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Certified Dog Trainer Does Not Mean Ethical

A client posed a great question to me the other day about certifications, and what that means.

I, like many other dog trainers, tend to have alphabet soup at the end of our names, signifying all the education we have gone through.

But to those who do not live in our world, it can be incredibly confusing.

Those who know me, know I advocate for certifying those who work on behavioral modification, and ideally training in general.

But it goes a step further. Where the certification comes from matters.

For example, I have been training for years, and about 3 years in, I got my first certification from the company I was working at. Then later, another certification for a different company where I helped train people across the world in online sessions. While these places did help me build on my training and interpersonal skills, it felt stagnant in what training and knowledge was offered. I sought out more detailed training from sources like Victoria Stilwell Academy, Karen Pryor, The International Association of Animal Behavioral Consultants (IAABC), the Animal Behavioral College, and such. I currently hold certification from Victoria Stilwell Academy, Fear Free Pet Professionals, and believe me, there are more in the works. #foreverstudent

The point is, while I may have been an OK trainer in the previous two jobs before launching StayWildDog full force, I had drastically improved since getting a proper certification from an organization that focused on scientific, evidence-based practices… and continue to do so.

I believe in full transparency when looking for a trainer to help you with your behavioral and training concerns. Which is why I am so open with my history, my experience, my credentials, and my goals.

Unfortunately, so many other trainers don’t feel like this is necessary information.

When I look around at other trainers, some things come to mind.

Do they have credentials?

If they do, from where?

What are the methods they utilized in that school? What tools? What’s their philosophy?

How long have they been training? But remember, years in business do not equate to behavioral knowledge or skill (a pet peeve of mine).

It can be tempting to automatically trust the letters behind a person’s name. They spent the time, money, and dedication to learn a particular skill set, and it’s normal for us to defer to someone who may have an ounce more experience than we do.

But regardless of the alphabet behind them, looking at the methods of the academy they attended is usually one of my priorities. There are many schools out there that teach punitive measures as the main source of behavioral modification, and this does not fall into the lines of ethical dog training.

What’s more. Even if a trainer has gone through extensive training, and managed to get certifications from their organization, it is still important to ask them if they are LIMA (Least intrusive minimally aversive) compliant and what that means to them. Some may carry the title of certified professional dog trainer but negate this rule.

Ethical dog trainers are mostly positive reinforcement based, as we feel that the holistic approach of understanding the animal’s well-being and emotional state is a fundamental aspect of training. We focus on building stronger behaviors, communication, and a bond with the owner. Additionally, we have an incredibly high success rate with complex behavioral concerns like over-reactive and aggressive dogs without the use of force. Because we look to understand the dog as a whole and work towards long-term behavioral change instead of the suppression of it.

So, when looking for your trainer, make sure they are clear about what they know. Learn about their methods, and their background, before you invite them into your home to address behavioral concerns.

For the sake of you, and your dog.

Choose kindness.


If you believe positive training is right for you, reach out now to start training.

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