Read This Before You Hire a Dog Trainer! (Sticky post)

If you are reading this blog, it is likely that you are experiencing difficulties working with some training or behavioral issues with your dog. I applaud you for seeking solutions, and I hope that the information contained within these chapters will help you solve any issues you may be having.

After reading these posts, however, you may still look for a professional trainer to help you polish what you have learned. This is an excellent idea, and I encourage everyone who feels they need help to find it, especially when dealing with issues beyond the scope of this blog (such as issues with aggressive behavior).

While there are some incredibly gifted and experienced dog trainers to be found, there are also plenty of people misleading the public on what their titles and qualifications signify. For that reason, I would like to take a moment to tell you what it means (and doesn’t mean) when a dog trainer says that they are “certified.”

For many occupations, a certification implies that an international, federal, or state government (or accredited organization) has approved the training and education a professional has received. For example, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) is one who has passed a very difficult standardized exam, and has been licensed by one of the U.S. States. As every accountant takes the same test, you can feel assured that those who have passed it all meet the same high level of expertise. Other occupations, such as radiologists, massage therapists, and mechanics, use a national certification board to demonstrate a high level of education and training.

This level of standardization does NOT exist in dog training!

There is currently no state in the USA that currently requires dog trainers to be certified by any overseeing organization, and there are no special licenses required by the government. There is no single, standardized test that demonstrates safe and effective canine handling.

Despite this, many professional dog trainers (myself included) have understandably recognized the need to reassure their clients of their education, skills, and experience level and have therefore chosen to become “certified.”

So what does certified mean?

Because there is currently no single organization that issues these certifications, it has become easy (and all too common) for anyone with absolutely no hands-on experience working with dogs to obtain a so-called “certification” online and begin seeing clients. Many of these organizations only require the completion of an open book single multiple choice test and the payment of a fee. Other organizations require the completion of an online course in order to issue a certificate, but even these companies do not require that their students show proof of ever handling a single dog.

This can be dangerous. Dogs, while domesticated, are still animals with their own unique way of communicating. Inexperienced trainers, even those with good intentions, can cause more harm than good if they do not have the proper education and experience levels. They can even cause behavioral problems, such as aggression or fear, to worsen.

Unfortunately, the burden of weeding through these various certifications has fallen to the client. When you choose a trainer for your dog, it is vital that you find out what their qualifications are.

If they are certified, ask them what organization has certified them and what the requirements were to obtain that certification. Ask them how long they have been training dogs, and ask for references.

Don’t be afraid to verify what they tell you! An inexperienced trainer can waste your money and can even get you or someone else hurt. Get references and recommendations…your dog deserves it!

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