Best Online Dog Training Certification Programs

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Whether you’re an experienced dog trainer or a dog walker looking to break into the field of dog training, taking an online dog training certification program can help you build your skills and increase your chances of employment in the industry. But not all dog training certificate programs are reputable, so it’s important to do your homework before choosing the best program for you. 

If you’re looking for a reputable program to kickstart your career, we’re here to help you narrow down your options. We evaluated more than a dozen dog training certification programs based on cost, time commitment, curriculum, reputation, and more to select the best options. Read on for our expert-chosen list of the best online dog training certification programs.

Best Online Dog Training Certification Programs in 2021

Best Overall : Karen Pryor


Karen Pryor

 Karen Pryor

Why We Chose It: Karen Pryor is the top choice for training professionals and is one of the most prestigious dog training certificates you can get.

What We Like
  • 24/7 online classroom with 250 videos

  • Earns the prestigious title of “Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner”

  • Provides continuing education credits

What We Don’t Like
  • Requires at least one in-person workshop

  • Requires clicker-training experience

  • No free trial, and tuition is nonrefundable

Karen Pryor offers a six-month program with a time commitment of about 10-20 hours per week. The total cost is $5,300, which you can pay in five interest-free installments or 12-15 monthly payments with interest. To take the course, you need consistent access to a dog and one other animal. Previous clicker-training experience is required. You also need to be able to attend at least one in-person workshop at one of Karen Pryor’s 25 locations

Animal trainer and author Karen Pryor launched the program in 2007, and since then 1,800 dog trainers have become certified. The program focuses on force-free training with positive reinforcement. You can expect to take a variety of courses from efficient shaping to everyday behavior issues, as well as a curriculum focused on helping you build a business. 

You can access the online classroom 24/7, where you’ll find 250 videos and more than 40 downloadable training exercises. When you graduate, you’ll be part of an alumni network and listed on the Karen Pryor certified training partner directory.

Best Runner-Up : Academy for Dog Trainers


Academy for Dog Trainers

 Academy for Dog Trainers

Why We Chose It: Academy for Dog Trainers offers the prestigious Certificate in Training and Counseling and features one-on-one video coaching and a rigorous curriculum.

What We Like
  • Thorough curriculum with video coaching

  • Lots of networking resources for students and grads

  • Earns the prestigious Certificate in Training and Counseling

What We Don’t Like
  • Pricier than other programs

  • Takes two years to complete

Of all the programs we evaluated, Academy for Dog Trainers (ADT) had the most breadth in its curriculum, with courses that teach concepts above and beyond what other programs offer. However, it also takes two years to complete (most students spend 15-20 hours per week) and costs $7,525 in total if you prepay. There’s also a payment plan with an initial $3,500 payment followed by $500 monthly payments for 10 months, but that brings the total cost to $8,500. A limited number of scholarships are available for applicants actively working in a shelter or rescue. 

Formed by Jean Donaldson in 1999, ADT has certified more than 700 trainers. This program features one-on-one video coaching and discussion forums, so you’ll receive plenty of support, and you’ll get materials and training to help you run a future business. The program operates entirely online. 

Dog handling experience is required, and not just with your own dog; you must have volunteered or worked with a variety of dogs to be eligible for this rigorous program.

Best Low-Cost : International School for Certified Dog Trainers


International School for Certified Dog Trainers

 International School for Certified Dog Trainers

Why We Chose It: International School for Certified Dog Trainers (ISCDT) offers one of the cheapest basic online certifications for dog training, with the option to add an internship for hands-on experience.

What We Like
  • Affordable program

  • Mentor assigned to each student

  • Self-paced online course

What We Don’t Like
  • Less educational content than other programs

If you’re looking for a basic online course that you can complete in less than five months, the ISCDT might fit the bill. The program costs just $399 and results in the title of Certified Dog Trainer. It’s self-paced and online and can be completed in 18 weeks to one year. You also have the option of taking a two-week or four-month internship with Sublime K9 Dog Training on Long Island, but note that the costs for these internships plus the online course are $1,999 and $3,999, respectively. 

The program consists of 18 detailed lessons with supporting video content. You’ll also work with a dog and complete video assignments. Instructors are available during business hours to answer any questions. 

To be eligible for the program, you’ll need experience in the canine industry as a trainer, walker, groomer, or another related job. Although online reviews from students are excellent, the ISCDT is not as prestigious as some other schools.

Best for Service Dog Training : Cooperative Paws


Cooperative Paws

 Cooperative Paws

Why We Chose It: Cooperative Paws is an online-only program that earns the title of Certified Service Dog Coach. It’s more affordable than other programs and was developed by a highly credentialed dog trainer.

What We Like
  • Limited time commitment

  • Learn from a credentialed expert in the field

  • Focused on positive reinforcement training

What We Don’t Like
  • Rigorous prerequisites

  • Difficult to find student reviews

Cooperative Paws is a 12-week program that requires about two hours of coursework per week, which can be completed on your schedule. There’s a $50 application fee and the total tuition of $2,450 can be split into three equal payments due at regular intervals. The program was developed by Veronica Sanchez M.Ed., CABC, CPDT-KA, a service dog training expert who has been training dogs since the 1990s. You’ll learn about topics like service dog laws, working with people with disabilities, public access training, and more. Graduates earn the Service Dog Coach (SDC) certification. 

Cooperative Paws is a program designed for experienced dog trainers looking to train service dogs. You’ll need professional dog training experience along with knowledge and skills, which you can demonstrate with various certifications or coursework. For example, if you previously studied at Karen Pryor, The Academy for Dog Trainers, or Victoria Stilwell Academy, you’ll qualify for the Cooperative Paws program, but there are other ways to meet the prerequisites as well. You’ll also need experience conducting behavior evaluations and you’ll commit to force-free training methods. 

