I was scrolling through Facebook last week when I noticed what appeared to be an ad for a new dog-training business in my area. I clicked on it and followed up, looking over their page and then their website, to see what they were all about.


They stated that the company had been “created around 2019.” Already I was skeptical. That statement sounds to me as if it was written by Artificial Intelligence (AI). It’s simply too vague. Had the real humans involved not been able to remember the actual year they went into business? That is, to me, already a red flag—vagueness about facts.

Next was the inevitable verbal cotton candy about the company’s reason for being. The business “was created for one main reason, which is to help people with their dogs and help create well balanced dogs.” As if a reader of this statement could possibly guess what “well balanced” means.

The company explained, “Owners may see one issue like leash walking where [company name] focuses on the whole picture and help the owners and the dog have the best and the healthiest relationship possible.”

That’s just about as vague as AI gets, I fear—especially AI that does not speak English properly. Noun/verb agreement? ‘Phooey,’ say the real humans involved, I guess. The readers of their ad don’t get the courtesy of clear communication? We’re supposed to ignore the simple lack of proofreading?

Then I read this sentence: “Over the years we have became a strong, well educated company and believe in showing our work and proving ourselves with continue education.” Their continuing education did not apply to words, perhaps?

Below that sentence, the ad shows a small graphic which states the word “certified” three times, next to this list:

“Certified AKC evaluators
“Certified members of International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP)
“Certified thru American Society of Canine Trainers International (ASCT)”

That’s where I started shaking my head.

At least one of the three “certifications” is a lie or, at best, a complete misunderstanding or obfuscation about an AKC program.

Here’s why—AKC (American Kennel Club) “evaluators” are not “certified.”

Want proof? Visit the website, Canine Good Citizen® (CGC) Program, excerpted here:

The AKC’s Canine Good Citizen® (CGC) Program is rapidly becoming recognized as the standard of behavior for dogs in our communities. Canine Good Citizen® resolutions have been passed by 48 state legislatures and the United States Senate, insurance companies are starting to use CGC® to insure breeds they would not otherwise insure, and some condominium associations around the country now require that all dogs in the complex have earned the Canine Good Citizen® award. The AKC recognizes the importance of the CGC® Program and we are committed to its continued growth and resulting impact on responsible dog ownership. Due to the increasing significance of the program, we are introducing some exciting new changes that will increase the experience, training, and knowledge of CGC® Evaluators. Here are the new steps to becoming an AKC CGC® Approved Evaluator:

> Make sure you meet the minimum qualifications before starting the application process.
> Must be at least 18 years of age
> Have at least 2 years of experience working with owners and their dogs
> Have experience working with a variety of breeds and sizes of dogs
> Must not be currently suspended from AKC privileges

If you meet the minimum qualifications, submit the AKC CGC® APPROVED EVALUATOR APPLICATION online. After you submit your application it will be reviewed by AKC and you will be notified via email if your application has been approved, denied or more information is required. Once your application is approved, you will receive your AKC CGC® Approved Evaluator packet.

The application explains: “CGC Evaluators administer many exciting AKC Family Dog Programs including AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy, Canine Good Citizen, AKC Community Canine, Urban CGC, AKC FIT DOG, AKC Trick Dog, and Virtual Home Manners.”

Do you see any mention of ‘certification’? Nope.


Photo by Stine Theede


I asked dog professionals to comment on this error.

Telani Lasoleille (Tennessee) I saw another trainer advertising themselves that way, too. Actually, they called themselves an “AKC certified trainer.” I called them out on it. It’s completely misleading and unethical.

Christine Hale Vertucci (Tennessee) I see the same in my area. Really irritating.

