Note from Con Slobodchikoff (www.conslobodchikoff.com): The following post was written by Starr Ladehoff, Certified Professional Dog Trainer -- Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), and Director Elect, Board of Directors, Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. She is an AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator (#71153) and a Canine Life and Social Skills Evaluator (#E750403). Starr does training and behavioral consulting at Arizona Pet Professionals, LLC, www.ArizonaPetPro.com. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Disclaimer: The Dog Behavior Blog has no affiliation with, nor receives any compensation from, any of the dog behavior web sites or organizations listed in this post).
In a world full of credentials for everything from doctors to technicians, it is often challenging to make sense of what they mean and in the dog training and behavior industry, credentials are becoming quite popular. Many trainers have some form of certification or are on their way to obtaining one. Through the maze and haze of all of these symbols that grow every year, it is worth taking a look at what several of the popularly listed credentials mean.
There are three main types of certification as described by Susan Smith, CPDT-KA, CDBC of Raising Canine, LLC in her article posted on her school website – www.becomeaprofessionaldogtrainer.com.
· The first certification signifies you have completed a course of study and met standards discerned by the organization providing the course – giving you a certificate of completion or diploma. The testing process is geared to the organization’s curriculum so one may or may not be limited in proficiency.
· The second type of certification is where one has met standards of a member-driven organization and, like the first, it may be driven by a certain point of view or methodology.
· The third type is where one has met standards that are independent of any organization; these standards are based in science, or are accepted industry standards. Regardless of how you obtained your education, the tests are standardized for the profession.
In the second and third cases, there are often continuing education requirements to keep the certification up to date and in the third case periodic renewal of the certification almost always required.
The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) is the only independent, psychometrically sound, certifying organization for dog trainers, to date. The certification is met by sitting for a knowledge based exam (CPDT-KA); CCPDT has recently added a skills based exam (CPDT-KSA) and an exam for behavior consultants (CBCC-KA or -KSA).
The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) encourages people to attain certification and has a list of approved certifications they recognize as meeting their standards. Below is the list of approved certifications by the APDT as listed on their website www.apdt.com:
Credential By Organization
CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed) By Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
ACAAB (Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist) By Animal Behavior Society
CAAB (Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist) By Animal Behavior Society
CABC (Certified Animal Behavior Consultant) By International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
CDBC (Certified Dog Behavior Consultant) By International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
CCAB (Certified Clinical Behavior Consultant) By International Association for the Study of Animal Behavior
DACVB (Diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists) By American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
The following are some of the schools with certificate programs that provide a certificate upon completion of their program (there is usually no requirement for continuing education):
Credential By Organization
ABCDT (Animal Behavior College Certified Dog Trainer) By Animal Behavior College
DipCBST (Diploma of Canine Science Behavior and Technology) By Companion Animal Science Institute
KPCT (Karen Pryor Certified Trainer) By Karen Pryor Academy
PMCT(1,2,3) Pat Miller Certified Trainer levels 1, 2 & 3) By Pat Miller Academy
TCA Trainer By Triple Crown Academy
If you are thinking of becoming certified as a dog trainer, when deciding on a certification, consider the type of credential you feel would best suit your needs and what value you will receive in obtaining it. If you are looking at a program that gives a certificate or diploma upon completion, look at methodology and course curriculum. Communicate with graduates and ask why they chose a specific program in addition to asking if they feel benefited by the credential. Most credentials and programs offer benefits and perks to those who have graduated or obtained the certification including exposure to the public, discounts for various items or services and groups to join for advice and support. Other programs that don’t offer a certification, such as www.becomeaprofessionaldogtrainer.com provide a thorough curriculum to prepare you for training and/or CCPDT certification in the future.
If you are trying to find a dog trainer who is credentialed, ask them what their designation means and what it took to get it or look at where it was obtained and what standards were met to get it. Talk to the trainer’s references. Make sure you feel comfortable with the trainer and their methods and experience. Ask questions of those who state they are a “behaviorist” without the PhD or certification to back it up.
While there are many amazing trainers without a certification, it is my opinion that we improve ourselves and our profession by obtaining a valid and respected credential that was obtained by testing one’s knowledge of the science of canine behavior.