Choosing a Dog Trainer

Professional MemberVia – Dog training has rapidly evolved over the past few decades and it can be confusing for a dog owner to figure out how to hire a dog trainer. One good place to search for a dog trainer is the APDT (Association of Professional Dog Trainers) website.

The APDT’s Trainer Search allows you to search for trainers in your area based on city, zip code, services offered and last name of trainer. However, there’s much more involved in finding a good trainer than just simply who is in your area.

One thing that’s important to know when looking for a trainer is that there are many ways that one can become a professional dog trainer. Some trainers have apprenticed for some period of time with an experienced trainer. Some have special schooling that may be combined with a hands-on mentoring component. Others came into the profession by working in animal shelters or through dog sports and competition. It is not unusual to come to the profession through a combination of experience and education.

There is no required certification to become a professional dog trainer. Certification does however imply that a trainer takes his or her profession seriously and is dedicated to continuing their professional growth and education for the benefit of their human and canine clients.

Be aware that not all certifications are the same. Some trainers are “certified” by the school that they took their educational program through whereas others are certified through independent certifying bodies that are not affiliated with any particular school or program.

So a “certified trainer” could be someone who simply took a two-week course on training or someone who has studied dog training and behavior extensively for years and was independently tested on their knowledge and skills.

The term “certification” is widely used incorrectly in the field and most certifications are in fact certificate programs. This does not mean that certificate programs are bad and many of them are quite good, but the dog owner should be aware that the term means many different things in this field.

Certificate programs are educational programs designed to teach a certain set of skills or knowledge. Upon successful graduation from the program, you receive a certificate, which is also often known as a certification. The main focus of a certificate program is education and the educational process begins and ends with the program (from enrollment through graduation).

Certifications are run by organizations that are independent of the actual educational process and their sole goal is determining if the trainer has met a set of criteria demonstrating the attainment of a level of skill/knowledge. In order to maintain a certification, further education from independent organizations is required, usually in the form of Continuing Education Units (CEUs).

When a dog trainer claims they are certified by a school or organization, a good way to assess their background and experience is by looking at what is required by the certifying or graduating school or organization.

Penny Layne is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) through the Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers.

To learn more about how to choose a dog trainer, visit the APDT website.

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