Finding the right dog trainer for you is a major undertaking. You may be wanting to start group classes, puppy classes, or need help with a behavioral issue. But when it comes time to do the research, you find a lot of results of dog trainers and you don't know who you should pick. Should you go with the cheapest? The most expensive? Maybe someone in the middle of the road who lives closer to you? Unfortunately in the United States, anyone can call themself a dog trainer. There are no legal requirements or certifications that someone needs to have when they advertise themselves as a dog trainer. No formal education is required. No experience under another trainer is required. Someone off the street who "loves dogs and has been training dogs their whole life" can call themselves a dog trainer even if they can't even explain what the four quadrants of operant conditioning are, or even basic ethology of a dog. So, how do you weed through this long list of trainers? One way, is to look at certifications and credentials. I personally have a dog trainer certification through the Council of Pet Dog Trainers. I will go over that certification and other credentials a little later. If a certification is not required, then why get one? A certification allows other trainers and owners to know that I have received an education with the animals I will be working with, but also that I know how to train people. A certification allows other trainers and owners to know that I have experience working with dogs and people. A certification through my specific organization also tells other trainers and owners that I am still continuing to get educated in my field and am staying updated on current research and methods for training dogs and their owners.
So, are all certifications the same? Unfortunately, no and there are many newer ones being created. Also, the terms "certified" can sometimes be interchanged when discussing a trainer who studied extensively and was tested by an independent organization to receive a certification and someone who received a certificate as part of their program in learning to become a dog trainer. A certificate is what you get when you complete a program of study through that specific school you have been studying under upon completion. This means someone could get a certificate for taking an online class for a few weeks or they could receive a certificate for taking a program that lasted 6 months. Not all certificate programs are the same, but they aren't all necessarily bad either. One thing to consider when looking at any of these is to look at what is required in order to receive that certification or certificate and if CEUs (Continuing Education Units) are required beyond that. CEUs mean that in order to maintain that credential, the trainer must still continue to learn and educate themselves to keep up with industry standards. Now, let's go over some of the more common certifications and certificates you will see, starting with the one I have.