The Newly Formed Alliance for Professionalism in Dog Training Pursues Licensing Legislation
As our profession has evolved and grown due to heightened understanding of the importance of dogs in our lives, the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers® (CCPDT), the leading independent certifying organization for the dog training profession, and the Association of Professional Dog Trainers® (APDT), a 5,000-member strong global community of professional dog trainers, have formed The Alliance for Professionalism in Dog Training to advocate for dog training as a profession. The primary goal of this joint industry effort is to give a voice to dog training professionals – and those we serve – before others with less understanding of the industry speak in our stead.
The leadership of both organizations, with input from dog training professionals, believes the first step in enhancing the value and expertise of our work is to advocate for adoption of state legislation in the United States that would require licensing of professional dog trainers. While this will certainly take time, and nothing will change immediately, licensing will enhance the reputation of our profession and better protect dogs and their owners from receiving sub-standard service. In a 2019 survey of APDT members, nearly two-thirds supported licensing requirements, with 92% of respondents considering it important to have regulatory requirements setting minimum levels of education and training.
CCPDT® and APDT® formed this Alliance for three key reasons:
- > Licensure will help protect consumers and dogs from unqualified trainers.
- > Efforts to enact licensing laws have already begun in some states without the profession’s voice and opinions.
- > Together, we can help create sensible laws that permit multiple pathways to licensure.
Because you are the people we represent and serve, we would like your input and participation. As a first step, we have developed model legislation that will demonstrate the professionalism of certified dog trainers, help assure that consumers can obtain safe and effective training for their dogs and protect dogs from substandard or dangerous practices. We have also created a way for your feedback to be reviewed and responded to collectively. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any comments or questions.
As you will see, the model legislation includes both a ramp-up period for licensing boards to develop and publish rules, and up to one year of “grandfathering” of currently practicing dog trainers who don’t yet hold certification from an approved certification program. Individuals entering the dog training profession can apply for a provisional permit to provide dog training services under the supervision of a licensed dog trainer while they work towards an approved certification. All licensed dog trainers and permit holders must abide by the Joint Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics and Least Intrusive, Minimally Aversive Effective Behavior Intervention Policy (“LIMA”) developed by CCPDT, APDT, and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (“IAABC”), or equivalent standards adopted by the state licensing board. The model legislation also calls for reciprocal licensing and includes provisions for out-of-state dog trainers to engage in limited practice in another state.
Your grassroots support for this legislation can also be instrumental in advancing dog trainer licensing legislation once it is time to mobilize such support. If you are interested in participating in your state’s efforts, please fill out this short form so the Alliance can contact you and provide information on ways to support advocacy in the state(s) where you live and work.
The Need for Licensing Legislation.
Licensing benefits the public and the dog training profession in ways that voluntary certification alone cannot. Most importantly, licensing boards have the legal authority to set eligibility requirements for entry into the profession and to enforce standards of practice. By developing model legislation, our Alliance can promote higher standards across the country. Our entire profession is undermined when owners encounter an unqualified or unethical dog trainer. Consumer protection and animal cruelty laws are insufficient safeguards, since a damages award can’t reverse harm to an abused or traumatized dog. Despite the development of voluntary certification programs such as CCPDT and resources such as APDT’s Locate A Trainer website, many dog owners may not be able to determine whether a dog trainer or behavior consultant is qualified, reliable, and humane. Every state in the U.S. has licensing laws for teachers and counselors for people; dogs deserve a similar level of protection.
If the dog trainer profession does not develop our own licensing framework, others will do so for us. In 2020, legislators in Massachusetts and New Jersey introduced bills to require licensing of professional dog trainers. Although the bills were created without any involvement by CCPDT, both bills incorporated CCPDT certification as a requirement for licensure. The Alliance and our organizational leadership view this as too restrictive a path for licensing. The model legislation we have drafted calls for licensing boards to publish a list of approved certification programs, rather than limiting the options to CCPDT’s certification alone, as well as a list of approved dog trainer education programs that would meet any minimum education requirements for those certification programs.
A move toward licensing of the profession could very well happen with or without our involvement. By proactively developing and advocating for licensing legislation, we can ensure that our profession influences the legislative process, and we can promote a consistent and sensible approach to licensing.
How Licensing Will Affect Professional Dog Trainers.
Many practicing professional dog trainers already meet the model legislation’s eligibility requirements for licensing, so it will only be a matter of applying for an affordable license that can be used to bolster your credentials even more. To be eligible for licensing under our model legislation, an applicant must simply:
- > Be at least 18 years old, with a high school degree or G.E.D.,
- > Be of good moral character, and
- > Hold current certification in dog training from an approved certification program, such as CCPDT or other certification programs meeting standards set by the licensing board, as described in the model legislation.
How will the Alliance operate?
Over the coming months, CCPDT and APDT will develop and begin to execute a strategy to persuade state legislatures to consider and ultimately pass the model legislation we’ve drafted. Our efforts will include sharing our model bill with state legislators and encouraging them to advance it through the legislature, coordination on advocacy with other like-minded stakeholders and, as appropriate, asking dog trainers to engage in grassroots advocacy for dog trainer licensing by contacting their elected officials. We will be launching our campaign in a few initial states that will serve as pilots for the legislation, but ultimately aim to have the model legislation adopted across the country.
Thank you for your service to the profession and for your input and possible participation in our profession’s efforts. Again, send your input to email@example.com, and sign-up here to express interest in supporting your state-level advocacy efforts.
Bradley Phifer, CBCC-KA, CPDT-KSA, CCPDT Executive Director
Heidi Meinzer, JD, CPDT-KSA, CNWI, APDT Director