How to Choose a Dog Trainer or Behavior Consultant

Bradley Phifer

The study of dog behavior and training is continuously evolving. Dog training, like parenting, looks different today than it did 10 or 15 years ago. As a pet parent, it is important for you to find a professional dog trainer you feel comfortable with, as well as one who has the necessary skills to meet the needs of you and your dog.

With no certification or licensing requirements, professional dog trainers and behavior consultants come into the field from a variety of backgrounds. Many professional dog trainers will advertise themselves as a certified trainer. Certification, while not required, does imply a trainer is serious about his career and is committed to continued education and professional growth. You should note, not all certifications are the same. There are numerous schools and training programs that certify dog trainers based on their educational program and methodologies.

The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) is the only independent certifying body for professional dog trainers and canine behavior consultants. The CCPDT offers comprehensive, psychometrically sound examinations that test a trainer’s body of knowledge in the field of animal behavior and training. Not affiliated with any particular school or educational program, the CCPDT offers two certifications: the Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) and the Certified Behavior Consultant Canine (CBCC-KA). Both programs also require one to meet extensive eligibility requirements and fulfill continuing education quotas before the credential may be renewed.

The professional dog trainer checklist:

  • Is a member of a professional organization such as the Association of Pet Dog Trainers or International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
  • Carries the CPDT-KA or the CBCC-KA credential
  • Can knowledgeably answer your questions regarding dog behavior
  • Is patient and motivates both his/her clients and students
  • Is open about his/her training methodology and encourages you to observe classes prior to enrolling
  • Doesn’t use force-based methods when training new behaviors

Questions to ask before you hire a dog trainer:

  • How long have you been training dogs?
  • Are you a member of any professional organization(s)?
  • Do you have any education or certification relevant to dog training?
  • Can I observe a training class?
  • Do you have experience training dogs of my breed?
  • Have you worked with clients who have similar goals as mine?
  • What training techniques do you employ?

Hiring a professional dog trainer is a necessary step for many pet parents. If you are seeking assistance teaching basic skills such as “come when called” and “loose leash walking,” look for the CPDT-KA credential when hiring a professional dog trainer. If you are experiencing more serious behavior problems such as aggression, fears, or phobias, you will want to find a behavior consultant with the CBCC-KA credential to assist you and your veterinarian in modifying your dog’s behavior.


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