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Dog Training Is Unregulated

New law may change that
By Karen B. London PhD, August 2018, Updated June 2021

There are so many opportunities for people to learn about the principles and standards of dog training based on learning theory, ethology, and other scientific principles. Yet, due to the total lack of regulation in the industry, there are many people who call themselves trainers (or behaviorists) with no education or experience whatsoever. They simply advertise that they offer dog training services. Unsuspecting people hire them, and there is no law or regulation to prohibit anyone from doing this. It’s true that there are many certifications available to people in the field of dog training and canine behavior, but none are required to provide these services.

New Jersey may become the first state to require that dog trainers be licensed. Lawmakers there introduced a bill that would regulate and license dog training, as that state already does for over hundreds of professions. The goal is to keep dogs safe and avoid exposing them to injurious or damaging treatment done under the guise of dog training.

In order to be licensed if the bill becomes law, people would need to be of “good moral character”, undergo at least 300 hours of training, have a high school diploma or GED and pass a test. Anyone who can prove that they have already been training dogs for at least a year would be able to opt out of the 300 training hours. The bill proposes the formation of a Dog Trainer Board of Examiners who would be in charge of enforcing the regulations, collecting fees and offering the exams.

One certifying organization, Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) has been approached about involvement in the development of the exam. The CCPDT President says the organization supports licensing efforts and “the legislation’s mission to improve the public trust and safety with regard to the dog training industry.”


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As things stand now, people who entrust their dog’s training to someone can’t assume that the person knows anything at all about the field. They must rely on their own research into the trainer’s education, experience and training methods as well as testimonials from previous clients. Even if licensing becomes the norm, it would be wise for people to continue this exact sort of due diligence, but it would provide an extra level of safety for dogs and additional confidence for people that those who call themselves dog trainers are qualified to train dogs.

Are you in favor of licensing for dog trainers?

Image: Shutterstock

Karen B. London, Ph.D. is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral issues, including aggression. Karen writes the animal column for the Arizona Daily Sun and is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Northern Arizona University. She is the author of six books about canine training and behavior, including her most recent, Treat Everyone Like a Dog: How a Dog Trainer’s World View Can Improve Your Life