Like other programs, you’ll need access to a dog for training practice.

Best for Limited Time Commitment : Victoria Stilwell Academy


Victoria Stilwell Academy

 Victoria Stilwell Academy

Why We Chose It: Victoria Stilwell Academy (VSA) is a reputable, self-paced online program with a flexible duration that offers students one-on-one support and earns the prestigious VSA-CDT designation.

What We Like
  • Self-paced with flexible duration and low time commitment

  • Instructor-led video lessons available 24/7

  • Weekly meetings with a dedicated advisor

  • Demo course available

What We Don’t Like
  • No interest-free payment plans available

Victoria Stillwell Academy was founded in 2010 and has since then become one of the most prestigious online certification programs. Victoria Stilwell is a world-renowned TV personality, public speaker, and author recognized as an authority on dog training.

If you want to see what a professional dog training certification is all about, Victoria Stilwell Academy offers free starter courses. Once you enroll in the program, you’ll have six to 12 months to complete the 100+ hours of study. The total cost of the program is $3,950 ($3,450 during the current promotion), and you can get a loan through Climb Credit, a lender that specializes in career development loans, or pay a higher overall price in installments. There are also scholarships available for nonprofit employees. 

The program also has highly trained faculty, and each student is assigned a dedicated faculty advisor. The course content is all HD video lessons and is accessible 24/7. You’ll learn about topics like advanced training, human psychology, and marketing. You’ll also have access to downloadable resources to enhance your learning and help you with your future business.

The $99 application fee is refundable. To be eligible for the program, you need to be at least 18 and speak English, but there are no dog training prerequisites.

Bottom Line

If you’re interested in working as a dog trainer but want some professional training before getting started, there are several options available. Of all the programs we evaluated, Karen Pryor stood out to us because of its excellent reputation, relatively affordable cost, and 24/7 access to video content and other instructional materials.

If you have no professional experience with dogs and want to complete a program with a reputable certification, Victoria Stillwell Academy is likely the best choice for you. If you already have experience in dog training or a related field and want the most thorough curriculum possible, go with Karen Pryor or the Academy for Dog Trainers. If you’re already a certified dog trainer and you want to train service dogs, consider Cooperative Paws. And if you’re planning to get the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) certification and just need a basic course to prepare you for the exam, the affordable ISCDT program might be enough for you. 

Compare Providers

Program Why We Picked It Total Cost Program Length
Karen Pryor Reputable choice among training professionals and great value $5,300 6 months
Academy for Dog Trainers Thorough curriculum with one-on-one video coaching $7,525 2 years
International School for Certified Dog Trainers Affordable basic curriculum $399  18-52 weeks
Cooperative Paws Education for service dog coaches from a highly credentialed trainer $2,450 12 weeks
Victoria Stillwell Academy Self-paced program with a flexible duration, one-on-one support, and free starter courses $3,950 6-12 months

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the Different Dog Trainer Certifications? 

There are numerous certificates from various schools and organizations you can earn, but the following are the most reputable:

  • CPDT-KA or CPDT-KSA from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers
  • AABP-CDT from the Association of Animal Behavior Professionals
  • IACP-CDT from the International Association of Canine Professionals
  • NADOI certification from the National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors
  • KPA-CPT from Karen Pryor Academy
  • CTC from the Academy for Dog Trainers
  • VSA-CDT from Victoria Stillwell Academy

It’s important to note that the Association of Professional Dog Trainers does not endorse any dog training schools; the organization states that the best real national certification available is through the CCPDT. But this certificate requires 300 hours of experience and an exam that can be daunting if you’ve never received any formal education in dog training. 

Do I Need a Certification to Become a Dog Trainer?

No. Many dog trainers find employment opportunities based on their previous experience with training. However, a catch-22 applies here; you need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. That’s why many dog training hopefuls pursue educational programs. And even if you’re already training dogs, a prestigious certification program can qualify you for better, higher-paying employment opportunities. 

How Much Do Online Dog Training Certification Programs Cost?

The cost of these programs varies widely. Our choice for the cheapest program cost just $399, while more involved programs can cost $5,000 or more. You should consider more than just the cost when evaluating programs, however. Also look at the program’s reputation, the breadth of the curriculum, and the availability of support during and after the program. 

Do Dog Trainers Make Good Money?

According to a survey from the International Dog Trainer School, the average salary for a full-time dog trainer is $61,387. The average hourly rate, including part-time trainers, was just over $50/hr. However, the pay is typically commensurate with experience and training, so dog trainers with experience and formal education make more on average; trainers without formal education in dog training only make an average of $46,222. 

How Long Does It Take to Become a Dog Trainer?

Becoming a dog trainer can take anywhere from a few months to a few years. To become certified by the CCPDT, you’ll need a minimum of 300 hours of experience in the past three years and you’ll have to pass an exam. If you opt to get certified through Karen Pryor Academy or Victoria Stillwell Academy, you can have a certificate in six months, but some other programs take longer. 

Methodology

To select the top five dog training certification programs, we evaluated more than a dozen programs based on price, breadth of curriculum, time commitment, online access, student support, and program reputation. We eliminated programs that cost more than $10,000 or required significant in-person instruction.

All the programs we chose have a reputation for excellence, are a good value, and can be completed on your schedule. 

Article Sources

  1. APDT. "So You Want to Be a Dog Trainer?" Accessed February 14, 2021.

  2. CCPDT. "Dog Trainer Certification." Accessed February 14, 2021.

  3. International Dog Trainer School. "What Is the Average Dog Trainer Salary?" Accessed February 14, 2021.