A Letter to the CCPDT

FINAL UPDATE: In October, 2011, my certification was renewed.

3rd UPDATE:  On August 4, 2011, the CCPDT Policy Statement on Training Practices was revised to no longer include the restriction against using an electronic collar on any dog under one-year-old. I am also told that policy discussions are once again allowed on the CPDT List.

2nd UPDATE: The CCPDT informed me on January 14th that they will be forced to allow my certification to elapse, as a result of my failure to sign their Code of Ethics.

UPDATE: I am told the matter of my concerns regarding the CCPDT’s Code of Ethics are slated for discussion by the Board on Thursday, January 13th.

Below is the bulk of a letter sent to the Certification Counsel of Professional Dog Trainers.

December 31st was the deadline for renewing my CPDT-KA certification, which I earned three years ago by sitting for a mind-numbing 250-question multiple choice test on topics ranging from learning theory and ethology to animal husbandry and training equipment.

In 2009, the CCPDT released its Statement on Training and Behavior Intervention Practices, a copy of which follows my letter. I and a number of other trainers openly protested the policy on the CPDT-KA list, at which point the CCPDT coincidentally decided to ban all posts on CCPDT policy from that forum.

This letter was sent along with all the required materials to support my recertification, with the exception of a signed copy of their current Code of Ethics, which I will not sign due to its reference to the above mentioned policy statement.

I do regret not writing this letter a year earlier, as was my intention. However, the Code of Ethics did not include any reference to the offensive policy at that time, but appears to have been amended in September of 2010.

December 22, 2010

To the CCPDT Board,

I am writing regarding the CCPDT Policy on Training Practices, both as it affects my ability to maintain my CPDT-KA status, and out of concern for how certain claims made in the statement of that policy reflect on the CCPDT and its certification programs.

The policy refers to “certain practices which can in no way be considered humane or sound by scientific standards”, the implication being that some science exists which shows the enumerated practices to be irrefutably inhumane and unsound.

The problem is that no science exists that in any way addresses, much less refutes, the use of very low-level electronic stimulation as either a cue or a distinctly mild aversive as an element in a training program.

I understand the policy does not outlaw the use of electronic stimulation as a sort of last resort for certain adult dogs. But it does outlaw what to my mind is the more humane application of the tool, as a very mild aversive in the context of a mainly positive training program, at least in any dog under one year of age.

[....] while I have no formal training in the field of animal behavior, I like to think I have a more than passable ability to think critically, a skill I do my best to bring to bear both in my training practice (evaluating as objectively as possible the prudence and outcome of my choices at every step), as well as in my approach to any article, book, or scientific study I encounter.

I also take pride in being a humane and effective trainer, who attempts to take all available knowledge into consideration when making choices among the many different tools and methods at her disposal. I recognize the need for standards of ethics and practice in dog training, and hope to make some contribution to the effort to establish and maintain such standards.


So what does science have to say about electronic stimulation and training? Very little as it turns out, and what it does have to say is hardly definitive. Even the authors of Electronic Training Devices: A Review of Current Literature, in contemplating the body of relevant scientific research, admit that “most studies involving dogs have discernible methodological weaknesses”.

I’ve read each study surveyed in the above review fairly closely, by the way, and the authors of A Review of Current Literature could not be more correct in their appraisal. But the key thing to understand, is that there have been exactly zero studies using very low-level stimulation, such as one may achieve with a number of high quality units these days, and such as the vast majority of dogs tend to find only very mildly aversive. In other words, the research that has so far been done is incredibly limited in its scope, so much so that drawing broad conclusions, such as that voiced in the Policy on Training Practices, is illogical.

Extending scientific conclusions regarding stress and/or training effectiveness of high level shock, to the use of such low levels that a dog might only barely perceive them, is frankly unscientific. And treating all forms and intensities of electronic stimulation as by definition strongly aversive (as is implied by the policy to avoid using electronic collars “without first attempting alternative strategies [etc]”) is likewise unjustifiable.


