What does it mean to be a certified dog trainer?
It's a dirty little secret that dog training is a completely unregulated industry, which means that anyone can decide to call themselves a dog trainer and sell their services without having to pursue any licensing or adhere to any federal or state regulations. One way that you can attempt to find a true professional is by seeking out dog trainers with certification. However, it's not always that simple.
What does CPDT-KA stand for?
In the dog training world, different certifications mean different things. Some certifications take many hours of study and rigorous work, while others are essentially "pay for the title" certifications. The Certification Council of Professional Dog Trainers is the only independent testing agency for dog trainers.
The initials "CPDT-KA" stand for "certified professional dog trainer-knowledge assessed". In order to earn that title, I had to log over 300 hours assisting with and instructing group dog training classes and private lessons, have a current CPDT member sign off on those hours, sign an ethics statement, and pass a 250 question test about learning theory, canine ethology, training techniques, and husbandry.
What does CTC stand for?
In addition to my CPDT-KA, I have earned my CTC which stands for "Certificate in Training and Counseling" from The Academy for Dog Trainers. The Academy for Dog Trainers is one of the most difficult and comprehensive programs available for dog training professionals; the course covers applied behavior analysis, ethology, evolution, the history of dogs and training, client counseling, working with fear and aggression, and many, many other topics at a grad-school level. The program is designed to be completed over two years and is a deep dive into everything a dog trainer and behavior professional needs to know. I graduated from the Academy in 2021 with honors.
What does PMCT stand for?
In addition to my CPDT-KA, I have earned my PMCT which stands for "Pat Miller Certified Trainer". Pat Miller is a world-renowned and respected dog trainer and author of books such as "The Power of Positive Dog Training". In order to earn this certification I had to spend 135 hours under the supervision of Pat Miller herself at her facility in Maryland and pass several written and practical exams about positive, force-free, humane dog training and behavior modification.
When speaking to a trainer about their certification, be sure to specifically ask through what organization they were certified, and what kind of requirements they had to meet in order to be granted that title. This is one way that you as a consumer can protect yourself and your dogs from unscrupulous individuals.