About dog trainer credentials
Licenses for various professions are administered and regulated by states. The purpose is to generate revenue for the state, while at the same time ensuring some protection of the public through enforcement of professional standards of conduct and competency. Professions requiring a license do not permit an individual to practice that profession without the required license. Further, state licensing boards publish practice acts which define specific licensing requirements, including use of the title associated with a profession and circumstances under which a particular license can be revoked. Presently there is no licensing requirement for dog trainers in any state of the United States.
Dog trainers are basically free to set up shop and call themselves dog trainers without any state or national regulatory or licensing body oversight of practices or use of the title, "dog trainer."
Accreditation is a term generally used to refer to the voluntary process of compliance with specific standards of excellence delineated by an accrediting body. For example, institutions of higher learning, such as colleges and universities are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and healthcare organizations seek accreditation by The Joint Commission. The purpose of accreditation is to demonstrate institutional quality to the public.
There are numerous specialty accrediting bodies and accreditations in various fields. In healthcare, for example, the American Psychological Association (APA) accredits graduate departments of psychology in higher education, and CARF, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities accredits rehabilitation facilities.
Less commonly, the term, accredited is used to refer to an individual who is credentialed or authorized to perform a certain function, such as dog training.
Certification means that an individual has demonstrated the knowledge and/or skills necessary to be considered sufficiently competent to practice in the area in which they are certified. Determination of competency can only be made through testing.
Individuals are often certified in specific areas of practice, including specific skills. Certification usually encompasses a much narrower, but more specific body of knowledge than that required for a license. Whereas a license entitles someone to practice a profession within the defined scope of practice of that particular profession, certification demonstrates that an individual professional has attained the necessary knowledge and skills to perform competently in a particular area of practice.
With most certifications, some kind of evidence of continued competency is required, usually acquired through continuing education and evaluated through skills testing. Certain certifications, such as CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) require professional providers to renew their certification regularly through knowledge testing and demonstration of skills to a qualified instructor. Instructors, as well as providers must meet and maintain specific certification requirements. CPR certification is offered by the American Heart Association and Red Cross, two well known and established organizations. The knowledge and skill set required for certification through either organization is well established by panels of experts.
When I was practicing critical care nursing I was certified by the Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) as a Critical Care [Registered] Nurse, or CCRN. Critical care is a specialty within the profession of nursing. In order to qualify to take the certification exam, I had to first possess a valid nursing license and document a specific number of hours of experience in critical care. I then "sat" ("wrote" or took) a proctored, timed, standardized, written certification exam offered by a certification corporation that lasted several hours. Once I was notified I had passed the exam, I was permitted to use the initials CCRN, along with R.N. (Registered Nurse) after my name.
In an effort to ensure a standard of competence for trainers and behaviorists, and advance the professional standing of dog training, various organizations have set up certification programs with different competency and experience requirements. Individuals and private training companies also provide certification to students on the completion of various training programs.
It is important to recognize that certification programs provided by private companies and individuals are not generally bound by any national or state standards for the practice of dog training or the education of dog trainers. State education departments do require however, that post-secondary (post- high school) training or educational programs meet certain state laws for operating as a training program in that particular state.
Certification, regardless of the title, is merely a statement of satisfactory completion of a specific program, as determined by the individual or company granting the certification. There is great variability in the quality of such programs.
The Karen Pryor Academy for Animal Training and Behavior is a private institution of higher learning that certifies dog trainers who complete an intensive 6-month program of study under qualified instructors, extensive practice, written assignments, a comprehensive final examination, and demonstration of teaching as well as dog training skills. Candidates for certification are required to pass each of three final assessments of competency with a minimum score of 90% in each of the three areas: knowledge, skill in teaching people and skill in training dogs. Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partners (KPA - CTP) are trainers who have passed all of the final assessments and agree to uphold the high practice, continuing education and ethical standards of the Karen Pryor Academy.
The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers offers a standardized independent examination to test and certify dog trainer knowledge. Applicants must accrue a set number of hours of experience in order to sit for the examination. The examination is administered via computer at designated testing centers across the U.S.A. and in Canada. Currently, there is no skills testing component required for this certification. The credential earned by applicants who meet testing requirements and pass the examination is referred to as CPDT - KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed). The Association of Pet Dog Trainers endorses this certification program but is independent of the certification council.
Since dog training is an unlicensed profession without any regulatory oversight, anyone can call him or herself a dog trainer. It behooves the consumer to research the background and training methods of trainers from whom they are considering taking lessons or advice.
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