CPDT-KA stands for Certified Professional Dog Trainer - Knowledge Assessed.

The designation is purchased through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT).  People must be aware that although this organization sounds very official it is not associated with any state or federal educational organizations.

The organization first used the acronym CPDT (Certified Pet Dog Trainers) in 2001, but had to change the name in 2010 to CPDT-KA when they sought to trademark the right to control the acronym.  The reason for the trademark rejection is that they were not allowed to legally prevent any dog trainer from using the generic CPDT acronym, which can be used by anyone claiming to be a Certified PROFESSIONAL Dog Trainer (CPDT) from any of the different venues that offer certification tests.

Despite the long title and vast numbers of CPDT-KA certifications issued, the title is considered to not hold much weight in the professional dog training industry.

Often, it has the opposite effect since many professional trainers see it as a purchased credential and is associated with trainers who have not attended a formal dog training school.

Those who carry the CPDT-KA title obtain the title by submitting a time log to attest experience working or helping as a trainer, shelter volunteer, etc.. (regardless of knowledge, quality, or lack of credentials).  Then, they pay the organization a fee to take a 250 multiple choice question test based off information in books that are sold by those affiliated with the organization. The only formal educational requirement is a high school diploma or GED equivalent.  If the user scores at least 77%, the title can be used.

It was first offered during APDT conference in 2001 where 117 of 120 (97.5%) people who have paid for the test passed it.  Since that time people can pay $385 to take the test on a computer at various locations.

Here are four sample questions from the CCPDT's literature with the answers highlighted.  If you could answer 3 out of 4 you would have a good chance of passing the test:

1. How should a dog trainer handle an owner with limited

1. Refer owner to another trainer
2. Tell the owner to bring a friend to assist
3. Train the dog and when the training is completed give the dog back to the owner with written instructions
3. Discuss a variety of options and agree on reasonable accommodations

2. A frightened dog may display which of the following

1. Plays tug with owner
2. Wags tail with ears forward
3. Mounts other dogs in class
4. Is unable to focus on owner and looks everywhere

3. If an owner calls before class and says that a puppy has
had diarrhea for the past two days, the trainer should

1. advise the owner to change the puppy’s food.
2. tell the owner not to worry, as diarrhea is common in puppies.
3. tell the owner not to bring the puppy to class and to call the veterinarian.
4. ask the owner for more details to determine whether the puppy should come to class.

4. Which of the following is the most appropriate type of
equipment for a dog with a collapsed trachea?

1. Prong (this is interesting, since prong collars were specifically invented to prevent trachea damage)
2. Harness
3. Limited slip
4. Leash that beeps when dog pulls

The  certification has received much criticism by professional dog trainers:

  1.  Many professionals believe this test is suitable as an ENTRANCE exam to a formal school, but not as a certification.  It has been equated to allowing someone to practice as a doctor without an education, accepting time logs, then giving a certification for passing the entrance exam into the school.  Ideally professionals should learn how to put together complex training plans in a formal school, then demonstrate those plans in action, and finally take a more comprehensive test to prove professional level ability.
  2. Most trainers that have this certification, did not attend formal school, and are not qualified to use most training tools.  Instead of learning from a formal school they compensate by calling most training tools inhumane and offer mostly treat training.
  3. The founding organization does not actively police its members which are known to unethically attack professionals who have attended schools and offer more difficult to master training options.
  4. The CCPDT organization was created by and mainly supports the agendas of the APDT which is highly criticized for biased agendas.
  5. Because this certification is easy to obtain, the industry has been flooded with "certified" trainers that have not attended formal school.   This causes obvious difficulties for someone searching for a qualified trainer and to trainers who attended formal schools and must compete with propaganda.

The APDT was founded by Dr. Ian Dunbar.  The APDT then created this organization which recommends his own books for purchase as study material.  The holders of these certifications must also pay and retake the test every 3 years or earn credits through paying for seminars, books, and streaming videos that are also sold by the founders and affiliates of this organization.   The more of these trainers the organization certifies, ultimately the more money the founders will make.

