By Cheryl Aguiar, PhD
“I want to get a Certificate in dog training. How do I go about this?” For the last ten years, I’ve probably gotten at least one of these calls every week. As the founder and President of E-Training for Dogs, a pioneer (established, 2005) in online webinars for dog professionals and enthusiasts, I am a visible and accessible resource in the search and path to a canine professional career.
Interestingly, my response to this question has changed very little over the years. My reference “point of view” comes from years as a college professor. The answer is a fairly simple set of steps.
Think of what your goal is.
Do you plan to hold dog training classes, on going into homes and working with people and their dogs with behavior problems, or both? Are you going to be more of a dog trainer or more of a behavior consultant? Your career path should help guide you in your choice of education.
Get an education.
I like to think of becoming a canine professional (i.e., dog trainer, canine behavior consultant) as similar to becoming a lawyer or an electrician. The first thing you’ve got to do is go to school and take courses that will prepare you for your career. For a canine professional, education should be some sort of program that gives you a good foundation in what you’ll need to know as a dog trainer or behavior consultant. This education may be at a brick-and-mortar school, as part of distance education program, or online. However, a caveat of distance education and online programs is that you cannot become proficient at dog training or consulting sitting in front of a computer or reading a book. This is a hands-on profession, so be sure whatever schooling you choose includes a component where your skills (not just your knowledge) can be demonstrated to your Instructor, to be graded and assessed. This could be in person or in the form of video homework.
After you have you have completed a program at a good school, you will need some practical experience. This component is necessary before you go out on your own and “practice” your skills. For example, a doctor or veterinarian may have to be an intern for a while. An electrician has to be an apprentice. A canine professional first needs to actually work with dogs in a training or behavior consultant capacity—with the guidance of an experienced person.
Become certified by a professional organization.
This is analogous to a lawyer taking the bar exam and, only after passing, becoming a practicing lawyer. The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) certifications are the canine professional’s bar exam. I tell people that there are a few good accreditations to strive for, and the CCPDT’s exams the ones they should go for first. I send them to the CCPDT site, tell them what to download, and encourage them to go for the Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed (CPDT-KA) exam—even if their goal is to become a behavior consultant. The reason for this is that the CPDT-KA is a test that certifies minimal competency in the field of dog training, and the bulleted list in the Content Areas of study are absolutely essential knowledge, regardless if one is pursuing a career in dog training or as a behavior consultant. I am so grateful for organizations such as the CCPDT that lay out the knowledge a trainer or behavior consultant should have, and provide a strong and reputable organization to belong to.
Maintain relevance in the field.
Once you have gained a good education, put in hours of experience, and become Certified by a professional organization, you should then maintain cutting edge knowledge through continuing education, or earning CEUs.
At E-Training for Dogs, our role is to provide excellent programs both to prepare students before they actually work in their field and to help practitioners maintain their edge through continuing education. We make it a point to know what the canine professional student needs to pass the CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA or submit a successful application to other reputable canine professional organizations, and to be successful as a trainer or consultant. We provide students with certificates of completion, but I always push them toward actual certification with CCPDT. This should be their end goal.
Our CPDT-KA Exam prep course has been taken by over four hundred students in the last several years. Of those who took the exam (306), only two have not passed. Our newest offerings are the CBCC-KA Exam prep courses. Unlike the CPDT-KA Exam Prep—one course that covers all five Content Areas—the CBCC-KA Exam Prep has a course dedicated to each of the five Content Areas, plus an additional course dedicated to the Scientific Method! e went for quality of education instead of expediency resulting in the five courses. The candidate who successfully completes our prep courses for the CBCC-KA exam and goes on to pass the exam is a unique individual with all of the knowledge and skills needed to provide the best possible services for his clients.
Cheryl Aguiar, PhD, is the founder and owner of E-Training for Dogs, Inc. She oversees all development, curriculum and faculty. Dr. Aguiar taught at Colorado State University for over 15 years when she decided to combine her dual passions of dogs and education, thus creating the pioneer in webinars for the canine professionals: E-Training for Dogs. When ETD was created, over 80% of students were still on “dial-up” and the concept of “webinar” elicited a 10 minute explanation/definition. An avid dog enthusiast and sport dog competitor since 1974, Cheryl has titled dogs in NAVHDA Natural Ability, Utility and the Invitational. She has also titled dogs at the Senior and Master Hunter level in AKC. Before working with the Versatile Hunting Dog, she had put 2 AKC Tracking Dogs (TD) and 2 Tracking Dog Excellent (TDX) on dogs in addition to teaching Tracking in Lake Elmo, Minnesota many years ago at the Animal Inn. Cheryl also put 4 Companion Dogs (CD) on dogs plus 3 Companion Dog Excellent on dogs. She is also a breeder of select German Shorthair Pointers: Outlander GSP. In the 1980′s, she used to train and test in Schutzhund bringing 2 dogs to Schutzhund I and II and one dog to a Schutzhund III. She held the office of training director for the Twin City Working Dog Association for several years in the 80′s. Cheryl served as the “helper” (bite suit) for the St. Paul and Minneapolis K-9 Police Department in her younger years. The tracking and obedience work are equally as exciting to build in a dog. She is an avid outdoors person who also considers her number one hobby training her dogs for competition and fun!