Thursday, May 1, 2014

So, I'm Kind of a Big Deal

It took me a long time to admit that I am a dog trainer - long past the time when I started teaching classes. When I was a youngin', I practically deified dog trainers. What they did seemed like magic, and it took quite the mental overhaul to realize that I might be allowed to join their completely, imperfectly human ranks. Part of the difficulty was that there was no right of passage to becoming a dog trainer. To become considered an adult, I had to live to be eighteen. To be a nurse, I had to go to school and then pass the boards. But all I had to do to become a dog trainer was say "I AM A DOG TRAINER" loudly and frequently.

It didn't quite sit right.

This March, I took and passed the CCPDT's certification test to become a Certified Professional Dog Trainer. Now I get to put the letters CPDT-KA after my name (someday, I'll have almost as many letters as Piper Ann). Of course, I am pretty sure that I was a dog trainer before I took the test. But I also feel pretty strongly that professional certification is important for dog trainers.

Photo by Paige.
Currently, there is no standard of behavior or training for dog trainers. Anyone can call themselves a dog trainer and as a result, there is a huge variety in the skills and ethical practices of dog trainers. If you're searching for a dog trainer, it's truly a case of caveat emptor. However, by searching for a trainer with a certain certification, dog owners can be more certain of what their money is buying.

For example, by finding a trainer with CPDT certification, a dog owner can be fairly certain that their dog trainer has met certain standards. To apply for the CPDT test, I had to show that I had at least three hundred hours of experience in the past three years and provide references from people who had worked with me. I had to pass a knowledge test covering multiple topics including instruction skills, ethology, and learning theory. And then I had to agree to a code of ethics. I felt the code of ethics was a particularly important part of the certification process - there can be a lot of cruelty done toward both dogs and people in the name of dog training and following a code of ethics based on humane treatment of canines and humans alike can help guide a trainer through difficult decisions.

To maintain my CPDT certification, I will also need to maintain a certain amount of continuing education. You guys, continuing education is so important in dog training these days. This is a really exciting and fun time to be a dog trainer: scientists and dog owners alike are looking at dogs in a new light, trainers are sharing information more consistently than ever, and new, more effective, and more humane training methods are popping up just about every day. If your dog trainer isn't keeping up with all the current information, you really aren't getting your money's worth.

Dog training, ninja style.
Photo by Paige.
By becoming certified, I wanted to support professional standards for dog trainers. After all, you wouldn't trust a doctor without a medical license or a lawyer who hadn't passed the bar exam. Do you really want to trust something as important as the relationship between you and your dog to someone who hasn't proven themselves able to do the job?


  1. Congrats on your certification!

  2. Interesting. Congratulations. You've been doing so much good, just with your posts on you and your dogs. This just ices the cake!

    (goes off to look at the CPDT page, after realizing that I've put in around 600 hours in the last three years as a trainer/assistant trainer)

    Jenn W