Frequently Asked Questions

How can I learn the hands-on piece of dog training without live coaching?

Via video upload. We coach video daily and it is a powerful way of deconstructing technique, second by second, on a large number of behaviors and on multiple dogs over multiple sessions. The most stellar examples of student technique are used in our regular “Mad Skillz!” webinars, as additional models for newer students.

To allow us to get their practica where it needs to be, students must be able to shoot and upload adequate footage. We don’t require Hollywood production values (most students use their phones and tablets), just that you and the dog are in frame and that you can upload your video to the internet!

What technical equipment and skills do I need?

A computer and internet access. A smartphone to record training videos so we can coach your mechanics and technique. You must be able to shoot, edit and upload video, navigate websites, and troubleshoot your own computer issues. For system requirements, see What you need.

How is the course structured? Is there an exam at the end?

Yes. There is a final exam, which, if you pass, means you receive from The Academy a CTC – Certificate in Training and Counseling. Once you graduate you are entitled to use this credential and The Academy logo on your professional literature if you wish, and be included on The Academy’s professional referral list. You’ll have passed tests at each level in the program so you’ll feel ready for the final exam.  For more information on the course’s structure, see The program in detail.

How many hours do I need to spend every week?

Most students do on the order of 12-15 hours per week. Many students become very involved and end up doing much more, and benefit greatly from it. We have a thriving and supportive online community of beginning students, senior students, grads and staff, many of whom form lifelong friendships and professional support networks.

Are there any pre-requisites?

Yes. The Academy vets applicants for three main things:

  1. Academic aptitude.  Will you thrive in the curriculum?
  2. A personality well-suited to a rewarding and challenging profession that involves counseling sometimes distraught owners about their companion dogs.  Good fits for this program are people who are intellectually curious, methodical and science-oriented, who like working with and are patient with people, and who have most or all of the following from “The Big Five” personality traits: conscientiousness, compassion and cooperativeness, and emotional stability (i.e. low neuroticism). Also, if you have some background in the social sciences, this will serve you well.
  3. Dog wrangling and handling experience – professional training experience, fostering, walking dogs at shelters, participation in dog sports, having worked or volunteered in other professions where the applicant must handle a wide variety of dogs.

It is helpful but not required to have read from our recommended reading list.

How long does it take to finish the course?

The program is designed to be competed in two years.  But this pace varies considerably from person to person. It depends on how intensively you study and train.

Is there a limit to how many questions I can ask about the material?

No. You can ask questions at any time via our various technical discussion forums, in the “Academy Café,” our informal hangout on Facebook, during webinars, via email or Zoom. Some students prefer to work relatively independently, and some prefer more interaction. It’s up to you and how you best process material. We zealously maintain a safe and collegial culture and a high level of discussion, and our brain trust of staff, graduates and senior students has a well-earned reputation as the best in the world.

Do you take on students at all times of the year?

Yes.  Enrollments are rolling: when a spot comes available, it is offered to the next accepted applicant! 

Students are generally very gracious about waiting as they understand that we go take on students only when we can ensure the quality and one-on-one coaching and mentoring The Academy has become known for. We are not interested in quantity. We are interested in quality.

Does the program qualify for Continuing Education Units (CEUs)?

Yes, the program has been granted 21 CEUs for each level (for a total of 84) by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), and 25 CEUs for Each Level (for a total of 100) by the International Association of Animal Behavior Counselors (IAABC).

What is the certification offered upon completion of the program?

Students who meet all requirements are granted a Certificate in Training and Counseling (CTC).

Does the program offer Tuition Assistance?

Most years there is an opportunity for prospective students who are working actively in shelter and rescue to apply for a 50% tuition scholarship.

Does the program offer Military Cost reduction or Military Tuition Assistance?

No, The Academy does not offer cost military cost reduction. 

When does The Academy award scholarships and how many are given out?

The Academy awards a very limited number of 50% tuition scholarships to applicants who are actively working in shelter and rescue. The competition for these scholarships is significant, and The Academy receives applications from animal welfare professionals all over the world. Please refer to the Scholarship Application Information documentation for all details about the scholarship application process and its timeline.

Can I study if I am in another country?

Yes, absolutely. The program is specifically designed for distance learning and remote video coaching. Please note that the program is conducted entirely in English.

Is the program state accredited?

No, it is not.

How much dog handling experience do I need to have?

It is important that you have handled more than just your own dogs. Prospective students achieve this in a variety of ways, including work in related fields such as veterinary medicine, dog-walking, grooming, working or volunteering in sheltering or rescue, and assisting trainers locally. It is also valuable to have worked with your own dogs, such as attending classes, doing dog sports and resolving behavior issues.

How do I find dogs to work with?

The program’s Introduction module offers several suggestions for recruiting “green” dogs to use for learning training procedures and mechanical skills. These include fostering, shelter volunteering, and recruiting from among family, friends and neighbors.

Is there an age limit?

The minimum age for enrollment is 18 years, though The Academy has occasionally made an exception for a promising younger candidate, with parental input. It is important to note that the complexity of the material is post-secondary, and in some cases, university graduate level. There is no maximum age.

Can I defer enrollment?

Invitations to enroll in The Academy’s program are usually valid for a period of one month. This allows us to carefully monitor the student body and ensure the degree of individual coaching and mentoring we have become known for.

How is this program different from the original, live Academy for Dog Trainers that was taught at the San Francisco SPCA?

The two-year program broadens the scope and content of the original 6-week program. It includes extensive lectures, online forums, over two hundred archived webinars, plus the latest research on behavior and training. The distance-learning and Levels format allows students a much longer time with the material so that they may study, train, and fit their course work around other life commitments. Additionally, The Academy’s innovative use of video coaching gives students a superior way to learn and practice their training technique. If a live Academy were to resume today, video coaching would be a central component.