Certified or Licensed Dog Trainer? What Does it Mean?
It’s important to know that there are only two types of state and federally licensed dog trainers: Guide dog trainers, who train Seeing Eye dogs for the blind, and Sentry dog trainers who train police dogs. These two are the only types of dog trainers licensed by the state. ALL other trainers are unlicensed. Defining a “certified dog trainer” is a bit ambiguous at this time. What I mean is that there are many trainers who simply decided to become a dog trainer, who have little—or a lot—of experience, and perhaps even went to a school to get certified. Therefore, the field is wide open to anyone who feels they possess some knowledge of dog training and wants claim themselves a ‘dog trainer‘. Yet there is only one University Program where one can get a degree in Dog Studies. The Bergin University of Canine Studies and is based on universally adapted and agreed-upon standards by state and federal agencies.
Schools that offer dog-training certification programs are neither licensed nor registered with state or federal agencies. Those that offer dog training programs and award titles such as APDT, CCPDT or IACP have come into being in the last 15 years and have no state or federal licensure. They were started by a group of well-known and respected dog trainers who formed an organization and developed a “certification” test for trainers. The testing requirements and ongoing educational seminars are a wonderful set of standards and tools to help regulate the field of dog trainers. While this is a good attempt at regulation, taking these tests does not guarantee that the end result is a qualified dog trainer. While I am highly in favor of these organizations to create ethical dog-training standards, it’s important to understand that these are dues paying membership organizations based on passing their test yet they neither endorse nor follow up on any of their members.
The best advice I can give? Listen to your intuition: Is the trainer coaching you about dog body language and energy and how to be a leader in a positive way? If you want an in-depth understanding of dogs and their behavior and how to have a well mannered pet companion, choose wisely, ask friends, your veterinarian for referrals and remember—training should be fun for you and your dog!