Course Details

Joining the Best: Qualifying as an Academy Graduate

The Academy for Dog Trainers stands for excellence. The program we offer is rigorous and comprehensive. It's designed to create exceptional trainers – people dedicated to raising the standard in dog training, wherever they are in the world. By the time you graduate, you will have in-depth knowledge of dog behavior and outstanding practical skills in dog training. You will also be able to coach and counsel clients in a way that's accessible, straightforward and engaging.

Our program will take up to two years to complete. While it's not designed as a full-time program of study, it does call for commitment. You will have to be self-motivated and prepared to put in some hard study. You'll need to be able to learn and apply precise techniques. You'll have to be able to familiarize yourself with some technical language and terminology, yet still make training simple for clients. But if you really aspire to excellence, there's plenty of help and support along the way. At the end, you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you are joining a group of people who are among the very best in their field.

How the program is organized

Your progress through the Academy is organized in four levels, modelled after the US college system. We've found this is the best way to help our students keep up the momentum with their studies – even the best of us find it easy to get distracted without clear milestones and goals.

You'll have six months to study for each level. At the end of six months, you must demonstrate you've achieved the required standard before you progress to the next. If you find you're really flying through the material, and your training skills are in order, you can progress faster if you wish. But you must complete each level within six months.

You'll start as a Freshman, progress to Sophomore, Junior and Senior, qualifying at each level, before taking the final exam and becoming a fully fledged Academy Graduate.

Studying at the Academy: joining our virtual college

Just like any good college course, there is a clearly laid out program of study at each level. You will work through the Academy modules, webinars and reading material so that you're fluent and confident in all the topics covered. You'll hone your hands-on skills and we'll guide you through this step-by-step.

You also have access to our flagship site, The Dog Scientific. This is where you can join online discussion forums, study groups and coaching sessions so you need never feel that you're working in isolation. You can upload video and assignments. You can easily get the input of your peers or guidance and feedback from members of the Academy team.

Meeting the standard

At the end of each six-month period, you'll need to show us that you understand and can apply what you've learned. You'll:

  • Submit video that shows your skills in training specific behaviors. The videos don't need to be polished in production values, just clear enough for us to see your technique in action
  • Pass the set assignments: the assignments are designed to show you can translate your knowledge into professional-grade training and modification plans for clients and their dogs
  • Pass the knowledge test for that level

If you complete a level faster than the allocated six months, you can 'roll over' the time you've gained and spend more on subsequent parts of the program, provided you hit each milestone. Or, of course, you can graduate early!

Setting you up for success

We want our students to succeed so we're here to support you along the way.

We coach you to develop your training technique: You can submit training videos as you study for each level and we'll review and give you very specific guidance on your technique before you submit a qualifying video for each level. Often during the course of coaching we see your skills take off and we greenlight you for the behavior(s) in question. There's steady feedback so you'll never wonder how you're doing.

Jean and The Academy staff are experts at trainer development and we will model for you (and with you as subject!) the training and teaching of people via positive reinforcement of successive approximations of clearly defined target behaviors, a skill you'll also hone for teaching and building skills in your own clients. In other words, we walk the positive reinforcement walk! And it's not about being kind, though that's a laudable goal. It's about leveraging the most efficient and effective ways to consolidate and develop your talents.

Group study and mentoring: You can join the study groups for each level and get guidance on developing professional level training and behavior modification plans so you've got a clear idea of what's expected before you submit your assignments for that level.

Quizzes and practice tests: The modules have embedded quizzes on all topics, and The Dog Scientific posts practice questions so you can gauge whether you've integrated the material. And our discussion forums are without peer anywhere in the world of applied dog behavior. Everybody's game is raised by the high quality discussion.

What if I don't make it?

We will do all we can to give you help, but ultimately we are aiming for excellence and our graduates have to meet a high standard. High standards are exactly what the dog training industry most needs, and on this we will not compromise.

For your practica – your dog training skills and execution, we recommend you start training as early as possible and submit video so we can coach you towards complete fluency of technique.

We'll keep on giving you feedback until you submit video that meets the standard or the six months for that level has passed. After that, we're sorry, but you will have dropped out of the Academy.

For the assignments and knowledge tests, you can make a second attempt within a month. Again, if you fail to make the standard, you will have dropped out of the Academy.

If you drop out, you will be free to continue to study the material on DVD as you wish, but you won't have access to coaching, to The Dog Scientific or the Academy's social network, the Academy Café. We are unable to refund the cost of the course if you drop out.

