Do your "due diligence" when selecting a trainer. It matters.
Look for someone who is experienced or working under the guidance of someone who has the experience. In his book Outliers Malcolm Gladwell uses examples from many walks of life (music, technology, etc.) to make the case that it takes 10,000 hours to become really, really good at something. That equates to about 5 years of dedication to one’s craft!
Look for someone who treats you with respect. Look for someone who respects your dog’s emotional needs and not what the trainer can "make" the dog do. Our dogs are not machines. They are living, breathing, emotional creatures that are trying their best to figure out how to successfully live in our human culture.
Customer Service and Guarantees
Look for someone whose customer service is superior. Do they return phone calls? Do they show up on time? Are they clear and honest about their financial and contractual policies? Do they guarantee customer service but, wisely and ethically, do not guarantee training results? It is considered unethical to guarantee the ability to "fix" or "cure" every animal. In fact, the Association of Pet Dog Trainers Ethics Statement specifically states, "Refrain from giving guarantees regarding the outcome of training, because there is no sure way to guarantee the cooperation and performance of all parties involved and because the knowledge of animal behavior is incomplete. This should not be confused with a desire to guarantee client satisfaction with professional services."
There are an increasing number of for-profit organizations offering certification programs to people who want to become a dog trainer. Do your homework. Ask for a description of how certification is attained, who/what is the governing body awards it, does the governing body or company have a financial interest in providing certification, and what kind of continuing education units are required to maintain that certification. Ask the trainer how many hours or years they have been training other people’s dogs and what they specialize in. And, if someone calls themselves a "behaviorist," ask them what that means and how that designation qualifies them to work with your dog’s specific training challenges. See "Who is a Behaviorist," below.
DogPACT trainers are certified by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, an independent non-profit council not affiliated with individual trainers, for-profit schools, or retail pet stores. In addition to documenting a minimum of 300 hours of experience, trainers must sit for a monitored exam and maintain certification by accruing continuing education units. CCPDT certification helps dog owners choose trainers who have passed national standards for their profession and who keep up to date in their field. (www.ccpdt.org)
In addition to CCPDT certification, each DogPACT trainer has developed expertise in areas of special interest to them. For example, Terry Long might work with difficult behavior challenges (aggression, anxiety, and resource guarding) and competition agility. Kelli Knowles loves making sure pups and adolescents get off on the right paw with early socialization and training. Nikki Myers loves working with dogs whose impulse control needs some fine turning. Vicky Lovejoy loves canine sports such as agility and nose work.
Regardless of special areas of interest, each DogPACT trainer has a solid foundation in the fundamentals of training, making each of them uniquely qualified to work from the basics to the most advanced, precision behaviors.
Trainers who are committed to a philosophy and practice of positive reinforcement focus on using rewards both in training and maintaining behaviors. Our expertise is in teaching people how to use rewards to get what they want—a polite dog or the fastest time on an agility course—while simultaneously making it fun for the dog.
Meet the Trainers
CPDT-KA, founded DogPACT in
1996 turning a lifelong fascination with
dogs and the study of their behavior
into a new career. Terry's experience
with dogs goes back to early childhood
when she could be found training family
and neighborhood dogs, and later evolved
into working in veterinary hospitals
in a variety of positions. Her keen understanding
of dogs stems from hands-on experience
with hundreds of dogs, as well as her
skill in using operant conditioning to
create new behaviors and to modify others.
Her skills have brought her invitations
to teach in the US, Canada , and Japan.
As a committed practitioner of positive
training methods, Terry logs more than
100 hours of continuing education a year.
Terry has studied operant conditioning
and clicker training with Bob and Marian
Bailey, PhD, and has also been the beneficiary
of the teachings of Dr. Ian Dunbar, Dr.
Karen Overall, VMD, Pam Reid, PhD, Karen
Pryor, Jean Donaldson, and a host of other
In 2003 Terry became one of 635 trainers
internationally to attain the CPDT-KA (Certified
Pet Dog Trainer) designation, the first
well-recognized certification program for
professional trainers and behavior consultants.
Terry is the former managing editor of The
APDT Chronicle of the Dog, a magazine
for professional dog trainers around
the world. In 2006 her article for The
Chronicle,"Shape for Confidence," won
a coveted 1st-place Maxwell Award for
Best Feature in a canine newspaper or
newsletter from the Dog Writers Association
of America. It told the story of how
clicker training can be used to help
dogs overcome fearfulness and to build
confidence through trick training. Terry
also authors Dog World magazine’s "About
Agility" column, nominated for
Best Magazine Column of 2006 by the DWAA.
Terry is a member of the Association
of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) and
holds a B.S. degree in business management
and a certificate in public relations from
UCLA. Terry's skills
with clicker training are obvious when
watching her dogs perform freestyle, tricks,
Jo's Memorial | Kiwi | Pretzel | Buster's Memorial | Sandy
Nikki Myers, CPDT-KA, has been involved in dogs for more than 25 years, bringing experience in conformation handling, flyball, earth dog, and agility competition to DogPACT’s students. Nikki has been an instructor for DogPACT since 2001, teaching group agility and pet manners classes and in-home pet manners. Nikki also works with Terry Long on aggression cases that benefit from specialized expertise in management protocols.
