Dog Training Certification for Professional Dog Trainers: What Does it Mean?

Well, that’s a complicated topic. There are many online courses that promise “dog training certification”. Understanding which ones are meaningful and which are simply for marketing purposes, can be very difficult for owners looking for a qualified dog trainer, or people who would like a career in dog training.

There are essentially three types of certification:

  • There is a certification which indicates you have completed a course of study through an organization and satisfactorily met that organization’s standards;
  • There is a certification through a member-driven organization; and
  • There is a certification that means you have met standards independent of any organization.

The first type of dog training certification is essentially a certificate of completion – you take a course of study and complete the course. There is nothing wrong with this; however, you must always remember that the curriculum of the organization may stress a specific methodology or point of view, and the testing process is geared to the curriculum, which may be quite rudimentary. Some examples of this type of certification would be some type of training course for dogs, a seminar, a vocational school, or even a university (they call it a diploma). Once you receive a certificate of completion, the process is complete.

As with a school, the second type of certification may or may not indicate any real proficiency. The organization is ruled by the membership, so their certification requirements are based on their membership. The certification requirements are often philosophically driven, as with a school. Most organizations that certify do require some sort of continuing education to remain certified.

The third type of certification sets a standard level of competency that must be met regardless of how you received your education. This type of certification is setting an industry standard. Examples of this type of certification are the CPA exam (Certified Public Accountant), or Certified Nutrition Support Practitioners. Some professions are regulated by the government (attorneys and hairdressers, for instance) and must pass a similar exam, but are then licensed, rather than certified. When you receive this type of certification, you will almost certainly be required to continue your education and periodically renew your certification. This continuing education process helps to ensure that practitioners are qualified and up-to-date on current knowledge and best practices.

Again, this does not mean that a certificate of completion does not meet the industry standard – some may even exceed the standard; however, an independent certifying body holds everyone to the same standard and gives the consumer a means of choosing a qualified professional.

In the dog training world, certificates are a dime a dozen! If a dog training school claims that you will be a certified dog trainer when you complete their program, they are simply saying that you have taken their course, learned their material, and passed! There is no guarantee that their course has taught the broad spectrum of training issues.

In the dog training certification world, there is only one truly independent certifying body – the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT). The dog training industry is trying very hard to professionalize and standardize the profession. CCPDT’s duty is to the public, not to the people who sit for their exam; they are not a teaching organization – it is up to each individual to receive adequate education to pass the exam. It is strongly recommended that, once qualified, trainers take the CPDT exam; it is an indication of commitment and professionalism.

The CCPDT has recently added two additional dog training certification levels: one requires a deeper level of knowledge of dog behavior and accepted applied behavior analysis practices, and the other is a skills exam.

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