So by what “scientific standards” does the CCPDT claim that low-level electronic collar stimulation need be either a last resort or reserved only for dogs over one year of age? If by none, then I suggest the CCPDT refrain from invoking such phrases, and consider substituting more accurate language, such as “practices that are politically awkward to defend, despite their being potentially more humane and less stressful than other allowable practices.”

I have enclosed the required materials for recertification, minus a signed copy of the Code of Ethics, as it would bind me to endorsing the above discussed policy.

I have enjoyed holding my certification up to now, and have honored its requirements, with the exception of never using electronic stimulation on any dog under one year old. I have broken that exactly twice, once with an eleven-month-old bullmastiff [...] and once with a six-month-old pit bull [....] Both dogs remain happy and confident, and take low-level electronic stimulation in stride as a very mild aversive, used to remind them of what has mainly been taught through positive training.


According to the CCPDT statement on training practices, science has irrefutably determined that my work with the above mentioned dogs was both unsound and inhumane, because it involved the application of electronic stimulation on a dog under one year of age. If that is the case, I would appreciate your pointing me to that science.

I do not expect to be re-certified, though I would obviously prefer that to resigning the certification that I have taken some trouble to earn and maintain over the past three years. Either way, I hope you will respect my honesty and my concerns. [....]


Ruth Crisler

CCPDT Policy

Dog Training and Behavior Intervention Practices

Purpose: This policy serves to govern those practices that a Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) certificant may not use during the practice of dog training or behavior modification. This policy will clarify for dog owners and dog care professionals those practices in which a CCPDT certificant may not engage.

The CCPDT recognizes that this policy does not address every practice under debate in the dog training industry. The goal of this policy is to ensure that CCPDT certificants no longer engage in certain practices which can in no way be considered humane or sound by scientific standards. It also acknowledges that certain additional practices remain under debate, such as the use of electronic stimulation collars. This policy is intended as a first step in ensuring that CCPDT certificants are not using practices that are potentially egregiously harmful to dogs, either physically or emotionally.

Policy: The following practices are never acceptable for use by a CCPDT certificant, for any reason:

• Helicoptering or hanging a dog (defined as lifting the dog off of the ground and either holding it off of the ground or swinging the dog off of the ground by the collar or leash for any period of time) or otherwise restricting the airway of the dog in any manner as a training measure.

• Applying a collar that delivers an electrical stimulation to a dog (with the exception of a vibration collar that does not have an electronic shock without first attempting alternative intervention strategies, including, at a minimum, positive reinforcement of alternative behaviors, changes in antecedent stimuli, and either negative punishment, negative reinforcement, or extinction.

Applying a collar that delivers an electrical stimulation to a dog under the age of one year, with the exception of a vibration collar that does not have an electronic shock component.

• Applying more than one electrical stimulation collar to a dog at the same time.

• Applying an electrical stimulation collar to the genital region or abdomen area of the dog.

• Applying a toe or ear pinch (defined as applying a pinching pressure either with the hand or with a tool of any sort – including but not limited to a cord or wire – to a toe, ear or any other body part of the dog with the intention of causing the dog to perform or cease a behavior).

• Drowning (defined as submersion of the dog’s head in water for any period of time).

• Applying a cattle prod to any part of the dog’s body.

No trainer or behavior consultant who has been certified through one of the CCPDT’s certification programs shall engage in any of the above-named acts for any reason. To report any such conduct by a trainer or behavior consultant whom you believe has been certified through one of the CCPDT’s certification programs, please refer to the CCPDT’s Complaint Procedure or contact our administrator at administrator@ccpdt.org.

Adopted September 4, 2009. Effective Immediately.

