Certification Options for Dog Trainers – What’s Available?

by | Feb 7, 2022

As discussed in the last blog post, “Should Dog Trainers get Certified?” dog training is an unregulated industry that doesn’t require a practitioner to hold any credentials. Despite that, certification options abound! This makes getting a qualification or certification a bit of a minefield!

Just as anyone can call themselves a dog trainer, anyone can offer ‘How to be a Dog Trainer’ courses. To help you navigate the choppy waters of this topic we’ve put together a guide.

For the sake of brevity, it doesn’t go into huge detail about each certification or course – links are included so you can see what suits you best.

(And if you have one or more of these certifications, we want to hear from you! Feel free to leave your feedback on programs you have experience with in the comments!)

Three Certification Options for Dog Trainers

There are a few paths you can take to certification:

  • Assessment of prior dog training knowledge and experience via an independent certification organization
  • Qualification (usually vocational) from a government-recognized educational establishment (college, university etc.)
  • Course/certificate from a private business

To some extent your options will be dictated by where you live – vocational qualifications in dog training are rare in many parts of the world!

Assessment of Prior Dog Training Knowledge & Experience

If you’re already an experienced trainer with extensive theoretical knowledge and practical experience, the simplest and cheapest option is to go through an independent certification provider.

You’ll usually need to sit an exam, provide evidence of training hours done and a portfolio of case studies/histories of clients you’ve helped. Some programs also require video demonstration of your training.

CCPDT – Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (www.ccpdt.org)

  • CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed)
  • CPDT-KSA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge and Skills Assessed)
  • CBCC-KA (Certified Behavior Consultant Canine – Knowledge Assessed)

IAABC – International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (www.iaabc.org)

  • CDBC (Certified Dog Behavior Consultant)
  • IAABC-ADT (IAABC Accredited Dog Trainer)

AABP – Association of Animal Behavior Professionals (www.associationofanimalbehaviorprofessionals.com)

  • AABP – CDT (Certified Dog Trainer)
  • AABP – CDBT (Certified Dog Behaviour Technologist)

IACP – International Association of Canine Professionals (www.canineprofessionals.com)

  • IACP-CDT (Certified Dog Trainer)
  • IACP – CDTA (Certified Dog Trainer Advanced)

NADOI – National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (www.nadoi.org)

  • The NADOI has a number of different membership levels and speciality certification options.

PPAB – Pet Professional Accreditation Board (www.credentialingboard.com)

  • CTT-A – Canine Training Technician
  • PCT-A – Professional Canine Trainer
  • PCBC-A – Professional Canine Behavior Consultant

APBC – Association of Pet Behaviour Counsellors (UK based) (www.apbc.org.uk)

  • ABT – Animal Behaviour Technician
  • CAB – Clinical Animal Behaviourist

By undertaking certification in this way you’re making good use of your current level of expertise without having to take time out from earning a living while you study. The downside is that many of these certifications only test your theoretical knowledge, not your ability to apply it. However, it’s a great way to formalize what you already have and demonstrate that you take your profession seriously.

Earlier in 2021 we surveyed dog trainers in an online community about various aspects of their business and marketing, certifications, and levels of experience within the field.  Fig 1 shows the the most popular certifications:

Certification options based on responses from recent survey of the positive dog training community.

Fig 1

The data was split between trainers making under $100K in revenue last year, and those making over $100K. The majority of trainers in both groups held some sort of certification, with CPDT being the most common. Fig 2 shows the certification status of those earning under $100K compared with those making more.

Graphic showing certification options have little to no impact on revenue for dog trainers.

Fig 2

(Get your own copy of the Dog Trainers Survey results by clicking here!)

Educational establishment courses for Dog Training (qualifications)

If you take a course via a college, or registered education provider you end up with a recognized qualification. You know that the course content meets the minimum educational standards required for whichever level you’re studying, and the assessment process follows standard procedures.

Unfortunately, most of these courses aren’t available via remote learning – you have to attend workshops and practical sessions to qualify. (The IMDT course is the exception; it’s delivered online.)

If you want a recognized qualification and you don’t have a vocational option near you, a University degree in Animal Behaviour would give you a thorough theoretical foundation.

Plenty of universities worldwide offer them now, so location is much less of an issue. The down sides to taking a degree course for dog training is that they aren’t species specific and may not give you the practical skills you’ll need. However, if nerding out is your thing, they’re well worth the effort.

Independent/private business offering Dog Trainer Certifications

So, what if you’re new to dog training and aren’t lucky enough to live somewhere offering an appropriate vocational qualification? Well, just Google “how to become a dog trainer” and you’ll get ‘About 62,100,000 results’! Educating dog trainers is BIG business!

Almost all of these courses are from private businesses – dog trainers looking to provide courses for new dog trainers. The problem is, unless you’re already ‘in-the-know’ it can be hard to sort out the excellent from the not-so-great. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of the biggest and best-known providers.

(Think we missed someone? Share in the comments!)

Buyer beware! Evaluating Dog Trainer Certification Options

The courses from these providers are run by trainers who are highly respected within the dog training field. However, it’s not an exhaustive list!

If you are considering taking a course from a provider who’s not mentioned, here are some of the things to look for:

  • Are the instructors named? ‘Top Trainer’ doesn’t tell you anything, except that they’re withholding information about who will be teaching you.
  • Is a bio given for each one? You should be able to check the authenticity and credentials of your instructors.
  • Is there a detailed syllabus available? If not, why not?
  • Are the course details (delivery and feedback method, prerequisite learning, etc.) and assessment process (if there is one) clearly outlined?
  • Is the information about payment, complaints and refunds easy to find and understand?

It’s easy to get sucked in by the marketing hype and slick sales pages. If a course promises to take you from ground zero to a fully certified Professional Dog Trainer, ready to take paying clients, in 2 or 3 months of self-directed study (especially if there is no tutor feedback provided), you might want to look a bit closer before parting with your cash.

Specialist Certification Options for Dog Trainers

For those of you who are already certified and/or experienced, there are some great specialist courses available now. Here’s a selection of some of those that are highly-regarded within the industry:

Final Considerations for Choosing a dog training certification program

Certification for dog trainers isn’t a requirement (yet) but there are plenty of benefits to undertaking it. There are three ways to achieve your certification goals and many of the options are delivered online (making your location less of an issue).

Do your research before you sign up! Don’t get sucked in by the slick sales pages.

We’d love to hear about the courses you’ve taken – which one’s did you love? Which one’s failed to make the grade for you? Tell us in the comments!

Note: Please include only your OWN experiences — if you have not taken a particular program, we’d ask you to hold your comments about that program. 

6 Comments

  1. Mindy Waite

    Just wanted to clarify that you’re missing an entire body of certification through the Animal Behavior Society, which is CAAB or ACAAB certification (certified applied animal behaviorist or associate certified applied animal behaviorist).

    This type of certification requires both experience and academic degrees steeped in ethology, experimental psychology, or behavioral principles.

    Reply
    • melissabreau

      Thanks for the added info!

      Reply
  2. Kim

    DogNostics is another great education option!

    Reply
    • melissabreau

      Good to know! What did you like about their program?

      Reply
  3. Dana

    Please add AbsoluteDogs Pro Dog Trainer course.

    Reply
    • melissabreau

      Can you share a bit more about your experience with it? I wasn’t aware they offered one 🙂

      Reply

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