Propaganda against aversives in training is strongly pushed.  Even though the purpose of formal schools is to teach trainers how to use aversives humanely, the members of these organizations are lead to believe that the use of aversives in general is inhumane and it should only be used rarely or as last resort.  Because of this, competitive slander is common against other professionals and there is a high failure rate with any case that will require the use of more formal training collars and plans.

It is stongly recommended that a person does not judge or choose a trainer based on titles alone, as to many have additional credentials beyond what the titles represent.  Trainers with this credential may have the experience needed to work with difficult cases, but it is important to know exactly what this certification is and what it is not when making important career decisions or choosing help from a professional.


  1. My first certification was obtained through Animal Behavior College. As Mike is very knowledgeable in his comments. I felt that further training was needed in order to be a well balanced trainer. Luckily I found K9-1 Specialized Training. Foundation Style Dog Training is real life dog training. Huge difference from CPDT. I say this as an individual who holds those credentials. However, until I went through the Foundation Style Dog Training did I feel confident enough to take dogs with aggression or other unwanted behaviors by owners that I would had turned away from in the past.

  2. I have an interesting story. I considered myself a certified dog trainer in 1998 after graduating Tom Rose School of Dog Training and started putting CPDT after my name as that was the most obvious way to abbreviate Certified Professional Dog Trainer.
    Then in 2001 APDT started selling these certification tests using that acronym and these “CPDT”s started popping up all over.
    Shortly after there was a local trainer who had no formal schooling besides helping with therapy dogs and she took the test and bought the CPDT certification. She then came across one my cards and “reported me” to the APDT thinking they were somehow a real authority and decided who was a certified dog trainer.
    Keep in mind by this time I actually had a degree in Veterinary science with actual college accredited classes in dog training, kennel management, humane society functions, psychology, research animal technology, and countless classes that were all about different aspects of dog health and function. I was involved with hands on care and training of dogs for 2 1/2 years at a state university.
    THEN, I went to a formal school just for dog training for over 6 months full time and had to actually train 4 dogs to a giant list of advanced requirements and teach classes the right way to graduate. I invested tens of thousands of dollars in my education by this time.
    Then, I continued to go to seminars and pay for more formal apprenticeships and was successfully working full time with everything from bomb dogs, security dogs, aggression cases, behavior problems, and puppies when she decided to “report me”.
    Here is the funny part. Once I saw I was putting the same thing after my name that this “trainer” was putting after hers that only offered clicker training, bad mouthed me for knowing how to use other tool and methods, and I got all her clients anyway after she refused them or blamed the owners for the problems she couldnt fix I stopped using the acronym anyway. I didn’t want anyone to associate me with the exploding group of these trainers.

  3. I like the Foundation Training very much and have learned a lot from your videos. For the last five years, I have been taking the online classes. First Penn Foster Obedience Training. That course was very thorough and taught me about every aspect of the dog. It was very expensive and the minute I finished I heard that it was all wrong. Then, I took several Sirius Dog training classes and seminars, including Ian Dunbar’s Sirius Dog Training Academy. I took a balanced training class (2500 dollars) to use the e-collar and the prong collar on an extremely aggressive, biting and lunging GSD. This was in person, with the dog. I didn’t get a piece of paper, I just learned how to train him in a balanced training class. This was a very dangerous dog with fear aggression. Foaming at the mouth barking and lunging at anyone he didn’t know. My question is, have I wasted years of time and energy training dogs, rehabbing them for adoption because I couldn’t afford a 20,000 dollar school? As I read on here I feel like I have wasted my time and looked down upon because I did distance learning. I feel discouraged to start my puppy classes. What should I do to become a respected Dog Trainer? Can you help me?

  4. I also have a question on finding a reliable certification program that I can start my own career as a ‘good’ dog trainer. I don’t hold any official certification but I am working as a dog trainer teaching just basic behaviors in group classes. I would like to get certified through the FSD, but I can’t afford to commute or stay in New York for the course right now… I would love to take a course with K9-1 though, in the meantime, Is there any other way that I can gain solid knowledge and skills as a start around south eastern PA area? or is there any online course opportunity with K9-1 soon? I would like to start up right as a professional dog trainer.

  5. Hi Sunghee, there will now be an online CFDT course available. The first class starts on September 5th. Although it’s typically an 8 week program, the online program will allow students to move at their own pace. If this is something you would like to start soon let us know.