular shelter dog playgroup sessions
  • Create behavior modification plans and take-home plans as well as Commitment to Care adoption plans as needed for dogs in our adoption program
  • Perform and document accurate, complete, and objective behavior evaluations on dogs assessed for intake into our adoption program. Update Intake, Adoptions, care staff and volunteers on dog behavior modification plans and progress
  • Share responsibility as needed for post-adoption follow up support including phone, email and in-person behavior support in order to help keep dogs in their homes
  • Participate in dog behavior reviews and assists with the humane euthanasia of any Society dog(s) that do not meet adoption criteria
  • Practice and encourages the humane treatment of animals – dedicated to Low-Stress handling and Fear-Free interactions
  • Participate in stress and disease reduction efforts through purposeful and compassionate handling and placement of animals in shelter environment.

People Care & Education

  • Teach public group classes and seminars related to dog obedience, manners, and behavior modification
  • Conduct private individual training sessions for our adopters and the public
  • Develop and update curriculum as needed to fit the skills and evolving needs of the clients and public training program
  • Participate in outreach events, including “Ask the Trainer” booths, interviews, features, etc.
  • Cultivate, motivate and train volunteers (with assistance from the dog volunteer coordinator) to assist with behavior modification, shelter dog playgroups, volunteer training/mentor program, dog-dog diagnostics and training.   
  • Instruct and mentor staff and volunteers on behavior modification and training methods. Assign target dogs to staff and volunteers to train and perform behavior modification according to departmental standards and protocols. Pursue and share innovations in training modification techniques.
  • Instruct specialized dog training classes and training sessions for staff and volunteers as needed.
  • Respond to and assist with requests from adopters for guidance, support and advice. Schedule follow-up consults as needed or directed in the Commitment to Care modification plan.
  • Assist intake team with in-county intake (SF ACC) and out-of-county intake assessments of behavior animals as needed to evaluate dogs for our adoption program which requires full understanding of Capacity for care
  • Participate in regular behavior animal rounds (animal care, adoptions, behavior and volunteer)
  • Provide quality customer service to clients, volunteers, and staff while actively promoting our mission, services, programs, and events.
  • Provides timely input and proactively supports animals in need for transport
  • Work cooperatively with all volunteers, recognizing the talent and commitment they bring to the Society.
  • Assist all staff and public interacting with resident dogs in proper dog handling techniques in order to minimize the potential for injury and conform to the proper training and/or behavior modification program, ensuring positive results and humane treatment.
  • Counsel and provide match-making input to potential adopters regarding dogs with special behavioral needs.
  • Work cooperatively with adoptions management, the behavior and training team, and the volunteer services team on continued development of our behavior and training programs.
  • Promote donation and giving opportunities as appropriate.

Record Keeping

  • Complete and maintain timely, accurate records of all training sessions, data entry of behavior modification, dog play sessions and other behavior notes
  • Work closely with Behavior Programs Director/Veterinary Behavior Specialist to design and implement improvements in behavior modification plans, training class curriculum, client handouts, and behavior materials.


  • Ensure a safe work environment; following all safety guidelines and modeling safe work practices
  • Take immediate action to address any safety concerns that could put a staff member, volunteer, client, animal, or the organization at risk
  • Maintain a clean, healthy, and sanitary work area; follow all pest and rodent control protocols
  • Participate in keeping the SF SPCA campus clean and well maintained

Reporting Relationships and Contacts:

  • Reports to Training Programs Manager
  • Mentors and monitors volunteers, interns
  • Works collaboratively with the SF SPCA public training instructors and the shelter behavior and behavior specialty teams

Physical Requirements and Work Environment:

  • Work is performed in a kennel/shelter setting, a multi-purpose room setting and outdoors
  • Work requires frequent bending, reaching, kneeling, climbing stairs, and standing on feet up to 8 hours per day with walking.
  • Exposure to disinfectant solutions when in kennel area. 
  • Exposure to various weather conditions when working outdoors.
  • Subject to animal bites and scratches while handling animals of questionable temperament.
  • Occasional lifting of up to 50 pounds with reasonable accommodations. 
  • Sitting at computer
  • Allergic conditions, which could be aggravated when handling or working around animals, may be a disqualification.
  • Tetanus and rabies (pre-exposure) inoculations are required or must be waived.

Qualifications (required):

  • Two years of college course work, plus one year of dog training experience
  • Minimum of one year instructing the public in group dog training classes
  • Proven knowledge and practical experience in basic dog training using positive-reinforcement training methods. Advanced dog obedience, behavior modification and knowledge of dog sports (i.e. agility, rally, flyball) helpful.
  • Shelter based assessment experience or an established dog trainer with experience handling all types (breeds, temperament, and sizes, etc.).
  • Customer service experience
  • Available to work one weekend day and frequent weekday evenings 
  • Credentials (CTC, CPDT, or PCT-A) strongly preferred
  • The SF SPCA requires pre-employment drug testing and criminal background investigations

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities:

  • Commitment to the mission, values, goals, and success of the San Francisco SPCA
  • Highly motivated, pleasant, positive, out-going, polite with a professional manner with the public
  • Confident public speaker with the ability to communicate skillfully and effectively with a diverse audience
  • Mature individual with good judgment and a professional personal appearance
  • Creative and innovative teaching skills
  • Professional, educational expertise in animal learning theory, scientific behavior modification strategies and positive-based, force-free animal training skills
  • Willingness to join and work closely with the Behavior team
  • Eagerness to learn and commitment to continuous growth  
  • Competence with Windows suite of software (Word, Outlook, PowerPoint, Excel)


Salary and Benefits:

The starting salary for this position depends on the depth and breadth of experience. Regular, full-time positions are eligible for benefits package including: vacation and holiday pay, paid sick time, medical, dental & vision insurance, life insurance, long-term disability, tax-deferred retirement plan, pre-tax commute expense deductions, discounted veterinary care, employee discount on retail, pet supplies, and dog training classes.

The SF SPCA is an Equal Opportunity Employer and welcomes applications from individuals who contribute to our diversity. We are an at-will employer and conduct pre-employment background checks and drug screening. This job description reflects the assignment of essential functions; it does not prescribe or restrict the tasks that may be assigned.