Photo of dogUnderstanding credentials

Is Your Dog Professional Qualified?


Have you ever read a website of a dog trainer, groomer, sitter etc. and read “professionally qualified” or “accredited”? Does this impress you and help you to decide to work with that organisation? If so, read on.


What does “professional” mean? This is very tricky because technically it means that someone takes payment for a service.


What does qualification mean? According to the dictionary it means “a pass of an examination or an official completion of a course, especially one conferring status as a recognized practitioner of a profession or activity.”
If someone says they have a professional qualification this should mean that a) this person has attended training and b) that the training organisation has given the individual a qualification such as a certificate or diploma etc. This should be visible and available to show you to provide evidence. Moreover, the organisation that delivered the training should be endorsing the party to show their logos etc showing their confidence in this party. There is a difference between a qualification and attendance of a course. The trouble is it can be difficult to tell. If I attend a Continuing Professional Development course I get a certificate for it, however, this is not a qualification as I have not had to do an exam or test or assessment to prove I have learned anything from it.


If someone says they are professionally trained, this does not mean they have a professional qualifications and it does not state they are professional only that they believe the training they received was professional. However, if the person delivering the training does not have professional qualifications this is very much open to interpretation.
A qualification is “accredited” by an independent educational party which has assessed the standard of education given to the students. These organisations will independently spot check standards of students work. Certain qualifications, usually of diploma level or higher enable the student to put “post nominals” (letters) after their name. However, post nominals don’t necessarily mean that someone has qualifications, it can just be a title, position, office or honour. For example I am a member of the APDT and am allowed to use UKAPDT 00963 after my name. However, this was not a qualification, it is a membership. However, I was assessed for this membership. But this is not the case for every organisation. I also hold the post nominals B.Sc (Hons) after my name. This is a qualification and shows a Batchelor of Science degree passed with honors.


In the dog profession world it seems that The Open College Network is the most common accrediting body but Lantra, Cities and Guilds, EADL and others are also accrediting bodies. Importantly the certificate will carry the signature and logo of the accrediting body, not the education provider.


Of course, some professionals hold degrees. Degrees are awarded by an accrediting body, which will be a University. However, if the individual is citing they hold a degree, you should satisfy yourself that the degree is relevant. For example, if your dog professional holds a degree in chemistry, is this relevant to being a dog trainer? It shows the individual can learn but it does not show they have the relevant skills for the job.  If, however, the degree is in teaching, and this dog professional is a dog trainer, then this should be a valid and useful qualification as it is the owners who are being taught to train their dogs by the dog trainer. So as long as this individual also has qualifications and experieince in dog training this is indeed a very useful qualification. So, take a look at the qualifications and decide for your self if these are relevant. 

Of course, qualifications on their own are not evidence that the person is going to be qualified to do the job effectively as practical experience is required too. Just because a person has an academic qualification does not mean that they are going to be good at the job as they need both academic and practical experience. I personally see a dog trainer who is awesome. He has 40 years’ experience and no dog training qualifications yet he is the best trainer I have worked with. These people you will hear about by personal recommendation by other experts as their name gets known for doing a great job. So if you see someone who does not have qualifications, ask around, they may be great and if they are you will hit on many people who say they are great.

You tend not to get this kind of problem when selecting a vet because the Veterinary Surgeons Act regulates vets. The trouble is the dog training, pet sitting, dog walking, grooming and dog behaviour industries are not externally regulated at this time.

So, if professional qualifications and experience are important to you when you select your dog professional, next time you see pet sitters, dog walkers, groomers, and trainers with impressive websites stating they are professional, hold qualifications and / or are accredited please read what is being said carefully. Make sure the accreditation is independent. I have seen a groomer advertising qualifications but when I investigated, they had attended a two weeks course. Furthermore, they had not worked as a groomer previously anywhere else so had no practical experience at all. Very worrying. 

Remember accreditation should be independent from the organisation it is accrediting. For example, I studied a diploma with COAPE but the signature on my certificate is the Open College Network, not COAPE. This is independently certified by a third party. You can also check by contacting the accrediting body or the educational provider to find out if they are indeed qualified. For example, you will find my details (Denise Nuttall) listed on the APDT and on the CAPBT websites which evidences independently that I am a member of these organisations. If dog professionals are serious about their trade they will join overseeing bodies to show they meet professional standards. This also enables prospective clients to validate their qualifications.


I hope you find this useful in helping you to make the right choices when working with dog professionals. 

A trained dog is a happy dog!

Paws in Hand can help hold your paws and hands right through from 8 weeks and beyond so that you can start teaching your puppy and learning how to socialise your new puppy and "Read dog" from the earliest stage.

Read more

Dog behaviourist Services

Denise is a qualified and experienced full time dog behaviourist and trainer. She holds a B.Sc (Hons) in Applied Animal Behaviour and also an advanced diploma in companion animal behaviour and training, DipCABT (Coape).

Read more

Useful dog information

Getting a dog or puppy is a huge decision and there is a lot to consider from how to choose your breeder, to how to decide which puppy will be most suitable for you all the way to being able to choose a dog sitter or groomer.

Read more
Photo of aggressive dog

Aggressive dog solutions

Denise deals with any behaviour problem, especially aggression and anxiety. Many behaviour problems can be caused by medical conditions which is why she must work on vet referral.

Read more

Aggressive dog solutions

Denise deals with any behaviour problem, especially aggression and anxiety. Many behaviour problems can be caused by medical conditions which is why she must work on vet referral.

Read more