Code of Ethics

The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (The CCPDT) Code of Ethics provides The CCPDT certificants with a set of guidelines and goals designed to assist certificants in the ethical challenges of their work and elevate the level of professionalism in dog training and behavior consulting. Additionally, The CCPDT will apply the Code of Ethics as a set of enforceable standards which certificants must agree to abide by in order to retain certification by The CCPDT.

A certificant of The CCPDT affirms to abide by the following:

1. to operate as a certificant without discrimination on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, gender, disability, physical limitation, marital or familial status, sexual orientation, religion or political beliefs.

2. to assist clients in establishing humane, realistic training and behavior goals in accordance with The CCPDT Humane Hierarchy Position Statement.

3. to understand and fully comply with The CCPDT Training and Behavior Practices Policy.

4. to utilize training and behavior modification methods based on accurate scientific research, emphasizing positive relationships between people and dogs and using positive reinforcement-based techniques to the maximum extent possible.

5. to always provide for the safety of clients and animals in training programs and behavior consultations.

6. to act with honesty and integrity toward clients, respecting their legitimate training and behavior goals and the autonomy of their choice, provided they conform to societal and legal standards of humane treatment for their pet.

7. to refrain from public defamation of colleagues, respecting their right to establish and follow their own principles of conduct, provided those principles are ethical and humane according to The CCPDT Humane Hierarchy Position Statement.

8. to provide truthful advertising and representations concerning certificant qualifications, experience, performance of services, pricing of services and expected results; to provide full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest to clients and other professionals.

9. to refrain from providing guarantees regarding the specific outcome of training.

10. to use properly authorized logos and credentials provided by The CCPDT when marketing in print or electronic media.

11. to obtain written informed consent from any client prior to photographing, video or audio recording a dog training session.

12. to work within the professional boundaries of The CCPDT certifications and individual expertise and refrain from providing diagnosis, advice or recommendations in areas of veterinary medicine or family counseling unless certified to do so. This does not preclude referring the client to a veterinary or behavior consulting professional.

13. to maintain and respect the confidentiality of all information obtained from clients in the course of business; to refrain from disclosure of information about clients or their pets to others without the client’s explicit consent, except as required by law.

14. to be aware of and comply with applicable laws, regulations and ethical standards governing professional practices, treatment of animals (including cases of neglect or abuse) and reporting of dog bites in the state/province/country when interacting with the public and when providing dog training or behavior consulting services.

15. to keep accurate and complete records of clients, their animals and the training and behavior services provided; to ensure secure storage and when appropriate, confidential disposal of such records.

16. to refrain from accepting financial remuneration for referrals to other professionals with the exception of nominal gifts (such as a pen or coffee mug) and to refrain from other business relationships that may affect the scope and quality of services offered to clients.

17. to continue professional development as required for maintaining The CCPDT credentials in accordance with the policies of The CCPDT.

18. to maintain and respect the confidentiality of the contents of any and all certification examinations of The CCPDT.

I have read the Code of Ethics of The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers and agree to abide by this code in my dog training and behavior consulting practice.

Signature:                                                                         Date:

Adopted September 17, 2010. Effective immediately.

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  1. SmartDogs’s avatar

    You deserve kudos for this clear, fair, articulate and well-prepared submission.

    Unfortunately I suspect it will not be received with the kind of respect and mindful consideration it deserves.


    1. ruthcrisler’s avatar

      I hadn’t assumed anyone would actually read it, but this morning I got an email informing me that the December 31st deadline for recertification would be suspended for two weeks while the board discusses the matter.


  2. Linda Kaim’s avatar

    Interesting that they would discard their “objectivity” so quickly after setting themselves up as independent of the APDT and all that rubbish.

    It comes as no surprise however.

    I would think it almost actionable against them if they grant their “certification” and then deny anything to the certificate holder based on that niggling little principle.

    You know, the one about objectivity.

    What a waste.

    But then again, considering their entire BoD is comprised of APDT zealots, no big surprises at all.They are not interested in the truth, only on furthering their pathetic agenda.