Jamie Hulan (California) I spoke to Mary Burch, head of the CGC Department [at the AKC], since I was running into this around town, with trainers misrepresenting themselves as ‘certified.’ Mary said that, for a lot of them, they’re receiving a ‘certificate,’ so they think it’s a ‘certification.’ But if you LOOK at the certificate, it clearly states “approved” evaluator; it does not say ‘certified.’ They are being unethical and misrepresenting themselves if they state that they’re certified. They may not have any other certs, which then makes them feel more important, I guess? And makes them look better in the eyes of the public?

I just went through this with a trainee who came to me to get accreditation as a trainer. She said she was a certified CGC evaluator already. When she saw my certification of approval from AKC, I laughed and set her straight. I also explained she would be accredited, NOT certified, as a trainer, so there was NO misunderstanding, then showed her my certificate, for certification from CCPDT, so she could see the difference.

Mary Burch, AKC CGC Director (New York) Some people don’t understand that ‘certified’ has a specific meaning. CGC Evaluators are not certified. They are “AKC Approved CGC Evaluators.”

Jeanne Brennan (California) I’ve seen people passing themselves off as AKC evaluators and “certified” in teaching Red Cross pet first aid and CPR. They know crap about dog training.

Karen Reardon Taylor (California) Nope—“Approved”! I’ve been approved for nearly 30 years! I love that AKC is a respected organization that allows for testing that the public can easily access. It gives folks structure and a goal for training. I like that it helps new trainers with structured class plans. Still hoping for some kind of universal certification, or at least state- or country-wide, but I think that sometimes in an effort to compete in the very competitive and saturated training world, trainers say things that aren’t exactly accurate to try to make themselves sound more qualified. It doesn’t make it right. If you approach them with the fact that it is inappropriate to say that you are certified, and instead let them know that it is “approved.” If they leave it, then it’s on them. I prefer not to assume that people are doing something to be shady; maybe they just don’t know better. If I can open up a dialog, I recommend a few certifications that they can get to add to their credibility.

Ann Jorgensen (Alaska) I just want to say I do appreciate that those in the dog community can administer these tests. I do think these titles are very helpful for many reasons, not just for those in AKC conformation and competitive sports.

I do realize the test has its limitations, as is explained when one is becoming an approved evaluator. It is a picture in time and is not a guarantee for the life of the dog. With that said, I have found this testing to be very helpful when molding a good dog citizen for the community, and also in some other less traditional areas, while working in animal sheltering.

In one area I worked, there were no commercial rental agencies allowing dogs. A customer at one of my classes told me she was a part of the local landlord association in the area. She facilitated a presentation to her association where I introduced a proposal to the group with a variety of options for allowing dogs in their rental communities. One item we settled on was passing the CGC and/or taking the S.T.A.R. Puppy program, then a CGC class, to have a dog. This was a major win for the area. It kept families together and allowed current tenants to adopt a dog.

I’ve also used a modified form of CGC with my inmate workers at a federal prison in Forks. This was a vocational program prior to their release from long sentences. Inmates kept the dogs at the facility, taking care of all their needs and their training. I worked with the administrator at the time, about 10 or so years ago, to make this happen. The handlers and dogs earned the conditional title under their name and the shelter dog’s. I cannot tell you how successful this was and how proud the AIC (adults in custody) were; in some cases, this helped these men to transition to jobs when released. Also, adopters often requested these dogs because they were so well trained, all through clicker work and reward.


One more red flag!

The person claiming “certification” does not give their full name—first name only, no last name. Which makes it impossible to find them listed in a database so … no way to check with an organization to find out if this person is “certified.” Why?

You’ve got to wonder.

In a further complication, “we” is used in information about the company, implying more than one staffer but, again, no full names are given—sometimes, no names other than the owner’s (first name) are mentioned. Again, it makes you wonder.

Why do trainers with real certifications find these ads annoying? It’s not because their competition has outwitted them … or us, the consumers. It’s because these ads can give their profession a bad name, which it and they do not deserve.

Don’t fall for the fakers.

At best, they don’t know what the words mean. At worst, they don’t know what they don’t know. They are not what you need.

Don’t fall for the hype.


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