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 amateur digital camcorders) but the dog and trainer need to be in frame and the video must be transferred from camera to computer and then up to the internet.

What technical equipment and skills do I need?

A computer and internet access. A printer is also helpful but not essential. A digital camcorder so we can coach your training. You must be able to shoot 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. Before a student is permitted to attempt the exam, s/he must have demonstrated competence with the training practica and passed requirements at all levels of the program. Graduates are welcome to continue attending webinars and participating in all discussion forums. For more information on the course’s structure, see The program in detail.

How many hours do I need to spend every week?

A reasonable minimum would be on the order of 8 – 12 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 and education to date.
  2. A personality well-suited to a rigorous program and challenging profession with a lot of moving parts (counseling owners about their pets).  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 maximum time allowed is two years (six months at each level).  This pace varies considerably from person to person, with some students moving more quickly.  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, phone or Skype. 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?

Enrollments are rolling but we do try to keep students in loose cohorts whenever possible.  If you are accepted, your two year clock will commence shortly after your enrollment.

When we are full, we go on enrollment hiatus until there is room in the program and then we enroll accepted applicants in chronological order of their place on the wait list.  Students are generally very gracious about waiting as they understand that we go on hiatuses in order to 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?

No, The Academy does not offer Tuition Assistance, but it does offer a Payment Plan.  Also, every year 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, but it does offer a Payment Plan.

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 considerably.  It includes extensive lectures, online forums, over a hundred archived webinars, plus the latest research on behavior and training to name just a few elements.  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.