As of September 20th, 2014 I am the Upper Peninsula's only Certified Professional Dog Trainer and while I'm trying not to brag I couldn't be happier. When I set out on my journey to becoming a dog trainer, I knew I wouldn't be happy until I could answer any question and be the best! Well being the best is A. a lot of pressure, and B. Impossible-because it's all about opinion. But if I could somehow prove that I knew what the heck I was talking about beyond earning my diploma I wanted to do it.
If you go online searching for dog training tips and tricks, most articles will give you lots of information and then they'll say something like 'for extra assistance contact a Certified Professional Dog Trainer'. While I've always been more than happy to help out anyone I can, I realized how will they know how to find me if I'm not certified? I immediately wanted to earn that title, but here's the thing. You actually do have to be a dog trainer for a minimum of 3-5 years with over 300 hours of experience as a lead trainer before you can even sit for the test.
Then came the hardest part, getting a veterinarian recommendation...Yikes! This was scary for me. How do I ask my vet to recommend me? I'd only just changed vet's offices due to convenience and had maybe 1-2 appointments there. But I brought the paperwork with me and sheepishly asked if he'd be willing to sign off on it. He told me he thought it was great and that the community can always used good dog trainers. So I got that paperwork filled out, it was specific and asked for ratings 1-5 on different skills (honestly, how was he supposed to know?)and surprisingly he rated me 4 out of 5 on all counts! I was very happy with this and really couldn't have expected much more. So then I just had to wait for the new year and therefore the next application period to begin....Then they changed the paperwork required. I asked if I could still submit it and they very dryly said "Nope, you'll have to do it again." Are you kidding me??? It was scary enough asking the first time, now I have to go back and say "Sorry, I screwed up can you still recommend me?" The next time my dog had to go into the vet the original vet wasn't there but I casually mentioned it to his staff and they were happy to advise him, and I added a little note as well. I got it back 2 days later and ultimately it turned out the paperwork was much more simplified and only required a signature/license number...Phew
Okay, now the pressure was on. I couldn't ask a third time for a recommendation so I had no choice but to submit my application. (BTW I forgot to mention that I put it off for over a year as I could have applied in 2013 if I'd wanted to, but anxiety got the best of me that year). I submitted the Application and the payment (not free to test, not free at all) and waited... In the meantime I was reading new books, learning new things and trying to make sure I knew what I was talking about... I finally got back a post card to say they'd received my application and approved me for testing. Then it'd be up to 6 more weeks before I'd hear anything further about scheduling. If you know me at all, then you know my patience with dogs is incredible, beyond that I'm pretty impatient, and boy did those weeks drag on...
Finally, I got an email to schedule my testing. I made the ultimate decision to take the test once I made sure we had a testing center here, and the dates they gave me showed nothing available for our location. With that said I'd have to go to Green Bay and add travelling costs to the list, as well as time off of work, etc. 'You've got to be kidding me right?' Not at all. I was so frustrated. My husband Rick took over the process and made some phone calls. He's always so nice to the people on the other end of the phone and his patience is so solid, so between him and the testing service they kindly got me hooked up. Turns out it wasn't typical for our location to offer this test simply because they've never done it before! But they got it taken care of for me and I appreciated it so much!
After months of prepping and worrying I knew it was down to this. Nothing more I could do but try to relax and take the test. It was very official. You go into the center, they take all of your belongings and put it into a numbered bin. They give you a piece of paper and 2 pencils incase you'd like to use it to figure anything out. (Note: there is no math on this test) You're given 4 hours to complete the test. I got thru it in about 90 minutes, but then I spent another 60 reviewing my answers. I also did something a little quirky and totally me: I started marking down a tally for every question that I wasn't 100% convinced I had right, just to make sure I had a passing grade in the end.
The guys at the testing facility thought it was so cool that I was doing this never before seen (there anyway) certification test, and they were so bummed when the results printed out, even though I already knew... "Results will be processed within 6 weeks of the end of the testing period." I could tell they really wanted to tell me then and there. I was told they typically get results right away on the tests that they give so they were shocked. At this point nothing surprised me though.
I went on a small rant about my inability to wait on Facebook and then 3 days later I got a big envelope in the mail. Surely, a rejection letter wouldn't be this big and this heavy... Big Grin... I couldn't stop smiling for 2 days after.
So I know this blog post sounds very whiny, and it probably is. But the point is that it's worth going over hurdles and getting a little uncomfortable to get recognition that you deserve. I am now very proud to tell you all: I am CPDT-KA certified! The KA stands for Knowledge Assessed, and now the next step is getting Skills Assessed. I'll save that for next summer, maybe another blog ;-)
Below is an upload of my "Press Release" written and provided by CCPDT. It will further explain what is so special about being certified through them...
My name is Kim, I've grown up in this beautiful place we call Marquette, MI. I have always been a lover of animals and my love for them has only grown stronger with age. I love all animals from mice to cows, to pigs and frogs. Of course as dogs are the ones living most closely among us they have become my passion. I worked for a kennel for 2+ years, and I loved caring for the dogs all day. Being a kennel worker significantly benefited me while I was studying dogs however the time came to follow my calling. In April 2010 I graduated with my diploma in Dog Obedience Trainer/Instructor from Penn Foster Career School, and have since begun building my experience in the field. I am currently owned (along side my husband Rick -who is also in the dog business as a groomer, and plays an active part in TacoMo as well) by 2 dogs named Rico Suave a 50lb adorable mix (His DNA came back as one parent being 1/2 Cocker Spaniel, 1/4 Pomeranian, & 1/4 Dachshund, the other parent while not confirmed is potentially an English Shepherd which honestly makes the most sense) and Smorzy a 50% Australian Shepherd/50%Shetland Sheepdog. They are a crazy duo and are not perfect by any means but I love having the tools to control their behavior whenever I need to. I love my dogs so much that TacoMo was named after them (Rico's nickname is Taco & Smorzy's is MoMo)! You'll learn by meeting me or reading my posts that while I can be a quiet person, I can also babble on forever!