Dog Trainer Certification - What is it? Why is it important? What are the different types?
A Short History About Certifications for Pet Dog Trainers
For many years, dog trainers entered their profession through self-education. Many read what limited books were available, went to group obedience classes, eventually assisted in those classes and, after a period of time, started teaching on their own. Some came from 4-H or similar youth organizations, while others got involved in obedience trials and branched out from there. While certification for pet dog trainers didn’t yet exist, many used their experience in American Kennel Club-sanctioned obedience trials as a marketing tool. There were (and still are) many fantastic, self-educated dog trainers.. There was nothing inherently wrong with entering the dog training profession this way; however, doing so requires a great deal of time and quite a bit of trial and error.
Today, certification is relevant to dog trainers of all levels everywhere, particularly since it is now desired by the general public. There is wide range of information about dog trainer certification available on the Internet. Unfortunately, some of it is confusing, leaving people unclear about what to look for and what exactly certification for pet dog trainers means.
Certification: What Is It?
Certification simply means the person certified has mastered a specific course of study or body of knowledge and passed examinations, proving his/her understanding of the material. There is no state, provincial or federally accepted certification for pet dog trainers. Currently, dog trainers look to schools and trainer groups that offer various types of certifications. Are some certifications better or more valuable than others? It depends on what you are looking for.
What Are the Different Types of Pet Training Certifications?
Many trainer-group certifications do not require a dog trainer applicant to go to school or have a formalized education in behavior and its applications in dog training. Instead, they rely on an examination and require a specific amount of professional experience. Still other certifications require the dog-trainer applicant to have a relevant college degree but not necessarily a great deal of practical experience.
If that isn’t confusing enough, some dog trainer vocational schools require greater educational achievements than some trainer groups, but not as much as others before granting certification. What’s a trainer or fledgling trainer to do?
From an educational standpoint, certification offered by dog trainer colleges is more substantive than those from many trainer groups. Some groups claim their certification is more “valuable” because it is administered by a nonpartisan “independent” organization. In their view, a school might have a vested interest in certifying as many students as possible. However, any school wishing to remain in business will have to produce graduates who are actually capable of going out into the world and making a living in their chosen profession. As such, it would be a very shortsighted policy for any school to simply grant certification to bolster graduation or completion rates.
Choosing a Certification
All of these back and forth points can be bewildering to those looking to become trainer—and even to those who already work as trainers. While becoming certified (or not) and the type of certification chosen is up to each individual, the following can help you decide.
Certification should be considered for two main reasons. The first is it generally makes you a better rounded trainer. Secondly, the general public increasingly considers certification a prerequisite to hiring a dog trainer. To date, no consistent data indicates whether the public prefers one type of certification over another. The choice, therefore, is up to the trainer/potential trainer and should be based on his/her specific circumstances and/or needs.
Different Certification Choices for Different Situations
Let’s look at a few common circumstances where you might consider becoming a certified dog trainer and the best choices for you.
If you are not currently a professional dog trainer, consider a full program such as the one offered by Animal Behavior College (ABC). A “full program” covers all aspects of dog training, from the history of training to business building, from behavior modification to the principles and applications of behavior and much more. In addition, since practical experience is vital to success, make sure the school you attend offers a hands-on component so that your learning is not just theoretical.
For those you choose to attend ABC, upon graduation you will be certified as an ABCDT and have the right to use that designation after your name. At that point, you should consider taking continuing education programs, such as those from ABC and other schools. Down the line, you should join other training groups and obtain their certifications, too. FYI: ABC also has a more advanced certification ABCDT-L2 that you can earn once you gain professional experience.
Should a Trainer Get Multiple Certifications?
Since the public doesn’t favor one type of certification over another, why should dog trainers acquire several certifications? Because certifications make for a better rounded trainer. Think of them as tests that let you—and the public—know you have gained specific, in-depth knowledge and experiences.
If you are already a professional trainer—or have enough experience and knowledge to become one—your situation is a bit different. You most likely will not find a program like ABC’s or any basic dog trainer vocational school program useful enough to justify the cost and time. Dog trainers in this category should consider more advanced school certifications, such as the ABCDT-L2, and/or join a trainer organization and go through its certification. While many of the trainer groups’ certifications aren’t more advanced their relatively short completion time and lower costs can make it easier for professional or semi-professional trainer to fulfill his or her goals.
One final note: While certification is important it is not by itself a guarantee of your success. In order to be a successful dog trainer ,you need to do a first rate job and always remain open to learning more, evolving from a good trainer to a great one. This takes time, patience and lots of practice.