Contact Us

Get in touch!

Call Us

Do I Need to Hire a Dog Trainer and Behavior Consultant With Credentials? – The Art & Science of Dog Training

By Anthony De Marinis, CDBC, ADT, LFDM, FFCP

Many people wonder if it is necessary to hire a dog trainer and/or behavior professional with particular credentials or certifications.

When looking for a dog training and behavior professional, it can be confusing to figure out who is qualified and who you should hire. People call themselves dog trainerscertified specialists, behaviorists, behavior consultants, master dog trainers, and more! What do all these titles mean?

My first suggestion would be to see what qualifications professionals have obtained, and do some research as to what all of those letters actually mean. Always keep in mind that dog training is NOT a regulated industry at this time in the United States.

To answer my question above: Is it necessary to hire a professional with credentials? If you asked me this three years ago, I would have said yes. However, today my answer has changed, and it may change again and again as I develop, and as the industry grows and changes. 

The reason my answer has changed is because dog training is both an art and a science. It is extremely important to understand the science of dogs and their behavior. However, the book smarts of understanding dogs doesn’t make you a good trainer if you cannot apply that knowledge in practice. Hands-on skills are the art of dog training, and having those skills is so important. 

One of my friends teases me all the time about the certifications I have gotten as a professional dog trainer and behavior consultant. But the serious question he asks me all the time is, “Do those certifications make you a better trainer?” It is hard to give a clear answer to this question because I have mixed feelings about it. Though the education I have received is useful and though I am grateful for all of it, it has provided me with the knowledge, the science piece. It hasn’t made me better at the art of training. Working hands-on with clients and with my own dogs, and going out to learn from other professionals, is what has helped me become better and better every year. 

Our Education System

I was not a good student in school because I was more of a hands-on learner who needed constant repetition. I was not good at theory, retaining information by reading, or understanding abstract concepts. To this day, these are still all struggles for me. And it is funny because if we look at the education system today, many students are well-educated in information and “book smarts” but they have no real skills or experience when seeking a job. Many people gain that knowledge and those hands-on skills (even if you are not actually working with your hands) when on the job, actually doing the work. Sometimes we forget that education in a classroom is very different from hands-on learning. 

I think the same is true for dog training. Having the knowledge is great, but if you can’t apply it at all, or you apply it poorly, certification does not mean much. 

Looking back on my past as a student who has always struggled in school, someone who always did better with hands-on learning and development, it makes me laugh to think that I was such a big supporter of certification a few years ago. I think some of this stems from the fact that I struggled so much in school as a young boy and into my college years. I also think because I had such a hard time in school that I wanted to make sure people knew I took my dog training and behavior profession very seriously. And I wanted to prove to myself that I could learn and understand many of the concepts and theories that I once would have struggled with. To be honest, investing so much time and effort into that, I lost sight of the art piece of dog training at times. 

Currently, at least half the training and behavior professionals I am learning from don’t have certifications, and I am constantly blown away by all the knowledge and skill they have. It honestly makes me question so many of my beliefs and look at things critically, which at times has been uncomfortable. It also makes me take a hard look at how much I have changed as a learner and a professional, so much so that I have let some of my certifications lapse, as I didn’t find them to be valuable to me anymore. 

Advice for the Consumer

As a consumer, hiring a professional with credentials can be helpful if you are seeking something specific, like a professional who practices a particular methodology or aligns with your ethical framework. And I do think there is something to be said for being educated and taking the time to become certified and credentialed, but again, it is not the end-all, be-all. And I will admit, I know training professionals, and those in other fields, who have certifications who are bad at what they do. 

At the end of the day, my advice is to do your research. See who you feel you connect with and who aligns with you. It can be helpful to talk to friends, colleagues, or other members of your community to see if they have recommendations for hiring a professional. Getting their first-hand references will give you a clear sense of what it is like to work with a particular trainer. Most importantly, do your research and see who you feel most comfortable handling your dog and helping you. You should check out professionals websites, their social media pages and videos of them training and working with clients as this will help you get a feel for who they are and how they work. 

