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Written by Emily Bayne
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 02/11/2022, edited: 09/22/2023
Interested in becoming a dog trainer but not sure where to start? A great first step is to take training certification courses, which will help you establish a solid foundation for your business and expand your training repertoire.
In this article, we'll discuss the necessary steps to becoming a certified dog trainer and share our favorite dog training certification courses that will help you level up your pet care business (or your arsenal of home training techniques).
Legally, dog trainers don't have to be certified to offer dog training services, though certifications can help earn your customers' trust and build your credentials. Likewise, these courses can help you learn fundamental training concepts like behavior modification and humane training methods.
Becoming a certified dog trainer has many benefits for pet parents too. All dogs exhibit behavior problems at some point in their lives. Completing a certification program can help you learn science-backed methods for dealing with these behavioral problems. Plus, understanding how to use positive reinforcement can strengthen your bond with your pet and make life easier for you both.
There are no official courses or exams a dog trainer must take to become certified, nor are there specific college programs that teach people to become dog trainers. However, many online and in-person courses teach dog training fundamentals and issue program participants a certificate of completion at the course's end.
The certification process is different for every course. For example, to become certified with the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, you must have years of experience and extensive knowledge of training concepts, as well as pass an exam.
The time it takes to become a certified dog trainer depends on the type of certification you're going for and how much time you have to dedicate to your coursework. Some self-paced certification courses can take as little as 4 months to complete, but it may take part-time students closer to 6 to 12 months for the same program.
However, more esteemed certifications like CPDT-KA require candidates to have at least 3 years of training experience before they can even take the exam.
Your training and education won't stop when you receive your certification, either — most programs require trainers to take continuing education courses and recertify every few years.
There are many factors to consider when choosing a certification program. You should pick a program that fits your budget and time constraints and aligns with humane training standards. No two certification programs are alike — and they aren't all equal, either. It's up to the dog trainer to find a curriculum that teaches science-backed and humane training methods.
Here are some of our favorite dog training certifications for beginners and experts alike.
Wag! recommends the Fear Free Pet Sitter Certification program for all Pet Caregivers on our platform. Although designed for pet sitters, this online course can teach prospective trainers to recognize common behavioral problems, identify body language cues, and implement effective training methods.
This course costs just $99 for members and $199 for those without a Fear Free Professional membership. To become certified, enrollees must complete 5 course modules and earn a grade of 80 or better on all exams.
Candidates must also sign the Fear Free Pledge before receiving their certification. By signing this code of ethics, you agree to treat animals with respect and professionalism. Trainers will need to renew their certification yearly by completing 2 hours of continuing education and paying the $39 annual renewal fee.
For a more in-depth training course, we recommend the Online Certified Dog Trainer Course by the International School for Certified Dog Trainers (ISCDT). The ISCDT course curriculum covers 18 training lessons that explore common behavioral and training issues dog trainers may encounter. The lesson plans involve written and video material to help students understand the science behind specific training methods and see how professionals practice these techniques in real life.
Students have 52 weeks from enrollment to finish all assignments and assessments, but students who work on lessons daily may finish the program in just 4 months. Students are free to do their coursework at their own pace (which is perfect for busy Pet Caregivers who want to level up their pet care business while working or in school).
The online course and certification cost $399, making it one of the more affordable online courses. Course candidates can also opt for one of their skilled comprehension packages, which also include an opportunity to shadow training instructors at an ISCDT facility. The skilled comprehension packages range between $1,400 and $2,200.
CPDT-KA stands for Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge Assessed and is one of the best certifications a dog trainer can receive. The CPDT-KA certification program is not a course, but a certification exam that experienced trainers can take to prove their knowledge of LIMA (Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive) training methods.
The cost to take the test is $400, and trainers must have at least 3 years and 300 hours of dog training experience before they are eligible for testing. Applicants must also submit a signed document from a vet or CCPDT-certified trainer affirming that they practice LIMA training strategies and exhibit professionalism and humane behaviors in the workforce. Trainers can sign up for the exam during one of the biyearly application periods and must visit a computer-based testing facility to take the online test.
CPDT-KA certifications are valid for 3 years. Trainers must take continuing education courses and pay a $250 recertification fee to be eligible for recertification.
Dog training courses and certifications are a simple way to level up your pet care business and grow your customer base. Though certifications aren't required to start a dog training business, they can really set your services apart. If you're new to the dog training industry, consider taking a certification course to stand out from the crowd! (Then, when you're ready, you can sign up to conduct dog training services through the Wag! app!)
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