Around 87 million households in the U.S. own a dog. And if you belong to one of those homes, you probably know that these furry friends are more than just pets.
For many people, dogs are family members. They care for man’s best friend with the same compassion they would for a child. From grooming to nutrition, dog owners don’t want to compromise quality. And this also holds true for training classes. Nowadays, every pet owner wants their dog to receive premium-standard sessions, ensuring their canine’s behavior is top-notch.
So if you run a dog training business, this is your time to leverage the opportunity and flaunt your skills. But how do you stand out among your competitors? The answer is simple: earn a certification.
Here’s everything you need to know about the best dog training certification programs to improve your credibility, boost your career, and take your company to the next level.
But first, what’s a dog trainer certification?
Although dog training is an unregulated industry, meaning it’s not mandatory to earn a certification before practicing, it’s always good to have to ensure clients that their pets are in safe hands.
Dog training certification programs teach you how to inspire good behavior in canines. This might mean teaching dogs to follow commands like “sit” and “stay,” discouraging barking during the day or dealing with aggression and other behavioral problems in animals.
Some dog training certification organizations take you from enrollment to certification in as little as four months, while others can take significantly longer. For example, you need at least three years of training experience before the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) lets you sit for their Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) exam. But no matter which certifying body you go through, becoming credentialed is always beneficial for anyone with a dog training business.
Types of dog training certifications
Working with dogs sounds exciting––more like therapy, right? But sometimes, it’s hard to catch the notorious Chihuahuas, and training them to listen to you is imperative. So here are three main ways you can become a certified dog trainer:
- Vocational program through a college or university: Some colleges and universities offer dog training programs for their students. For example, the State University of New York at Cobleskill offers an accelerated program where students can earn a four-year degree in canine handling and training in just two years.
- Certification course from a private business: Many private companies offer courses for dog trainers to refine their skills, gain experience, and eventually earn their certification. These programs are shorter than university programs, providing certification in a few months.
- An evaluation of your dog training skills and experience: If you have extensive experience working with dogs as a trainer, walker, or other dog-related professional, you may be allowed to sit for a certification exam without taking a prerequisite course.
Each option will give you the credentials to make your business more attractive to new clients. So no matter which type of dog training certification you choose, you must do your best in the program.
7 dog trainer certification organizations to consider
There are many certification programs for dog trainers, but how do you know which one is right for you? Start by choosing a program that aligns with your business goals, client base, and the skills you want to learn. Here are some of the best dog trainer certification organizations offering credential programs:
1. Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
The CCPDT offers two certifications: the Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA), which measures your knowledge of dog training technique, and the Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge and Skills Assessed (CPDT-KSA), which measures both theoretical knowledge and hands-on skill. These are some of the most involved credential programs for dog trainers. Before you can take either exam, you must have a high school diploma (or GED), a signed Attestation Statement from an industry professional (like a veterinarian), and at least 300 logged hours of dog training experience in the last three years.
2. National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors
The NADOI also has high expectations of its certified dog trainers. To become an accredited member of this organization, you need at least five years of training experience and a minimum of 100 hours working with dogs. Additionally, trainers who obtain NADOI membership can apply for specialized credentials for puppy training, competition training, and others.
3. International Association of Canine Professionals
The IACP offers several credential programs for trainers who want to work with service dogs and those who wish to become dog training instructors. Most of their programs require you to become a certified dog trainer (CDT) through their organization, meaning you’ll need at least three years of dog training to begin your credential journey.
4. Association of Animal Behavior Professionals
The AABP offers a Certified Dog Behavior Technologist (AABP-CDBT) program, which requires applicants to have 300 hours of training experience over the past five years, 30 hours of skill development training, and two references from professionals in the industry. Then, applicants sit through an exam that covers training technology, principles of dog behavior, how to assess an animal for training, and more.
5. Method K9
Method K9’s Shadow Program is a 5-day crash course in dog training. While initially intended for dog trainers and shelter staff, the program is open to anyone who wants to sharpen their training skills and better understand a dog’s psychology. During the course, students learn the basics of dog obedience training, how to use training equipment correctly, and behavior modification techniques for separation anxiety, resource guarding, aggression, and more.
6. Training Without Conflict
TWC is the certification program from Ivan Balabanov’s School for Dog Trainers. This 9-week program teaches students to motivate dogs through play and positive reinforcement, resulting in loyalty and obedience without a fight. The course is also available online and self-paced, so trainers can earn their certification even if they work full time.
7. The Michael Ellis School for Dog Trainers
The Michael Ellis School for Dog Trainers offers several courses for training puppies, preparing dogs for protection work (like police dogs or Schutzhund/IPO competitors), and even increasing your dog’s motivation and drive. All these courses are available online or in person at the school’s Santa Rosa, CA campus, varying from five to 15 days in length.
Why become a certified dog trainer?
As mentioned, you don’t need a certification to train dogs. The dog training industry is largely unregulated, and you can start a business without official qualifications. But dog owners can be discerning. They love their pets deeply, so they’re more likely to work with certified dog trainers, as a certificate suggests you have the knowledge and experience to work with their dogs effectively. Therefore, it is hugely beneficial for you to invest in a certification course.
Manage your training business like a pro with Practice
As a dog trainer, you love your work and dedicate your time to gaining knowledge, skills, and certifications. And when you have the credentials to back up your passion, the clients will come running. Before you know it, your calendar will be packed with training clients and their amazing pets — and when they do, you’ll need a good customer management tool.
Practice’s customer relationship management (CRM) tool called Client Management Software –– created with small businesses, entrepreneurs, and coaches in mind –– syncs with your calendar so you never miss an appointment, automates client communication, helps you prepare and send invoices, and makes running your business a breeze. Try it today.