I have been asked over and over “Whats are those letters behind your name, and what do they mean?” the answer is simple. The CPDT-KA stands for Certified Professional Dog Trainer Knowledge Assessed and is a very rigorous national exam that must be taken and passed at a professional testing facility. This test proves the person has a very solid foundation in science based dog training methods, Animal husbandry, Ethology, Instruction skills, and more. Make no mistake this is not some simple test where any trainer off the street can cram a few books and pass it. This was 240 questions that takes over four and half hours to complete, and most need every minute of that time to make it through. The trainer has to be seriously committed to learning the science behind teaching dogs, and how that applies when working with clients on a daily basis. I am not one for certifications and really dismissed this for the longest time until I started to see where the dog training industry was headed, and realized its time we need to weed out the mess.
What Does CPDT-KA mean for someone who is looking for a trainer?
It means you can be rest assured that they will have a good understanding of how dogs learn. By know means does it make them a great trainer or teacher, but it is one hell of a filter to weed out novice trainers. Every great trainer needs to understand how dogs learn in order to teach them in a way that has lasting impact. Each dog is different where every situation can change based on breed, the owners, and environment. It essential that your next trainer has the ability to work out a custom tailored plan for you.
Who is the CCPDT.ORG ? Well straight from there website:
“Who We Are:
The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), established in 2001, is the leading independent certifying organization for the dog training profession. The CCPDT is the leader in the development of rigorous exams to demonstrate mastery of humane, science-based dog training practices. Thousands of dog training professionals worldwide maintain the CCPDT’s certifications as a mark of high professional distinction.”
Why do you keep saying science based dog training?
When anyone refers to dog training as science based training we are normally referring to the use of positive and humane based training methods that are rooted in “Learning Theory” which is how dogs learn. When we use these methods we are working with how the dogs learn vs jumping straight into using force or intimidation with the dog. I won’t get into it, but punishment based training like the use of chokes and prongs. If we can get the same or better result with positive training why use harsh based methods for training your loved pet? All these harsh based methods are going to erode the trust between you and your dog.
One of my favorite things about the CPDT-KA is the Humane Hierarchy?
This might sound like some hippie dog training mumbo jumbo, but trust me it’s a big deal. It’s a road map for each trainer to follow when working with clients and their dogs. It’s a flow chart for trainers and we have to commit to follow it or your certification can be unapproved or revoked. In a nutshell it directs the trainer to use every possible positive method before any punishment is applied to the training program. We look for the good in what the dog is doing and then reward that behavior. Yes it can be more complicated than that, but its pretty darn close. Without this commitment trainers are just free to jump straight into hurting dogs, and convincing owners this is the only course of treatment.
Their can be a dark side to dog training and its everywhere…
The dog training industry is not regulated by anyone which is great, but can also be a very bad thing. On the good side the government stays out of our business, but the really bad side is the barrier to entry to become a dog trainer is low. What that means is any person can call themselves a trainer. I see this all the time not only in my local marketplace, but all over. I was once in an adoption center and this dog trainer was helping someone pick out dogs for adoption. He convinced a mother of four to get two puppies from the same litter of rottie mix pups which are going to be big. They only wanted one, but he spewed some crap about them needing each other as they grow up which is not true at all. I asked him “Why would you recommend this family to get two of these puppies, and not just one?” He went right into how he is getting paid per dog and needed to double up on this one, it took everything I had not to come unglued. I asked him a few more questions about his training techniques. His response almost floored me… he responded with “what do you mean by Positive Reinforcement training I haven’t heard of that” I then asked “where did you learn how to train dogs?” and the next response was even better than the first one… “I learned from watching Youtube and Dog Whisperer with my dad, and then we started a dog training business” This is a perfect example of how this industry can get crazy. I am not saying there are not brilliant dog trainers out there because there are thousands that are more than qualified. Having this certification really weeds out the people like this from taking your money and time possibly even ruining your dog along the way.
Out with the old and in with the new… ” But this is the way we have always done it”
When someone has done something one way for a long time it can be really hard for them to accept change even if it’s a better way. I hear this all the time from other trainers “well its worked for me for 20 years so I am going to keep using these methods.” Just because it works sometimes does not make it right. Sometimes there are two paths to get to a result, but we have to be aware of what we become along that path.
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. I hold that the more helpless a creature the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of humankind. – Mahatma Gandhi
Having this certification means we have to constantly grow with continuing education credits. In order to keep the CPDT-KA they have a CEU program which keeps the trainers learning by reading qualified books, attending seminars, and learning from approved online courses. This is wonderful news because training and working with animals is an evolving process, and we as trainers always need to be progressing.
Does having the CPDT-KA automatically make us great trainers?
No! I strongly believe dog trainers need to be committed to learning, growing, and trying new methods as long as they fall within the Humane Hierarchy. However training isn’t just knowing training techniques, and your ability to train dogs. It is as much about real world experience and your ability to communicate with people to get them to understand too. The science of dog training isn’t that hard, but the art of applying it takes years.
So I am very proud to be a part of the CCPDT.org family, but it doesn’t end there I promise to never stop growing!
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