Becoming a Dog Trainer

K-9 dog unit works with his partner during a demonstration TrainingBefore you read further, we would like to invite you to join our Association as an Associate Member.  This membership ($95 in the first year) can provide you with a lot of information and training on what it takes to be a dog trainer.  Our members-only portal offers access to a business plan template for dog trainers, sample dog manners, puppy class and tricks curriculum, links to videos on how to train a variety of behaviours, free webinars and more.  Our Associates are also able to get discounts on a variety of products and services – including a special cost-effective offer to create your website.

There’s a lot to consider when thinking about becoming a dog trainer – here is a good overview of everything involved

Once you have had a look at the overview, feel free to have a look at this list of dog training schools across Canada (and in the U.S.).  Call local dog schools in your area and ask if they are taking interns or looking for employees.  (Be prepared to sign a confidentiality and non-compete agreement if you work for one of these firms – it’s not kosher to expect them to train you and then you take their methods and open open near them as a competitor).  You can  ‘Contact Us’ to ask if we are aware of any other specific training or mentoring opportunities in your region.  Each program has voluntarily completed the survey used to gather information for this matrix. This information has not been verified by our organization and we recommend confirming any and all information before acting on the basis of that information. Inclusion in this listing does not imply any endorsement or recommendation by CAPDT. This listing is for informational purposes only.  To have your dog trainer education program listed, use the “Contact Us” form to request a survey you can complete and return.

It’s important that you understand the difference between CAPDT and CCPDT.   This website is operated by CAPDT – the Canadian Association of Professional Dog Trainers.

On the other hand, the CCPDT – in full, the Certification Council For Professional Dog Trainers – offers independent exams across North America to certify that dog trainers have achieved a certain minimum standard of knowledge (or knowledge and skills) and is an organization of “certificants.” Certificants have taken and passed one of the CCPDT examinations, and continue to recertify to retain their credentials (such as being able to call themselves a Certified Professional Dog Trainer or CPDT).  To earn CCDPT certifications, individuals must meet strict requirements, including having a certain number of hours physically training dogs, plus achieving a certain minimum score in a psychometrically sound examination. Additionally, certificants are required to meet certain continuing education requirements to maintain their certification, use humane training practices and follow a Code of Ethics.  The CCPDT is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The NCCA provides impartial, third-party validation that a program has met recognized national and international credentialing industry standards for development, implementation, and maintenance of certification programs.

Our organization – the Canadian Association of Professional Dog Trainers – is an education-focused organization of “members.” Members are individuals with an interest in the goals of the organization, who pay annual membership dues to participate. Members continue to be part of the organization as long as they continue to pay their annual dues.  Becoming a member of CAPDT does not make you a qualified or “certified” dog trainer – yet it does give you access to a suite of benefits like discounts on dog products, access to a member’s discount on insurance and so on, a quarterly newsletter, private member’s Facebook page, lists of how to train behaviours, free webinars and more.  Where the two organizations are similar are that we require CAPDT members to meet certain continuing education requirements to maintain their membership, use humane training practices and follow a Code of Ethics

If you are interested in taking an exam with the Certification Council For Professional Dog Trainers, you’ll need to prepare.  Writing the test costs $385 (in U.S. dollars).  Before writing the exam you need to gain a certain number of hours working under supervision training dogs, as well as running classes that you are fully responsible for.  You’ll also need a broad array of knowledge on topics from managing classrooms to sanitation.  Here’s a list to the candidate handbook which lays out what you’ll need to know. 

You will need a combination of knowledge and experience – and no, having your own family dog is not enough experience!  So where do you get that experience?  Here’s a few tips:

  • Do not expect to go to work for a dog trainer who lives near you, learn everything from them and then set up as their competitor  (most good trainers will require people who want to intern with them to sign a non-disclosure and non-compete agreement that prohibits you from going into business near them).  Think about it from their perspective!  They may have spent years developing their business and learning what works well in your area — so it is unfair for you to expect to get the benefit of all that hard-earned experience for free.
  • Look for a program that offers education along with a practical portion of the course.  Online courses alone will not provide you with the hands-on experience you need!  However, online courses are a good start.  Here is a list of some of the organizations in North America who offer training.  Not all of them are equally credible, and at least one of the most credible organizations is not listed.  When asking some of the most well-renowned trainers in the world learned their craft, organizations often spoken of include Animal Behavior College, the Karen Pryor Academy and The Academy for Dog Trainers (Jean Donaldson), among others. 

There are some excellent books that can support your learning and provide you with the knowledge you need – the books below are often the recommended texts for many of the major programs (these links are to U.S.-based Dogwise Publishing who offer many e-books, you can also search for these books at Canadian sellers like Mungo Books):

Coaching People to Train Their Dogs 2nd ed. by Terry Ryan. Considered by many to be the single most important book new trainers should read.
The Dog Trainer’s Resources Books with articles from training magazine Chronicle of the DogThree volumes filled with what trainers need to know.
The Human Half of Dog Training by Rise Van Fleet.
The Teaching Dog by Nicole Larocco-Skeehan. How to partner with “teaching dogs ” to improve aspects of your training classes.
How to Run a Dog Business by Veronica Boutelle.
One on One – A Dog Trainers Guide to Private Lessons by Nicole Wilde.
So You Want to Be a Dog Trainer by Nicole Wilde.
Gamify Your Dog Training – Training Games for Group Instruction by Terry Ryan.
The Ethical Dog Trainer by James Barry.

Other interesting links:

Information Links:

  • Speaking of Dogs – is a Toronto based organization dedicated to educating and enlightening people about dogs through seminars, workshop forums and this site.
  • DogWise – a provider of “All Things Dog”.
  • Doggonesafe – Non-profit dedicated to dog bite prevention and support, with photos, videos, articles and other downloads for kids and parents.
  • Doggonecrazy – Doggone Crazy! board game – a fun way to teach kids how to read dog body language and be safe around dogs.
  • Therapeutic Paws of Canada – A non profit charitable organization with volunteers visiting senior facilities, hospitals etc.
  • CanuckDogs – A national dog event web site
  • DOGSAFE Canine First Aid – Comprehensive courses on canine first aid and safety
  • Whole Dog Journal – Monthly guide to natural dog care and training
  • Dog Star Daily – Ian Dunbar’s site full of great tips and resources – new info daily
  • My Smart Puppy – The site by Sara Wilson that offers discussions and many training tips.

Please let us know if you would like us to add or change web links – just drop us a line from the ‘Contact’ page.

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