If you would like to learn more about dog training, behavior modification and the different methodologies and beliefs in dog training and behavior modification, check out my blog, Dog Training Methods and Beliefs- What are the differences?.

How to find a dog trainer and behavior consultant?

There are a few ways to go about finding a dog trainer and/or behavior professional. In no particular order, here is a list of things to consider when on your search.

  • Ask friends, family, your vet and/or your groomer. Then, do your research on the professional(s).
  • Look to see if they have any helpful information posted on their website or social media that you find helpful or that resonates with you.
  • Videos- With social media channels like Facebook, Instagram and Youtube, you can look to see if there are any videos of the training professional working hands on with dogs to get a feel for the way they work with dogs. You can tell a lot by viewing videos. Does the trainer use rewards and play to teach and engage with the dog? Does the trainer use corrections or over use corrections? Lastly, you might even see how the trainer works with clients by seeing how they explain and teach in their videos or by the way they are coaching someone. Remember, you are hiring someone to not only teach your dog, but to teach and coach you as the owner!
  • Education and Continuing Education- Many professionals like promoting their education and where they learn from because many professionals not only do this for a living, but they also do this job because training is also a hobby. If you are able to see where the trainer has learned from, take the time to look those educational sources up as it might help you learn more about the individuals training style. You can also ask if they have done any continuing education. This can be a workshop, seminar, conference, online courses, bringing their own dog to classes or doing sports
  • Certifications and Organizations- Again, certifications are not the end all be all, but I do think they are important to show that the professional believes in a standard, holds their education to a higher standard and continues their education. If this is important to you, you should check to see if a professional is “certified” by the organization they are apart of or if they are a “supporting member” as those are two different things. Certified professionals are generally those who took an exam of some kind, whereas a supporting member is someone who just pays the yearly dues to be apart of an organization, but that does not mean they are certified by that organization.

Again, do your research, and see who you connect with and feel comfortable with handling your dog!

If you want to search for a certified professional in your area, I want to at least make sure to provide readers with the main organizations in the United States that certify professional trainers and behavior consultants. These organizations are NOT dog training schools, as there are many. These organizations are the four main certifying body’s in the United States.

International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC)

Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT)

International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP)

Pet Professional Guild (PPG)

Follow Anthony On: 

Facebook

Instagram

Youtube

About Anthony De Marinis

Anthony with his dog, Journey in the woods

Anthony De Marinis specializes in working with dogs with behavior issues, specifically with aggressive behavior. He provides comprehensive in-home behavior consultations and dog training services in most of Nassau County and western Suffolk County on Long Island, NY. (Online Virtual Consultations for aggression and behavior modification are also available for clients who are local and out of state.) Anthony is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant from the International Association for Animal Behavior Consultants, Accredited Dog Trainer by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, Licensed Family Dog Mediator (LFDM), and a Fear Free Certified Training Professional (FFCP). Anthony currently has an interest in training and behavior modification in Working & Sport bred dogs. He is also learning about and currently competing in agility and sheep herding with his own dogs. Anthony has two Australian Kelpies, Journey and Quest.

 

Anthony

Anthony De Marinis specializes in working with dogs with behavior issues, specifically with aggressive behavior. He provides comprehensive in-home behavior consultations and dog training services in most of Nassau County and western Suffolk County on Long Island, NY. (Online Virtual Consultations for aggression and behavior modification are also available for clients who are local and out of state.) Anthony is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant from the International Association for Animal Behavior Consultants, Accredited Dog Trainer by the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, Licensed Family Dog Mediator (LFDM), and a Fear Free Certified Training Professional (FFCP). Anthony currently has an interest in training and behavior modification in Working & Sport bred dogs. He is also learning about and currently competing in agility and sheep herding with his own dogs. Anthony has two Australian Kelpies, Journey and Quest.

July 3, 2023