The course

Unitec has designed the Certificate in Animal Management (canine behaviour and training) to provide students with the skills and knowledge to get work in dog training situations. Students attend Unitec's campus in Mt Albert, Auckland, on a full-time basis five days a week for the year-long course, which is a NZQA level four qualification beginning in February.

Graduates can gain employment dog training for pet owners, either self-employed or with franchises, and can work for agencies using dogs for specific purposes such as Dogs for Disabilities, the police and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries and Customs Department.

Students learn skills and basic knowledge of husbandry, handling and health care of a range of animals.


They develop specific understanding of canine behaviour and how to apply that knowledge to training dogs in a range of situations. Students are in the classroom for 25 hours a week over two 17-week semesters and are expected to do another hour of training with a dog in their own time each day.

Two days a week are taken up with practical training and three days with classroom theory.

The practical training involves teaching dogs such skills as agility and obedience and scent discrimination.

Theoretical topics include animal husbandry, animals and humans in the workplace, animal health, communication and ethics, and vertebrate anatomy and physiology.

People working in dog-related industries come in to talk about their work and the students visit some workplaces. Students are assessed through practical and written assignments and tests.

Applicants have to meet admissions requirements including having three years secondary school education and being over 16 years of age. They need a minimum of 12 level one NCEA credits or equivalent.

There are 15 places available and applications close when the course begins. Candidates are interviewed.

Students need access to an appropriate dog for the duration of the course. The dog will be assessed for temperament and physical suitability for training and needs to be at least 18 months old.

The course fees are around $4275 including GST.

What graduates think

Meike Elliott, 27

Kennel assistant for the detector dog programme, Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Auckland airport

Graduated 2004

"I had always wanted to work with dogs and it was the only course running in New Zealand at the time where I could get the practical and the theory in a good balanced way.

"Training practically is great in itself, but it's excellent to be able to understand why your dog does what it is doing.

"We had a really wide range of subjects and one was canine behaviour, but we also did husbandry and health and first aid, which was hugely beneficial going into the workforce.

"It was really good to have the chance to experience the hands-on training in terms of dog handling.

"The skills I learned are so relevant to my job.

"Even though I have had specific training with MAF, I had a good basis of knowledge to draw on. I have a much better understanding now of how dogs think and I am able to read dogs better.

"Obviously after a year of training no one is going to be perfect.

"You never stop learning and the one thing that is true is that no two dogs are the same. To be an effective and confident handler you need to collect as much knowledge and information as possible.

"This course was definitely the best start that I could have had."

What employers think

Tom Didovich

Animal welfare services manager

Waitakere City Council


"As an employer at Waitakere City it is very important to me that animal welfare and dog control officers have current scientific knowledge on canine behaviour as they are often providing advice to customers.

"For any new officers coming in it is a requirement that they do the canine behaviour paper in the animal management certificate to be employed as an animal welfare officer or dog control officer at Waitakere City.

"We enforce both the Dog Control Act 1996 and the Animal Welfare Act 1999, other councils don't. The certificate in animal management covers the qualifications for the animal welfare inspector's certificate.

"People in our industry need to have high levels of resilience as it can be a very demanding and stressful area to work in. They need to have excellent people skills and animal handling skills."

The qualification

Certificate in Animal Management (canine behaviour and training)


Phone: 0800 109 510



Salary: first-year graduate: $25,000-$40,000