Dog Training Certification

What does a dog training certification mean and what are the barriers to entry to become a dog trainer?

Sadly, there are no barriers to entry in the field of dog behavior or training, therefore anyone can hang a sign on their door or put up a website and purport to help train your dog. In our Los Angeles dog training headquarters, we see many “companies” doing just that. When you attend a college or a university, there are a host of choices available and different levels of education. There are community colleges and schools that have mandates that must allow anyone who applies to attend without any metrics for entry and there are very competitive, difficult universities and colleges to get into and to attend, which are very selective about whom they accept. As far as the word “certified” goes, it is a highly misused and misunderstood word. Anyone can go to any dog training school and call themselves “certified” from that school. Remember, dog training schools do not have the same regulation and oversight as colleges and universities do and therefore just about anyone can start a dog training school, teach and call themselves whatever they want (and many do).

Whether you did not finish high school, were homeschooled, attended a community college or an ivy league school, in order to become a professional/board-certified medical doctor, you must pass a Medical Board Exam. If you decide to become a lawyer (JD), you must pass a Bar Exam. These independent of any school or business testing bodies measure your knowledge, skillset (somewhat) and set a high educational, ethical and moral (somewhat) standard/baseline for each applicant. Unlike mandatory, regulated disciplines such as doctors and lawyers, dog trainers must choose to become certified and volunteer to prove their knowledge and that they follow and adhere to the most scientifically proven, up-to-date dog training and behavior modification methods, follow industry standards and actively take continuing education units (CEU). The International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC) and the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) regulates and does this for the dog training and behavior world and if you qualify and are accepted to take their exams, and you pass, you earn a CDBC (Certified Dog Behavior Consultant) and/or the CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed) certification that acknowledges your achievement. Of course, there is much more to evaluate when choosing the best dog trainer and behavior modification specialist, but these are both the very least certifications that you should look for and demand of your dog trainer and behavior specialist. Many dog trainers that do not have the CDBC and CPDT certification are inexperienced, are not fond of continuing education, practice aversive training techniques or call themselves traditional or balanced dog “trainers”, that was the standard decades ago before humane treatment of companion animals was the norm and before scientists made great strides in ethology, cognitive ethology and research in the study of canines. However, just as there are very poor lawyers and doctors, there are also very poor certified dog trainers and behaviorists. It takes more than certification to be great at something.

There are many similarities for admission and attending a college and how it relates to admission and attending a dog training school. To set up and open a dog training school is as easy as making a website, child’s play compared to setting up and opening a college or university. Anyone can start a dog training school, operated from their own home or a local park…etc. While some schools are wonderful and focus on education, many others do not. In order to weed out and to lend credentials, ethics, and education to a free-for-all industry, the following certification bodies are the highly regarded: IAABC and their requirements and the CCPDT requirements. The certification test details can be viewed on their websites, but in short, the criteria for taking the examination are stringent. Just as with all lawyers and doctors, this does not mean that all CDBC’s and CPDT’s are good! This is simply the minimum recognized certification standard to look for before you really dig in to find the best teacher, trainer, and behavior specialist.

The moral is when doing your homework about a potential dog trainer to help you and your beloved pet, do your research beforehand. Make sure they are force-free members of the Pet Professional Guild, to check the college and/or university the trainer attended, the certifications of each of the organizations that the dog trainer or behavior specialist belongs to, and make sure that they have qualifications from independent certification bodies that have no affiliations with any dog training schools, such as the IAABC and CPDT. Check to see if your dog trainer or behavioral specialist has met standards that are independent of any organization; make sure that the standards are humane, force-free, based in science, and are the recommended industry standard. Regardless of how the dog trainer or behavior specialist obtained their education, they should have CDBC (Certified Dog Behavior Consultant) certification issued from the IAABC and a CPDT (Certified Professional Dog Trainer) certification issued from the CCPDT and should meet the standards for the profession. That is the starting metric by which you should judge your future relationship counselor, educator, coach, and dog trainer.

I appreciate when clients ask me these questions as it shows I am dealing with an educated, caring, thoughtful and thorough pet parent who wants the best professional dog trainer and wants the highest education for their pet and themselves. If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.

In the field of Applied Animal Behavior we recommend the following certifications and organizations:


  1. Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB), certified through the Animal Behavior Society
  2. Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (ACAAB), certified through the Animal Behavior Society
  1. Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), certified through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC)
  1.  Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) certified by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT)
  • Although not a certification body, a dog trainer and behavior specialist should be a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG)

(Back to Part 1): Dog Training Certification, Certificates & Affiliations