    Kudos to you. I admire your dtermination.


    1. ruthcrisler’s avatar

      They always seem to forget that science should involve objectivity. Funny.


    2. Krzysztof’s avatar

      and why they are used, and in the right hands they are effective and motsly humane. I always have to ask How were the Germans able to train such incredible pointers before the advent of electricity? The answer is that the Germans never needed to reach out 500 yards to correct a dog, since they hunted on foot and the dog was always nearby. If you are a horseback field trialer with a dog that blow and goes, how else do you make a correction?It sounds like the collar that trainer was using was very old. Modern collars have very low settings that you can increase in intensity until you get your dog’s attention.


  3. Richard Patry’s avatar

    You have my full support.
    It does not make sense.
    Excuse my ignorance but do you really need to be certified by CCPDT?
    What do you get from it?



    1. ruthcrisler’s avatar

      No real need, although it is meaningful in certain quarters.

      I do support the idea of voluntary certification within the field of dog training, both as a means of establishing and maintaining standards of knowledge, competence, and professionalism, and as a measure to ward off (or at least influence) potential government regulation.

      Mind you, the notion that a CPDT-KA represents any sort of gold standard in dog training is strictly preposterous. It does not test skill, only knowledge. And the dog training knowledge it tests lies within a very narrow scope.


  4. Sarah’s avatar

    Nice letter and I applaud your willingness to take a stand on the issue with the APDT. I especially liked the rewording option you provided of “politically awkward to defend…”

    It concerns me both professionally and personally when I see organizations like this take wide-sweeping, general positions on specific tools regardless of application or context. If organizations go this way without any protest or debate, it seems like a short step to legislation on a larger scale. Good luck and I hope you’ll keep us posted if the CCPDT changes their code or replies to your letter.


    1. ruthcrisler’s avatar

      I was informed this morning that the deadline for my recertification would be suspended for two weeks while the board discusses the matter.

      For the record, the CCPDT is currently a separate body from APDT.


  5. Cynthia Eliason’s avatar

    I’ve always been amazed that an “educational” organization (APDT) and a certifying body (CCPDT) would hold so strongly to ignorance. They’re separate bodies but CCPDT was created by APDT and I think the separation is for appearance. In my opinion they will be unqualified to pass judgement on or “certify” dog trainers until they educate themselves about how dog training works, learn how to use equipment, and stop lying about what is and is not humane.


    1. ruthcrisler’s avatar

      It does appear the separation is somewhat disingenuous.

      As for the importance of those certifying competence and knowledge being actually competent and knowledgeable, I couldn’t agree more.


  6. Michael Burkey’s avatar

    Nice letter Ruth. My certification with IAABC expired because they would not grant me CEUs for Robin MacFarlane’s Advanced training program which only covered remote collars one afternoon. The rest of the week long seminar covered business building and behavioral consults even though there was nothing in their bylaws or ethics which banned remote collars. I appealed their decision but they chose not to respond to me at all and I was a founding member. Good luck with your appeal. Here’s hoping ccpdt is more open and smart than iaabc.


    1. ruthcrisler’s avatar

      That is disheartening. And also ironic. I joined IAABC around two weeks ago. May I ask when this all went down? My understanding is that IAABC has been in some amount of transition of late. But my acquaintance with that organization is limited.


  7. Michael Burkey’s avatar

    Besides being a founding member, I was also their Ethics committee Chair for many years. I was very disillusioned with the boards lack of professionalism and therefore am not a great believer in them for certifications. I was recently thinking of testing for the KA certification with ccpdt (which is such a basic test that I don’t feel it would benefit me other than to have the credential for the sake of it) but now I won’t unless they approve your recertification.


    1. ruthcrisler’s avatar

      I appreciate that. Have you looked at certification through IACP? I began the process a while back, but got distracted and allowed my application to expire. I am planning to go ahead with it as soon as I can dedicate the time.


