Recently I posted a Facebook live video and promised a blog post on certification in the pet industry and my thoughts on it. I got half way through that post and decided to spike it because what I thought I'd ind in my research I wasn't finding but what I did fin was almost worse.
I thought I would find a ton of online courses for little cost that would allow anyone to become a certified dog trainer and they might be out their but they are well hidden on the web. Instead what I found were a bunch of overpriced courses that were as much as $1,500.00 for a single course for a certification that required close to ten of those courses to complete. Some of them even charge more than a thousand dollars just to register.
These are all very intensive courses and would provide a ton of knowledge and benefit but in my personal cost benefit analysis they simply aren't worth it. Especially when you can buy their books on Amazon. We're comparing a less than $10.00 book with a $7,000 course here. If the knowledge can be obtained, learned, and practically applied for a fraction of the cost of the certification programs then what is the benefit of the certification programs?
I ask this from the prospective of a pet sitter and a dog walker but I am also someone that networks with dog trainers and when I see that one is certified I don't see it as a positive. I honestly think of that old quote about what type of person is born every minute. Again I am certain those courses provide value and knowledge but it is knowledge that can be obtained for a lot less and if a certification badge on a website is a great marketing tool then a few thousand dollars is an even better one.
Certification courses have made there way to the pet sitting industry and are being pushed hard by the professional organizations. When it comes to cost it isn't bad compared to other certifications in the pet industry. As a pet sitter in the trenches working to educate the public on the value of a professional pet sitter over an amateur like a friend, neighbor, or someone from an on-demand service I'd be far more inclined to sign up for a certification course if the money I had paid to the professional organization were being used to advocate for the industry. Instead I'm not 100% certain where my money went and now they want more so I can take a test and put a badge on my website?
And what does the title certified pet sitter mean? how much power and sway does it have? Especially when Rover and Wag! have a ten question quiz the people that sign up on those sites can take and call themselves certified. Here we come to my ultimate point. If the pet industry is going to move towards legitimacy then certification has to be more than a money grab. It has to be a near requirement to work in the industry and that means it has to be affordable. A course to become a certified dog trainer that cost more than a potential first year dog trainer's entire marketing budget isn't going to push them towards becoming certified. It will have quite the opposite effect and then the industry is stuck where it is now.
That doesn't mean there aren't affordable certification options out their. CPDT exam is affordable but requires 300 hours experience training dogs in the last three years. That isn't much experience but could still be daunting for someone looking to break into the industry. At this point the cynical person reading this might point out that I have no interest in being a dog trainer and I would only become certified so that I could test my knowledge and prove that I'm capable of doing so. That very fact is why I started looking into this and I put myself into the shoes of someone thinking of becoming a dog trainer and I was presented with two options. Start offering the service or give up. So in the end my point is by making certification difficult to obtain all the places calling for professionalization and standardization of an industry severally lacking in such are pushing people interested in doing things the right way towards their own path.
As I often blog to work out my own thoughts and reach my own answers and invite others along for the journey I am left here with more questions. What do you think the value of a certified pet sitter is? Would you be more likely to hire a PSI certified pet sitter or do you find the term meaningless and devalued because of its use by on-demand services and lack of legal requirement? At the end of the day my desire to prove myself and need to earn accomplishments might weigh out and I'll start adding some certifications to my resume but somewhere inside I'll always have my doubts.