If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a dog trainer or advancing your professional development, you may consider earning industry-related certifications. These qualifications can allow you to demonstrate your expertise and may help you highlight your capabilities to find new clients. Understanding the costs and prerequisites for these programs can help you determine which one is right for you and your goals. In this article, we discuss what dog trainer certification is and provide a list of certification programs for you to review.
What is dog trainer certification?
A dog trainer certification is a professional qualification you can earn to validate your skills or develop your industry-related competencies. While you may become a dog trainer with no relevant formal education or coursework, obtaining a certification can help you prepare for your role and ensure that you’re delivering high-quality and effective services.
Certification programs can highlight various aspects of this role. For example, some may concentrate on non-force training techniques, whereas others may focus on general skills, the use of training equipment or assisting owners with their reactive dogs. You may choose a certification based on the extent of your experience, as some may serve aspiring dog trainers entering the industry, whereas others focus on skill development for established professionals.
8 types of dog trainer certification organizations
If you’re interested in pursuing a career as a dog trainer, there are several certification programs you can consider, including:
1. Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
You can pursue the title of Certified Professional Dog Trainer—Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) or Certified Professional Dog Trainer—Knowledge and Skills Assessed (CPDT-KSA) from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. To qualify for the CPDT-KA title, the council requires candidates to have at least 300 hours of industry experience in the past three years and submit a letter of reference from a CPDT-KA-certified veterinarian or trainer. After obtaining these prerequisites, individuals can sign the mandatory code of ethics and take the certification exam, which includes 250 multiple-choice questions. This exam typically costs candidates $385.
Professionals can pursue CPDT-KSA certification after earning their CPDT-KA credentials. To apply for the CPDT-KSA title, individuals submit information to the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, including a video of themselves executing four particular training exercises with four different dogs and a video recording of themselves coaching three clients with their various dog concerns. CPDT-KSA also includes a $225 multiple-choice test, with topics such as:
Training modality application
CCPDT’s position statement and training policies
2. Grisha Stewart’s certification program
Candidates can apply for the Certified Behavior Adjustment Training Instructor (CBATI) designation from Grisha Stewart and her dog training certification organization if they’re interested in working with dogs who exhibit aggressive, apprehensive or scared behavior. This certification can provide individuals with several professional competencies, including:
Fostering practical skills related to BAT
Developing a theoretical understanding of the BAT approach
Understanding the organization’s ethical code
Gaining experience working with dogs who exhibit aggressive or fearful behavior
To become a Certified BAT Instructor, individuals with 200 hours of relevant experience can submit a video exhibiting their practical training skills and take a written exam, which typically costs $300. This test may evaluate a candidate’s understanding and approach towards BAT for dog reactivity and working with dogs regarding socialization, frustration, and fear. Candidates can bypass the exam fee by taking a five-day BAT Instructor course. Trainers can maintain CBATI certification for three years.
3. International Association of Canine Professionals
If you’re interested in developing your professional skills, the International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP) offers a Certified Dog Trainer (IACP-CDT) credential. To qualify for this program, the IACP requires two years of training experience and a minimum of six months of membership in the organization.
After agreeing to the IACP code of conduct, you can take the IACP-CDT exam and may pay $125 per year to maintain your certification. If you’re interested in furthering your professional development, you can take the Certified Dog Trainers Advanced exam. In addition to a test, this examination includes video submissions that allow you to display your training and instruction skills.
4. National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors
Created in 1965, the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors (NADOI) program may suit you if you’re a dog trainer with extensive experience. To qualify, the NADOI requires that you have a minimum of five years of experience in the dog obedience industry and specifies that you spent at least two of those years as a head instructor. Some of their other qualifications include:
Teaching groups for at least 104 hours or private lessons for 288 hours
Working with a minimum of 100 dogs
Completing a written exam that includes several essay questions
After the organization accepts you for certification and membership, you can pursue specialized trainings with topics that include tracking, utility, puppy, novice, open and basic agility. In addition to $75 annual fees, this program requires you to submit a $150 application fee and pay $15 for each additional specialty certification.
5. Association of Animal Behavior Professionals
The Association of Animal Behavior Professionals (AABP) allows individuals to earn a Certified Dog Behavior Technologist (AABP-CDBT) designation. The AABP typically requires certification candidates to pay a $60 membership fee and $200 to complete the exam. To qualify for this certification, the AABP requires candidates to have completed 300 hours of training within the past five years. Some of the other qualifications include proof of insurance, two references, evidence of 30 hours of supervised skill development and completion of a proficiency exam. Some of the material included on the exam may include:
Principles of behavior
The biological context for behavior
Professional ethics and compliance with AABP position statement
6. Karen Pryor Academy
The Karen Pryor Academy (KPA) allows individuals to complete a Dog Trainer Professional course, which enables them to earn the title of Certified Training Partner (KPA-CTP). This six-month-long program includes nearly ten hours of weekly online instruction and four weekends of in-person training. Individuals may benefit from possessing various competencies before pursuing this certification, such as:
Proficiency of technical knowledge regarding training techniques
Mastery of hands-on skills in training and teaching
Compliance with the organization’s ethical guidelines
This program typically offers scholarship opportunities that can help candidates pay for the $5,300 tuition for this course. Some professionals may seek KPA-CTP certification prior to other dog training programs, as it may count towards other organizations’ continuing education requirements.
7. Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training and Behavior
If you’re unsure whether to pursue professional certification, you may consider the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training and Behavior, as it allows you to try a free demo before you pay for the entire program. This online course discusses three topics including, training dogs, training owners and learning about how to run a business. The initial application fee is typically $99, and certification costs can vary depending on the program you complete.
The introductory online course may include a $3,450 enrollment fee. If you opt for the premium training with in-person sessions, you may pay $6,950. Because these certifications not only focus on skill development related to dog training but also include practices and strategies for successful business development and management, it may be a beneficial option for both experienced professionals and beginners.
8. Top Tier K9
Top Tier K9 certification contains an eight-week program that allows professionals interested in pursuing a career as a dog trainer to obtain foundational education and skill development. This training may cost $1,950 and include live online instruction with a teacher, allowing professionals to interact with them and discuss questions or concerns.
Following this eight-week course, individuals can select additional certifications that allow them to specialize in particular fields, including working with service dogs or dogs in law enforcement. Although the first program is online, specialized certifications may require an in-person component. These training sessions may vary in cost, and candidates may pay between $2,750 and $3,950.
I hope you find this article helpful.