But don't be daunted. If we have accepted you for the course, then we're confident that with focus and application, you can successfully graduate the Academy.

Starting out

As a new Freshman in The Academy, you'll be studying the modules for the very first time and familiarizing yourself with The Dog Scientific website, its discussion forums and study groups, joining the webinars and introducing yourself on our social network, the Academy Café. You'll find the culture collegial, welcoming and supportive and the level of discussion high.

Once you've worked through the first five modules, you'll start training. If you feel stuck at any point, you can submit a video and we'll help. The beauty of our system is you can submit video precisely when you have a training problem, of the very dog that you're stuck on, and get coached by the best in the business. And you can do so on multiple dogs.

If you feel your training technique is going well, you can choose to submit a qualifying video. You don't need to show all the steps in training the behavior, just sufficient footage for us to get a good look at your technique. And don't worry about Hollywood production. We only need to see clearly what you're doing. Often, in the course of coaching, we will see your technique meet or exceed our standards, and we will let you know you've been greenlighted!

We recommend all new students, especially those without training in science, have an initial view of the Critical Thinking module as early as possible in their studies. It's your best 'immunization' against the very uneven quality of information out in the world on applied behavior and training.

Each level follows the same pattern: training practica (video), assignments, and a knowledge test. Remember you can go faster through a particular level if you wish and roll over time for later levels. For details on The Academy curriculum, please download the syllabus and view the webinar archives.

Progressing from Freshman to Sophomore (at or before six months)

Training requirements:
Video showing your ability to: efficiently train dogs in all basic obedience behaviors, adhere to training plans and add split steps where appropriate for a given dog, and demonstrate a systematic and standardized approach to training.

Draft a training plan for a behavior modification application, and build a plan to condition a strong emotional response from a dog to a situation we have set.

Knowledge test:
You will be tested on modules and webinars covering: animal learning and cognition, all the principles of efficient, evidence-based dog training, best practices in the use of clicker training, best practices for building strong obedience behaviors in pet dogs, efficiently and systematically troubleshooting training problems, dog breeds and behavioral characteristics, the history of behavior science, training gear and equipment, husbandry training: teaching dogs to volunteer for vet exams and procedures, dealing with client misconceptions and developing great scripts for client compliance and education.

Progressing from Sophomore to Junior (at or before 12 months)

Training requirements:
Train a dog to station for a complete veterinary exam, efficiently free-shape a dead retrieve (behavior chain), again demonstrating you can apply a systematic approach, respond to the behavior the dog offers and demonstrate good timing and mechanics.

Create a behavior mod plan to meet a client's goals stated goals, communicate a variety of key concepts clearly in client-friendly language.

Knowledge test:
You will be tested on modules and webinars covering: animal learning and cognition, applied behavior analysis, understanding and resolving dog behavior problems, three full modules on ethology (in general, and dog behavior in particular), designing and executing training class curricula, dog body language, research in psychology, cognition and domestication, training in multi dog households, tug toys and motivators.

Progressing from Junior to Senior (at or before 18 months)

Training requirements:
Optional: casework videos for mentoring, food and object guarding protocols, training technique check-ups.

Draft a plan to desensitize a fearful or aggressive dog to a particular stimulus and create positive associations, and preparing clear, accessible notes and instructions for clients. Your expertise is of little use if you are unable to work successfully with clients. We will thoroughly prepare you for this aspect of your work.

Knowledge test:
You will be tested on modules and webinars covering: adapting training plans to modify complex behaviors, body handing problems, canine compulsive disorder, a variety of case study webinars, client counseling practices, critical thinking, diagnosing, counselling on and resolving dog-dog aggression, dog play skills, efficient working up (diagnostics, prioritizing/triage, history-taking) of new cases, working up and resolving resource guarding cases, best practices for resolving leash reactivity, building mechanical skills in clients, motivational interviewing, senior dog behavioral wellness, working with families.

Final exam to graduate (at or before two years)

Once you're a senior, you may schedule your final exam at or before your two year mark as a student. All modules and reading material may be tested so expect it to be stretching, but, again, there are quizzes, a supportive community and study aids to help you prepare.

Once you've successfully graduated and are certified, you are eligible to appear on the graduate referral list and you can use the Academy logo on your educational and promotional material.

You can also continue to take part in The Dog Scientific discussions, join webinars and take part in the Academy Café, provided you remain a graduate in good standing.

If you fail on your first attempt at the exam, you can schedule a second and final attempt six months later.

To download the syllabus, please click here.