There are many ways that one can become a Professional dog trainer, Dog Walker, Dog DayCare Provider.
Technical on line schools for dog training has resulted in a huge influx of new dog trainers ‘hanging up their shingle’ and starting their own businesses.
Some trainers have apprenticed with an experienced dog trainer for a period of time before going out on their own. Others have gained their experience through working/volunteering in shelters and competing with their own dogs in dog sports. And, some dog trainers have attended a university or college in animal behavior and gained their experience through higher learning.
In any case, there is no required certification or licensing to become a professional dog trainer or behavior counselor.
Certification is not mandatory, but it does imply that the dog trainer takes their profession seriously and is dedicated to continuing to grow in their education.
Be aware that not all certifications are the same.
Some dog trainers will claim that they or the trainers working for them are certified simply because they issued the certification. In other words, they offer “in house” certification. You can spot these trainers because they will simply claim they are certified and will not list where they received their certification. (See below for a list of “letters” that may follow a trainers name to understand where they received their certification.)
Other dog trainers have attended accredited schools to receive their certification from unbiased educators that are grading on standardized criteria to pass.
Others are certified through independent certifying agencies that are not affiliated with any school or program. CCPDT (Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers) is one such agency.
I have included a list of some of the schools or programs that offer certifications. See the list below for certifications and their meanings:
- ABCDT: Certified by (graduated from) Animal Behavior College
- ABMA: Member of Animal Behavior Management Alliance
- ACAAB: Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist by The Animal Behavior Society
- BA: Bachelor’s of Arts Degree from an accredited college or university
- BFA: Bachelor’s of Fine Arts Degree from an accredited college or university
- BS (or BSc): Bachelor’s of Science Degree from an accredited college or university
- CAAB: Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist by The Animal Behavior Society
- CABC: Certified Animal Behavior Consultant through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
- CDT: Certified Dog Trainer through the International Association of Canine Professionals
- CPDT-KA: Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed through Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
- CPDT-KSA: Certfied Pet Dog Trainer – Knowledge and Skills Assessed through Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers
- MA: Masters Degree from an accredited college or university
- NADOI: Endorsed by National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors
Accredited is a made up term used by dog training facilities everywhere to sound like they are legit and educated.
Usually, an accredited course is nothing more than a 3-5 day training session with a binder and a teacher who may or may not have trained dogs. Trust me, you can’t learn all there is to know about training dogs in just 3-5 days. If you could, there would be a lot more dog trainers out there.
When you sign your dog up for training sessions with an ‘accredited’ dog trainer or an ‘accredited’ facility, you’re really signing them up for training that may have no foundation in the real dog training world.
In short, accreditation doesn’t really mean anything.
There are many ‘experienced’ dog trainers who have never stepped foot in any type of seminar or training facility. These are the ones who began training their own dogs and eventually decided to make a career out of it.
Experienced doesn’t mean that the dog trainer is good or bad. It simply means that he or she has been doing it for a while. So, when dealing with an ‘experienced’ dog trainer, ask for referrals, take a look at their website and then most importantly take the time to set up a meeting/interview with them.....they should be more than willing to accomodate and this will give you a 'good feel' for their style and whether or not they'd be a good fit for you and your dog.
Make sure to ask them about their background as a Trainer/DogWalker/DayCare provider and, what they have accomplished. Don't settle for any fancy website with 'buzz words'. For example pack leader, positive re-inforcement, calm, assertive, - don't be afraid to ask for what their definitions of these words are and how they would be incorporated into your day to day training.
A good Dog Trainer/Dog Walking Company & Doggy Day Care facility is one that has stepped away from 'just reading books/watching videos' and has actually taken the time needed to successfully train their own dogs .... ask not what they know...ask what they done with their own dogs. Have they competed in Dog Obedience (at any level), Rally Obedience, Tracking, Flyball, Agillity, Lure Coursing. These are some examples and through any of this type of training they will have more 'hands on'/'situational' experience.
Which One Should I Choose?
Keep in mind that all dog trainers need to start somewhere.
There are green trainers out there who are outstanding, and experienced certified trainers who are burnt out and less than appealing.
What really matters is that the trainer – whether certified, accredited or experienced – is able to connect with both you and your dog, and is able to offer you the training you need to fit your needs. In any case, it is your job to interview the Dog Trainer, Dog Walker and Dog DayCare provider.and do your research.
A little bit of detective work can go a long way in finding the right trainer for you and your furry friend.
Beware of “Behaviorists”- According to the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) many dog trainers use the title “behaviorist” incorrectly.
A behaviorist is defined as someone who has earned a doctorate level graduate degree. A Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist is a Behaviorist who is certified through the Animal Behavior Society.
Persons who do not meet the criteria should not be using the term “behaviorist” to describe themselves, instead behavior consultant, behavior counselor or behavior specialist are acceptable.