In order to even be eligible to take the CPDT-KA certification exam, a trainer must have at least 300 hours experience in dog training within the last five years; a high school diploma (or equivalent); and one refernece each from a veterinarian, a client, and a professional colleague. Once those requirements are met, the trainer is given permission to sit for the exam. Then obviously you have to pass it :). The exam is 250 multiple-chose questions that must be completed within 4 hours and is given at a testing center.
The exam covers knowledge of dog behavior and application of training techniques in the following content areas:
- Learning theory
- Instruction skills
It was a lot to cover! Especially since there was no single source of information or real guide for studying. Experience in training really does come into play for this test, and my background with rescue and working for a vet definitely helped. How else would I know all about parasites and kennel cough? :)
Once you pass the exam and are certified, in order to maintain certification you must attend workshops, conferences, and seminars to acquire a set number of continuing education units (CEUs) over a three-year period. This helps ensure that Certified Professional Dog Trainers are knowledgeable about the current thinking, research, and techniques in the field. I love learning and am a total seminar addict so I"m sure I won't have a problem fulfilling this requirement :). Especially since if your CEUs aren't maintained you have to retake the exam to maintain certification. No one wants to do that!!
The original CPDT exam was created in 2001 by the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT), but now it is administered by the CCPDT. Its mission statement reads:
The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) serves to establish and maintain recognized standards of competence in dog training by certifying trainers through criteria based on experience, standardized testing, and continuing education, and identifies those individuals to the dog owning public.
I am totally in favor of establishing and maintaining standards, especially in an unregulated field like dog training. Hopefully, the CCPDT and other institutions like it can further promote standards of knowledge. skill, and professionalism that this industry needs. Right now there is no single all-encompassing state or national license an individual must earn to become a dog trainer. Trainers possess a wide range of formal education and hands-on experience, and implement a variety of handling methods and tools. It can be very helpful in your search for a dog trainer to understand what particular credentials mean and how they are 'earned'.