    2. Kapil’s avatar

      While I agree that the e-Collar is dangerous in the wrong hands they can be a great tool if used prrleopy. The issue is that most people don’t read the instructions, don’t learn from someone that knows how to use them or just thinks it is a great toy. But I digress.Put the collar on early but don’t turn it on. This gets the pup used to the feel of the collar. Use a command lead or piggin string, short lead with a choke collar or a pinch collar to get the pup started on the basics. I am not going to endorse any one particular approach but I put them in the order I prefer. Once the pup knows the proper behaviour you can use the eCollar at very low settings. I have not used the tone mode but I am seriously considering that with the next pup.If you haven’t trained a dog or two with a check cord, don’t start with an eCollar and go to a class. There are some great DVDs out there but I think that a live seminar is a good way to start. I have trained under about 4 professionals and they are all different but they are also very much the same.


  8. Michael Burkey’s avatar

    It was September of 2009.


    1. ruthcrisler’s avatar

      When was IAABC founded?


  9. Michael Burkey’s avatar

    No I hadn’t probably because of what happened with iaabc. I had thought of getting the ccpdt certification only because it’s nice to have some certification (in my thinking) when testifying in court as an expert witness. However, not having the certification hasn’t hurt me at all as being an expert witness due to my prior work experience as a k9 officer and years running my business. And I don’t need the certification for my students as they never ask for that. All they are concerned about is can u help them solve their problems and in a humane way. I’ve come to believe that certification is good for newbies who don’t have experience but for experienced trainers the certification really doesn’t provide any benefit. And getting CEUs for recertification becomes harder and harder to do because the majority of seminars are geared toward the beginning trainer. I view the CEUs as great for inexperienced trainers and as a money maker for the presenters who are assured of getting students at their seminars because members need the CEUs.


    1. ruthcrisler’s avatar

      I agree it’s a bit of a racket, especially where it intersects with the seminar circuit. And you’re right about there being few seminars geared toward experienced trainers.

      I don’t get much out of holding CPDT-KA certification, but I would prefer to keep it for now, if only to avoid having to throw out a boatload of perfectly good business cards.


  10. Michael Burkey’s avatar

    I don’t remember when it was founded but I’m thinking it was around 2000 or perhaps a year before.


  11. Michael Burkey’s avatar

    When I left iaabc, I counted up the seminar fees it would cost to maintain certification and it was about $700 and most of it was for seminars that I didn’t need because of my experience other than to show I had the CEUs. That is not a wise business choice just for the sake of obtaining CEUs with no real return benefit. I also didn’t want to be limited to which courses I would get CEUs for and which ones I wouldn’t. For example, I learned much more from Robin McFarlanes of http://www.thatsmydog.com seminars than all the other seminars I have taken throughout the years. Her seminars dealt not only with learning how to use the remote collar effectively and humanely bur also on dog behavior, aggression cases, building rapport with clients and business building skills. And for this iaabc wouldn’t grant any CEUs? Then I don’t need their biased and narrow minded thinking.


    1. ruthcrisler’s avatar

      No argument here. I’ve not encountered very many worthwhile aggression seminars. Was thinking I ought to get a couple trainers together and hold one sometime.


    2. Indri’s avatar

      I never thought I would ever use such a calolr on any of my dogs (Weimaraners/German Wirehair Pointer) but last summer I purchased three calolrs. I can honestly say its the best training tool I have ever bought. Our GWH tends to roam far afield, but is very obedient to come back when whistled at. The problem was my 2yr Weimaraner would roam with him, one evening Addy (Weimaraner) didn’t come back, we had just moved that day when this happened. Luckly, she found her way home, tongue dragging the ground and tail tucked behind her. Fearful this might happen again I purchased the calolrs and have found them invulable!But I caution anyone considering buying one if you don’t already have the time and patience for your dog and its training then stay away from them. Take the time and learn the patience your dog will teach you that is the best training tool you could give yourself.GhostPoint Weimaraners


  12. Lindsey’s avatar

    If your looking for some good training seminars, on aggression or otherwise, look into the Clicker Expo.


