By: Liz Reyes, CPDT-KA, B.S.
Interest in sending lovable, and sometimes challenging, dogs to training facilities has experienced a dramatic peak in recent years. With the craft itself constantly evolving I’m happy to take my twenty years of dog training know-how and create a distinct list that will help owners find a facility, and a trainer that’s right for them. From basic obedience, to coaching problematic pooches, here’s a brief guide to assist in finding the right methods to bring out the best in your family pet.
Dog Training Methods
Here’s a general “do’s” and “don’ts” list of what your trainer should be teaching.
Each trainer will have different methods for reinforcing the dos and the don’ts. There are three main dog-training methods to teach the dos and don’ts; lure-reward training, compulsion-praise training and marker-training. Keep in mind some trainers may use a combination.
At It’s a Dog’s World K-9 Academy, Inc., we primarily use lure-reward training. However, we will use a combination of all methods depending on the dog and owner’s needs. We encourage food lures to teach commands, but always work on weaning the dog off the food as quickly as possible. It is important when looking for a dog trainer to not only know the methods used to train dogs, but also know where they were educated and what certification they have obtained.
What Does A ‘Certified’ Dog Trainer Mean?- There are many ways that one can become a professional dog trainer. Technical on line schools for dog training has resulted in a huge influx of new dog trainers ‘hanging up their shingle’ and starting their own businesses. Some trainers have apprenticed with an experienced dog trainer for a period of time before going out on their own. Others have gained their experience through working/volunteering in shelters and competing with their own dogs in dog sports. And, some dog trainers have attended a university or college in animal behavior and gained their experience through higher learning.
In any case, there is no required certification or licensing to become a professional dog trainer or behavior counselor. Certification is not mandatory, but it does imply that the dog trainer takes their profession seriously and is dedicated to continuing to grow in their education. Be aware that not all certifications are the same. Some dog trainers will claim that they or the trainers working for them are certified simply because they issued the certification. In other words, they offer “in house” certification. You can spot these trainers because they will simply claim they are certified and will not list where they received their certification. (See below for a list of “letters” that may follow a trainers name to understand where they received their certification.) Other dog trainers have attended accredited schools to receive their certification from unbiased educators that are grading on standardized criteria to pass. Others are certified through independent certifying agencies that are not affiliated with any school or program. CCPDT (Certification Council for Pet Dog Trainers) is one such agency.
I have included a list of some of the schools or programs that offer certifications. See the list below for certifications and their meanings:
At Its A Dog’s World K-9 Academy, Inc. all of our dog trainers are certified trainers through accredited schools or programs. Karen Widaman and I are CPDT-KA through CCPDT. In addition, I have a B.S. in Sociology with a minor in Criminal Justice through a four-year college. My other trainers, Chris Mangrich, Kerianne Benkosky, Bridgette White, Glenda Pate, & Kathy Mair are ABCDT’s through Animal Behavior College. All of the dog trainers working for It’s A Dog’s World K-9 Academy, Inc. have gained additional knowledge of animal behavior in a variety of ways: working at zoos, competing in dog sports, or attending educational seminars by renowned dog trainers and behaviorists on a regular basis. It’s A Dog’s World K-9 Academy, Inc. has all their employed dog trainers go through a six month apprenticeship with a head dog trainer before being working individually with dog or clients.
Beware of “Behaviorists”- According to the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) many dog trainers use the title “behaviorist” incorrectly. A behaviorist is defined as someone who has earned a doctorate level graduate degree. A Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist is a Behaviorist who is certified through the Animal Behavior Society. Persons who do not meet the criteria should not be using the term “behaviorist” to describe themselves, instead behavior consultant, behavior counselor or behavior specialist are acceptable.
Keep in mind all dogs can be trained. If you or someone has said, “this dog cannot be trained,” then the training methods for that dog or breed are not working. It’s a Dog’s World K-9 Academy, Inc. evaluates each breed and adjusts the methodology to suit that individual dog’s needs.