Nikki loves working with dogs whose impulse control skills (or lack thereof!) challenge people’s patience. She sees behaviors such as over-excited greetings, counter surfing, and adolescent dog brains in general as an opportunity ripe for positive reinforcement training.
Nikki lives with three terriers: Maggie, an Australian Terrier, Charm, a Silky terrier, the fastest Silky Terrier in the United Flyball League, Inc., and Tobey, her youngest Silky in training for both flyball www.woofgangflyballclub.net and agility.
Sierra Smith, CPDT-KA, has
a strong background in Animal Welfare. She
has worked in humane societies in the
areas of humane education, animal behavior
and training, and shelter management. Upon
completion of her dog training apprenticeship
with The Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago,
she went on to be an instructor with
their award winning School of Dog Training. After
relocating to the Los Angeles area, Sierra
worked at SPCALA with both shelter dogs
and owned dogs, including teaching Puppy
Classes and Level One Obedience Classes. Sierra
is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA)
and a member of the Association
of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT).
Kelli Knowles, CPDT-KA, plays
two critical roles for DogPACT, one as
Terry's right-hand person in the office,
answering your calls, and the other as
one of DogPACT's certified trainers. An
awesome blend of smarts, compassion, and
wit, Kelli knows just what to say when
it comes to people and their dogs, even
in times of stress. One busy lady, Kelli teaches group puppy kindergarten and pet manners classes, private housetraining, puppy, and pet manners lessons, and is the lead instructor and DogPACT's liaison with the City of Long Beach's Parks, Recreation & Marine positive reinforcement classes.
Victoria Lovejoy, E.D.D., CNWI, teaches agility and K9 Nose Work® for DogPACT.
Vicky is a lifelong educator with a B.A. in biology, an M.A.T. in science education, and a doctorate in educational technology. She currently teaches biology, anatomy, and forensic science at Rolling Hills Preparatory School. Vicky also has more than 30 years' experience as a competitor, trainer, and instructor in the equestrian sports of dressage, jumping, and combined training.
Vicky grew up with dogs and trained her own dogs as companion pets until starting agility in 2006 under the instruction of Terry Long. In 2007 she also began learning the new canine sport of K9 Nose Work®, now under the auspices of the National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW). Vicky teaches agility and K9 Nose Work® for DogPACT, holding the NACSW's Associate Nose Work® Instructor designation.
Vicky has attained the following agility and K9 Nose Work® titles with her dogs:
Belle, 10-year-old female, Greater Blueberry Muffin Dog, NW2; AXP, AJP, CGC; CPE CTL2-R, CTL2-S, CTL2-F, CTL2-H; JV-N, GV-N
Kendra, 2 year old Australian Shepherd, NW2, NA, NJ, CPE CTL2-R,CTL2-F, AKC OA, USDAA Starters Agility Dog, ASCA JS-N, RS-N, GS-N
Kubi, 4 year-old male Vizsla, CH Tamaron's Kan U Believe It, NW2; NA, NJ, CGC; USDAA Starters Performance Jumper; CPE CTL1-R, CTL1-F; RS-N
Molly, 7 year-old German Shepherd, NW1
Who is a 'Behaviorist?
I am often referred to as a
behaviorist since I work with
dogs to resolve serious behavior
problems such as fearfulness,
aggression, and anxieties. When
I tell people that I am not
a "behaviorist," they
express either surprise or disinterest
as I try and explain why I won’t
call myself a behaviorist. After
all, what matters to them is
that I can help their dog, not
what I call myself.
But it matters to me. Because,
in brief, it is really buyer
beware when one purchases dog
training or behavior modification
services. There is no regulatory
body in my state (CA) that licenses
trainers or helps the public
become educated about who has
the appropriate experience to
work with their dog, whether
that be Pansy the Puppy or Fang,
the resource-guarding, child
biting Man’s Best Friend.
And if someone calls himself
a behaviorist, and yet has no
advanced education or training
in behavior, someone could end
up being very disappointed when
that "behaviorist" can’t
solve their dog’s problem—or
worse, makes it worse—because
they weren’t qualified.
And that makes all trainers
and real behaviorists look bad.
I call myself a "dog trainer
who specializes in resolving
serious behavior problems." I
feel that the title "behaviorist" belongs
to two groups of people: 1)
a Board-certified veterinarian
who has advanced education and
experience in behavior in addition
to their medical degree, and
they have sat for and passed
their Board exams in behavior
(there are about 48 of these
rare creatures in the U.S.;
go to http://www.dacvb.org/);
and 2) a Certified Applied Animal
Behaviorist (CAAB) who is a
PhD in psychology or animal
behavior and recognized by the
Does this mean that anyone who
isn’t one of these rare
folks is incapable of helping
people with their dogs? Of course
not. The more than 100 hours
of continuing education I devote
every year in keeping abreast
of my field, my CPDT-KA certification,
and my more than 15 years’ direct
experience make me good at what
I do. But I still don’t
try and impress people with
a title that should be reserved
for the folks who have advanced
degrees and who should be respected
for their contribution and commitment
to the field.
There’s room for everyone
when it comes to helping our dogs
live happy, stress-free lives with
their wacky humans—as long
as we do no physical or emotional
harm—and we respect and
acknowledge the contributions
each other has made.
Terry Long, CPDT-KA