Freshman: starting out

dog on welcome mat

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 green-lighted!

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 practice (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:fetch
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 modification 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.