Monday, September 12, 2011

Is My Trainer Certified? (or, the jungle of dog training certification)

The following post is courtesy of one of our staff at Dogs in the Park, Helen Prinold.  Thanks Helen, this is a gem!

There can be lots of letters after your prospective dog trainer’s name:
AAB CTB       CDT.CCS      CDBC              ABCDT        CPDT      CBCC     IAAB     IPDTA-CDT are just a few.  How do you know what they mean and what to look for in a professional?

You may want to look at the list below and what the “letters” mean when you’re trying to decide who to trust to work with you and your dog!

There are a few ways to follow a career path for dog trainers and people who work with dog behaviour.  For a quick overview check out this previous blog post and these posts from the Canadian Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the (U.S. based) Association of Pet Dog Trainers.

So what are the qualifications of folks who are advertising their expertise with “multiple letters”?

Historically, dog behaviour professionals and dog trainers tended to get qualified in one of two ways – they apprenticed with someone who did dog training and behaviour work or they learned dog training in the police force.  Formal degrees and certifications either did exist or weren’t widely advertised.

Currently, you have a mix of trainers who have those “multiple letters” after their names – people who learned from other trainers (worked in animal shelters or competed their dogs in sports), some who have degrees in animal behaviour from universities, others who have taken correspondence programs or short one or two day courses and some – by simply paying a membership fee.  

There is no required or mandatory certification or licence needed to be a professional dog trainer or dog behaviour specialist in Ontario. 

Because multiple certifications are allowed and there is no provincial dog trainer licensing system you must do you homework and “buyer beware”.   

No doubt professionals with the letters on their business cards are likely hoping that the certification will reassure you and imply they are qualified.  And certifications can show you’re dealing with someone who has studied and worked with dogs for many years and has been independently examined on their knowledge and skills.   Also, some of the letters after your potential trainer’s name may simply indicate they are a member of a industry trade association or group of like-minded friends. 

They also might indicate the professional is a vet (DVM) who may (or may not) have had training in dog behaviour.   Regardless of vet behaviour expertise, it’s really important to have your vet as part of your dog care team – to look at the whole of your dog (a holistic or “whole” view that looks at their physical and emotional health as both areas are related and influence each other).

This review of qualifications should help you be aware of the background of your trusted dog professional.


Full Name
Owner of Certification
Certification Requirements
Associate CAAB
Certified Applied Animal Behaviourist
Must have a Master's or Ph.D. degree in a behavioral science with specific courses in animal learning, and ethology (behavior) from a university. Earning a DVM or VMD, with advanced training in animal behaviour also allows certification.
Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists
American College of Veterinary Behaviorists  (professional organization of veterinarians who have achieved board-certification in the specialty of Veterinary Behavior)
Veterinary degree and two additional years of coursework, but especially hands-on training with a board-certified veterinarian
Certified Animal Behavior Consultant (covers all species including dog)

Certified Dog Behaviour Consultant

A minimum of 3 years and 1500 hours in animal behavior consulting; 500 hours minimum of coursework, seminars and mentorship related to the core areas of competency; the ability to communicate clearly through written work and case studies, and demonstrable knowledge of all 6 Core Areas of Competency. Veterinary Behaviorists and ACAABs and CAABs are granted membership with the submission of three (3) applicable case studies

Certified Professional Dog Trainer

Certified Behavior Consultant Canine – Knowledge Assessed
5 years of training experience plus a passing score on a national well-respected exam administered by an independent testing agency (may add – Knowledge Assessed when completed practical work of over 300 hours and exam)
Certified Clinical Behavior Consultant

