Why I didn’t renew my APDT membership!


Why it was ethically and professionally necessary to give up this membership.

APDT, changed their name from Association Pet Dog Trainers to Association Professional Dog Trainers during calendar year 2013, and the changes made to membership status effectively eliminated any/all means for identifying a dog trainer by their qualifications.

This is truly a disservice to the public. It is already difficult for pet owners to find good help when faced with dog behavior problems that often compromise the welfare of the animals and the bond between them and those responsible for their care. It is a well-known fact dog behavior problems are the number one cause for relinquishment to shelters, rescues, and euthanized.

It was only a few years ago when APDT announced the formation of two levels of membership. The following is what they stated at that time:

“As a way of recognizing our members who have demonstrated their professionalism by attaining certification and as encouragement to those who have yet to do so, the APDT established a “Professional Member” classification.”

“Professional Membership is only available to members who have earned related certification(s) from an approved organization that is recognized by the APDT Board of Directors. At present, this list includes seven approved designations from five different organizations. The list below is reviewed by the APDT Board at least once a year and designations will be added or deleted as appropriate.”

Here was/is that “approved organization” list:

Professional Designation Approved Organization
CPDT-KA – Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
ACAAB – Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Animal Behavior Society
CAAB – Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Animal Behavior Society
CABC – Certified Animal Behavior Consultant International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
CDBC – Certified Dog Behavior Consultant International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants
CCAB – Certified Clinical Behavior Consultant International Association for the Study of Animal Behavior
DACVB – Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists American College of Veterinary Behaviorists

As of January 2014, the APDT will no longer recognize the accomplishments of those from these organizations, while lumping everyone into one membership category separated only by menial perks. For example, based on my current certification CDBC, earned through International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, I would be eligible to continue my membership at the increased rate of $160.00, referred to as “Professional Premium Members.”

The following is a quote from their email notification:

“Professional Premium Members – This membership category corresponds to the current Professional level membership category. It is meant for the same types of individuals in the Professional membership category.”

To clarify the organizations woeful decision, they also included the following in their explanation:

“…the original goal of the professional membership, initiated in 2007, was to promote certification, but over the years there has been limited, if any growth, in the level of APDT membership.

The dog training business is unregulated; anyone can refer to themselves as a dog trainer and/or behavior specialist (behaviorist). Due to the fragility of our companion animal’s lives and total dependency on owners and outside care (when needed), that includes veterinary, training and behavior specialists, professionals within the industry moved to do what many felt was necessary to ensure quality care and better treatment.

In May 2011, I wrote “Anthropomorphism, Double-Edged Sword” that included the following excerpt:

Over the last several years dog training and problem solving has reached an all time high, but with negative consequences attributed to a few pop culture dog trainers dominating our televisions and media. We are working hard now to turn back to the positive training advancements and reverse this negative influence.

The worst offender, National Geographic’s “Dog Whisperer” aired for two seasons until Nicholas Dodman director of the Animal Behavior Clinic at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and Dr. Andrew Luescher, DVM, Ph. D, DACVB a certified applied animal behaviorist and diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists were recognized and heard. Dodman said, “we’ve written to National Geographic Channel and told them they have put dog training back 20 years” however, the public had embraced dog training using more dominance, flooding and force based methods. 

In the July/August 2006 issue Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research published an article titled “Good trainers: How to identify one and why this is important to your practice of veterinary medicine” (JVB, 2006). Dr. Luescher and others further defined the solution with articles titled “The role and responsibilities of behavior technicians in behavioral treatment and therapy” and “The role and limitations of trainers in behavior treatment and therapy” (JVB, 2007).

As you can see from the names and disciplines, concern was coming from higher than the dog training level. Considering the state of animal’s lives, euthanasia rates, and bite cases increasing, the need for more qualified individuals became clear. An emphasis on certifications and continuing education became the central focus.

The following is another excerpt taken from APDT’s email announcement:

“…the majority of certifications now available are not universally accepted by the training community. We believe that certification is only one piece of our real mission, which is educating all trainers to improve their work with dogs and their owners.”

This statement from APDT clearly shows how low they have sunk. To suggest, without any clear evidence, that certifications “are not universally accepted” within the “training community” underscores the need for organizations like APDT to continue by taking a stand for quality training practices, behavior applications based on science, not myth, anecdotal experience or pseudoscience.

There is an unfortunate side effect coming from several fronts within the training and educational businesses available. There are many options available for those who want to learn professionally as well as continue learning by acquiring continuing education credits (CEU’s).

This unfortunate side effect has more to do with competition for providing educational support and outlets than what APDT suggests. As stated, there are many options for educational outlets for one to choose. However, the quality varies according to what you are willing to pay, the name associated with the educational outlet (if this matters) and the real quality of the school or business. I’m not going to list any of these organizations because it is not my purpose here to endorse any directly. However, when it became obvious there was more to training dogs and understanding behavior modification than often understood, my choice was Cynology College. James O’Heare is the founder and president. The name has since changed to The Companion Animal Sciences Institute.

Additionally, once a person has received an appropriate education, followed by certifications, there are abundant sources available to continue one’s education by obtaining “certificates of continuing education” (CEU’s) that support one’s certifications while keeping abreast of continuing advances in this science.

Since APDT no longer finds promoting certification important, nor do they choose to take a stand for animals concerning best practices and promoting the use of positive reward training, as opposed to those choosing to specialize in treating every training and behavior problem using punishment. It seems necessary to look to other less objectionable sources for referrals and membership.

It’s fortunate my additional memberships already meet this need. If you also find APDT’s decision objectionable, you too can find comfort in knowing there are other available options.

The following statement from APDT’s email is the most objectionable:

“Many members also found the professional level membership begun in 2007 to be divisive, and felt that they were no longer considered “professionals,” which was never the intent.”

This may “never” have been the “intent” but obviously, some members chose to make this a personal issue instead of professional and business. There is little excuse for anyone wanting to achieve “professional” status than to pursue, at minimum, completing the CCPDT certification test. It is a multiple-choice test. There are courses that prepare one to take the test. There is a fee, not exceeding $350-$400.

Instead, these members seem to choose nothing. They are willing to pay for memberships that afford them access to “trainer” listings. However, without proof of any education, how the public is reassured these individuals are sufficiently qualified has to be called into question. Anyone can create job titles and educational pursuits, but there are no assurances here.

When dog trainers and/or behavior specialists have certifications, the organizations where they are members keep track of one’s “certificates of continuing education” as well as qualify those sources providing the education. There are checks and balances in this system; there is some policing of these individuals, in spite of working in a non-regulated industry. In essence, those who choose to take part in the process to ensure the public the best possible choices, is a form of self-regulation and business regulation. These individuals should be rewarded, not punished for their effort.


Anthropomorphism, Double-Edged Sword

One thought on “Why I didn’t renew my APDT membership!

  1. Thank you for posting this. I was disappointed by the APDT’s announcement, although being a newer member, I’m less attuned to the history and politics involved. I do see danger in applying the term “professional” so loosely. It seems our industry has decided it’s a good marketing term, much like “positive”. Never mind the the definition of either.

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