  13. David Henon’s avatar

    In my opinion the CPDT exam means nothing. I did not pass and felt it was a waste of $400


  14. Jenny Yasi’s avatar

    I feel the CCPDT is doing the right thing here. The idea that a low-level shock is only mildly aversive for some dogs is really impossible to prove. It is very aversive — and that’s why it works! Everything I see with people using it is they are like yourself, they really have very little no formal training in the field of animal behavior, and they wind up shocking AND reinforcing the same behavior! It’s incredibly sad to watch people confusing dogs with shock collars. I am not 100% opposed to using a shock collar if you find you have a problem that has not resolved by the time you get to advanced training, but using a shock collar on a puppy always appears to happen with people who don’t understand how animals learn, and they want to hurry it up and so they introduce pain into the game, which only makes animals anxious and doesn’t help them learn.


    1. ruthcrisler’s avatar

      I feel the CCPDT is doing the right thing here.

      Well, the CCPDT decided otherwise. They reversed the policy last year.

      The idea that a low-level shock is only mildly aversive for some dogs is really impossible to prove.

      No more impossible than proving anything else is only mildly aversive. Anyhow, my point was that the CCPDT’s claim–that science has shown “shock” to be inarguably inhumane–was in fact unfounded.

      It is very aversive–and that’s why it works!

      It will never cease to amaze me how anyone can claim to understand learning theory, and still maintain the above. Why would you believe dogs are only capable of learning from “very aversive” stimuli??

      Everything I see with people using it is they are like yourself, they really have very little no formal training in the field of animal behavior, and they wind up shocking AND reinforcing the same behavior!

      You do not know me or how I train. And at least so far, your grasp of the theory and/or practice of dog training is not making me feel particularly inferior.

      It’s incredibly sad to watch people confusing dogs with shock collars.

      It’s sad to see dogs confused with any tool.


  15. Susan Jaffe’s avatar

    I cancelled The Whole Dog Journal after the editor said something to this effect.”I never tried an electronic collar but I know I will not like it”.Should any of these people actually work with one correctly it would be easier to see their point.

    Shortly I will go for my dawn walk with 5 dogs including 2 terriers.All wear ecollars and all will come back instantly should cars, deer, skunks, racoons, coyotes what have you appear.They are happy excited dogs ready to really be dogs safely.Not restricted with head halters or harnesses pinching their tender elbow area.
    I have a slightly off topic question.How does that french guy bicycle with all those dogs off lead and keep that great formation.?Wow now that impresses me


    1. ruthcrisler’s avatar

      It’s ironic that so many proponents of “science based” training are totally comfortable relying on rumor and myth where electronic collars are concerned.


    2. YeKyung’s avatar

      , I also believe that the pup souhld wear the collar without it being turned on well before you plan on starting the stimulation. This will acclimate the pup to the weight and bulkiness of the receiver. In my personal opinion, I would say proper low level stimulation can begin between 4-5 months of age as long as the time and patience is put into the first command. Remember an e-collar is simply an extension of the checkcord.To those who might be looking to buy an e-collar, I would recommend the Tritronics Pro 100 G3 (for single dog) or the Pro 100 G3 EXP (for up to 3 dogs). It has 6 intensity levels. You can choose between low, medium, and high continuous stimulations which allows you to really dial in the intensity from dog to dog. Also has a tone/accessory button to A.) control a low tone through the receiver to use as an alternative to stimulation or B.) control the Tritronics Accessory Beeper or the new Tritronics Tracer.Overall, the e-collar is an extremely useful training tool as long as it is used properly and wisely!!!


  16. David Henon’s avatar

    Do not bother. It is a waste of $400



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