Must be currently-active practitioners with extensive clinical experience who demonstrate that they possess appropriate skills, knowledge and abilities - including an Honours or higher degree in a relevant subject, appropriate specialist courses, and at least three years of regular clinical experience.
Certified Dog Trainer (may add Advanced)
Written exam including case studies and client/colleague references, practical evaluation via video, being a CDT for one year, having 5 years experience for advanced certification.
Certificate in Training and Counselling
Six-week program on-site in San Francisco
Animal Behaviour College Certified Dog Trainer
 (private school)
Correspondence courses
Canine Communications Studies
Norma Jeanne dog training (private school)
Correspondence courses as of Mar, 2010 must pass IPDTA exam
Certificate or Diploma - CBST, CF, CN, DDC, DT, PDTST, SRW
Certificates in:
- Canine Behavior Sciences and Technology
- Canine Fitness
- Canine Nutrition
- Dog Daycare
- Dog Training
- Professional Dog Training Science and Technology
- Shelter and Rescue Work
Correspondence courses
International Positive Dog Training Association – Certified Dog Trainer
A minimum of 100 hours training experience including at least 50% of the experience as a private dog trainer and/or classroom instructor.
References from each of the following; an animal health care professional, a client and another dog trainer, agree to Code of Conduct
American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Evaluator
Must be at least 18 years of age.
Have at least 2 years of experience working with owners and their dogs
Have experience working with a variety of breeds and sizes of dogs.  Application evaluated, online test, $50 for two-year certification.
NADOI  Endorsed/Provisional
/E - Certified
/C - Companion
/N - Novice
/O - Open
/U - Utility
/P - Puppy
/T - Tracking
/A - Agility
/L - Lifetime Member
/R - Retired Member
Endorsed member of NADOI
At least five years' experience in dog obedience training, two years as a full-charge instructor, worked with a minimum of 100 dogs, group instructors must have taught at least 104 class hours; private instructors 288 hours, written test which may be supplemented by personal interviews, observation, or a video (DVD or Online) which the applicant may be asked to provide, added certifications require, 52 weeks of instructing experience at the level of the sought-after certification
CAP1, 2, 3, 4
Clicker Trainer - Competency Assessed Program Levels 1 – 4
Kay Laurence – England
In person assessment by previously certified trainer (prices unpublished)
Certified Trick Dog Instructor
Kyra Sundance – author and DVDs - Do More With Your Dog! (private school)
(prices not published)
Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner
Karen Pryor – US originator of clicker training) (private school) and her Karen Pryor Academy
Correspondence online and online certification exam, 10-day in person workshop, about $5000
Victoria Stillwell Positive Dog Trainer
Positively Dog Training – US  (Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog” TV host) (private school)
Be a practicing positive-methods, dominance-avoiding trainer with insurance and purchase a licence (price unpublished) after a one-hour interview, evaluation
Brad Pattison Certified Training Educators
Brad Pattison – Canada (BC) (TV host of “At the End of My Leash”) Hustle Up School of Dog Training treat and talking-free (private school)
3 days/week for 6 weeks, 30% theory, 70% outdoor practice, privately-administered exam, once a year conference attendance to recertify (prices unpublished)
Professional Dog Trainers Program
Ben Kerson – Canada (BC)
(private school)
7 hours per day, 5 days per week for 12 weeks with evening classes for 4 weeks during the program which run for an additional 2 hours, work with 35 dogs minimum for practical experience (prices unpublished).
Pat Miller Certified Trainer
Pat Miller’s Peaceable Paws (private school)
Several levels of intern/apprenticeship, e.g. Level 1 – 6 days in-house, about $1600
CF1 & CF2
Certified Freestyle Instructor
(non-profit incorporated firm)
Details available by contacting CFF,
Certified Nose Work Instructor
Classroom coursework taught by one or more of the founders, application of key concepts in practice groups and classes, on-going training of a dog in K9 Nose Work through the advanced level, emphasis on positive experience
M.Sc. or Ph.D. –  Companion animals, lab animals, livestock and wildlife(MS)
UBC’s Department of Animal Science courses in animal behaviour and management
See University calendar for individual course tuitions and pre-requisites.
Link to list of American universities and colleges offering certified applies animal behaviour courses:
Note: Canadian’s spell it “behaviour” and American English uses “behavior” for the same word


Member’s Acronym
Full Name

Update February 16, 2013:  I received the following from Shelley Moore regarding the CCS and IPDTA:

IPDTA - Must also pass written exam with a minimum 90% score and successfully complete the practical requirements.

CCS - Business name is no longer Canine Communication Studies - It's been Canine Correspondence Studies since March of 2011.  Must also pass written exam with a minimum 90% score and successfully complete the practical requirements.  IPDTA exam is not required.  Owner's name is Norma Jeanne Laurette (not Norma Jeanne dog training)

If people notice inaccuracies, please understand that the article was carefully researched and accurate to our knowledge at the date of publication, and we are happy to post updates as we learn about changes to certification.  Any inaccuracies are unintentional, and we are more than happy to update as information becomes available and certifications change.


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