Dog’s Eye View: Training, learning never end
I am in the process of recertifying for my Certified Professional Dog Trainer/Knowledge Assessed credentials. It occurred to me it might be of interest for readersto know what it means to earn this certification as well as what it takes to maintain it.
The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers was formed in 2001. This organization was originally implemented by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers under the guidance of noted veterinarian, behaviorist and author Dr. Ian Dunbar. Dunbar believed dog trainers needed a credible means of measuring their knowledge and skills, and the dog-owning public needed a credible barometer for choosing a trainer. The APDT hired a professional testing corporation to ensure the process met professional standards.
Trainers are required to re-certify every three years. This re-certification has some very specific requirements. Initially, we must successfully pass a comprehensive four-hour exam covering five areas of competency: instructional skills, animal husbandry, ethology, learning theory and equipment. We are given a list of books pertaining to the training we need to know. It’s up to the individual to study and prepare for this rigorous exam. The exams are administered in various locations across the United States and in some foreign countries. I traveled to a Grand Junction testing site.
During each three-year period, dog trainers are required to accumulate 36 hours of continuing education. All workshops, webinars and seminars must be approved and taught by knowledgeable instructors. Most are leaders in the field of the core areas of competency, as described above.
We are required to adhere to the position statement for the application of the Humane Hierarchy of training that serves to guide us in the decision-making process during dog training and behavior modification classes, as well as the consultations we do.
This all sounds so formal and almost daunting, but the reality is, we would do these things even if they were not required. The science of learning and behavior change is so exciting. Ideas and theories held for years are being changed in light of current research and study. The training techniques we teach have evolved, along with the new science.
Certification is not the only aspect of maintaining ones skills. We keep working with our own dogs, teaching them new activities such as tricks and enrolling them in classes to keep them — and ourselves — mentally sharp. The skills help us in our classes, demonstrating the exercises we teach our students.
We study to become evaluators for titles dog/owner teams can earn. The American Kennel Club’s STAR Puppy, Canine Good Citizens and the APDT’s Canine Life and Social Skills program are examples.
We often say to our students, “Training never ends,” but I might say, in addition, learning never ends either. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Sandra Kruczek is a certified professional dog trainer at Total Teamwork Training with more than 30 years of experience.
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