Certifications for Dog Trainers – One of the First


The Society of North American Dog Trainers (SNADT).  Have you heard of it? Probably not. Steve Diller, the wonderful trainer whom I studied with, told me about it as he had been its President in 1991. Many of the members were pet dog trainers but they also competed in competition obedience, agility and Schutzhund.

I don’t think much has been written about the history of SNADT and I think it’s important for dog trainers to know about our past professional organizations, the history of them and the dog trainers that came before us.

I found out from speaking with several past members and trainer Babette Haggerty that the organization’s goal was to “elevate and set ethical standards for dog trainers, and act as a voice in dog related legislative issues.” Most of the members were from the New York City Tri-state area.

And fight legislative issues they did!! NYC dog trainer and author Carol Lea Benjamin told me that in her recollection, the group was originally started as a reaction to New York City legislation that would have banned pit bulls. Trainers went down to City Hall to testify and the bill was defeated!

Babette told me that she thinks SNADT was founded before 1990 but it was no longer in existence when APDT held its first conference in Orlando, FL in ‘94.

To get a SNADT Certification there was a rigorous system of testing.

The testing was done At the ASPCA on 92nd Street in Manhattan.

Here’s what I learned from dog trainer Brenda “Sue” Clauss of Paw Paw’s Canine College & Kennel, LLC in West Virginia who received a Level 2 Certification from SNADT.

  1. There were three levels of Certification. At the time Sue was certified at Level 2 only 8 people had that certification – 7 from the US and 1 from England

  2. There was a written test which included breed temperament and history

  3. There was an oral defense in front of the testing panel

  4. For the hands-on portion the trainer had to work 3 different shelter dogs on the spot never having seen or met any of the dogs. Sue said in 5 minutes she had to teach each dog something. She remembers being handed an “extremely vicious” bull dog and was told to “work the dog”

  5. As Carol told me, the testing was done with no special training equipment because the ASPCA wouldn’t allow it

Here’s a list of some of the members of SNADT – if anyone knows of any others – please let me know!

Google them – and please don’t get hung up on methods and techniques when you read about them. I indicated that SNADT founder Robin Kovary was also a Charter Member of APDT for a reason. This is about our history and it’s good for us to know who came before us.

Capt. Arthur Haggerty

Carol Lea Benjamin

Steve Diller

Barbara Nagy

Marion Lane

Brenda “Sue” Clauss

Sue Sternberg

Larry Berg

Job Michael Evans

Robin Kovary (Charter member of APDT)

Sidney Mihls

Karen Reardon Taylor, CPDT-KA

Carole Fiel

Kathy Marr

Bash Dibra


  1. The SNADT certification….. unlike the certifications of today was a real certification which determined professional skills and abilities. It should be the gold standard for all dog training organization today and nothing short of it will do.

    • No offense intended regarding NADOI… They do have a great certification process and so does IACP..
      But what set SNADT apart was the fact the applicant had to work with three shelter dogs They had not met before I think that is a true test of a real dog trainer..

      • Thanks for your comment Bob! Were you a member of SNADT? If so, we’ll add you to the list in the blog post!

  2. What about NADOI? I don’t know much about it but have heard of it.

    FWIW, I was on the committee that designed the CCPDT (before it became its own organization). We intended it to have three levels eventually, including hands on and Q/A before a panel. But then it went it’s own way……

    Just to be devils advocate: what does a pet dog trainer do with an aggressive bully breed in 5 minutes to “work the dog” that proves they are a professional?

    • The dog was a bull dog, squat and bratty. He would assess the trainer (two different trainers worked him that day) and then come up the leash. The trainers had 15 minutes per dog, not 5. The first trainer complained and could not handle the dog though she had been training dogs for a living for a long time. The second trainer got the dog under control immediately after he became aggressive. No one was hurt, but when we questioned the ASPCA about why he was up for adoption when so many easy dogs were put down, the sad answer was that people would want him because he was purebred.

    • NADOI turned 50 years young last year, and is still certifying the best of the best. It is, by far, the oldest certifying dog training certification organization.

    • Marilyn (and all), NADOI celebrated our 50th Anniversary last year…yes, we were incorporated in 1965. From the very first planning around Milo Pearsall’s kitchen table, it was envisioned and mandated that every applicant to the new org would be fully investigated and tested. From the very beginning so long ago, every NADOI member is reviewed and approved by their peers i.e. no one is a member simply by paying dues. The process is not easy, and not everyone makes the grade. NADOI was the first to do this for dog obedience instructors, and although in the beginning the approval was called an “endorsement,” the process was and is the same when the language changed to “certify.” Our niche is small as NADOI certifies instructors of obedience. I do remember the NYC org, and remember hearing of a difficult test to get in. Certification in our profession should be hard to get and worth getting. I invite all excellent instructors to investigate NADOI and I would love to talk to all!

      • Helen, thanks for your comment! I tried to clarify in the title that SNADT was “One of the First” and from what I’ve heard the difference in the organizations was that SNADT was mostly comprised of full time professional private dog trainers, though several members were also members of NADOI. NADOI is truly a wonderful organization and my competition obedience trainer in New York City was a member when I first started training my own dog. This article was not meant to negate the history of NADOI and the excellence of the organization – I just wanted young and newer trainers to know that SNADT existed, hear the names of some of their members and what they did to be certified. NADOI has a very interesting history – thanks for sharing it! I think that all instructors should look up your organization! Thank you.

        • Thanks for the kind words, Bonnie. So many of the younger generation doing this job are not familiar with the history of dog obedience instruction, and learning about SNADT is good! It is important for all the current professional associations in our field to work together on the many issues that affect us all. Learning about and supporting these trainer/instructor orgs benefits the members of each, and ultimately the dog and handler teams we serve. That is what it’s all about! NADOI invites excellent and experienced instructors to check us out.

          • My pleasure Helen and I would love to post an article about NADOI as well.

  3. Thanks for the writeup, Bonnie. This is fantastic! I think the only certification today that is similar is the APDT-KSA. I love the idea of the oral defense in front of a testing panel. Brilliant!

  4. Ouch, that hurts Bob. I did earn my certification through one of “today’s certification organization”. I feel the test was created to ensure that all applicants had knowledge in all areas that would be needed for a professional dog trainer. An applicant must provide a log of all class instruction and private training hours. The applicant must be a head trainer that has created class curriculums and handouts. The applicant trainer must teach 300 hours of dog training classes before gaining permission to even take the test. I have been teaching for a well respected Dog Training Club for the past 6 years. I am proud to say my very first training lecture was under Terry Ryan in 2001. This was a three day seminar and yes I was blown away. All I am trying to say is don’t discredit what is available for dog trainers these days. This only causes more division and does not help us work together to gain respect from the public.

  5. The National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors, better known as NADOI, was established LONG before any of the other organizations. We celebrated our 50th anniversary last year. Rather than offering a certification, all of our members were “endorsed” by virtue of their joining the organization. (That wording has recently been updated to “certified,” to bring it more in line with the current terminology.) The application process has always been a test to determine whether or not the applicant has the knowledge and ability to humanely and effectively train a dog. Our goal has never been large numbers of members, but rather members that are the best of the best as judged via written word, personal observation, and video.

  6. The National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors was founded in 1965 when a small group of highly experienced dog trainers gathered together and resolved to promote modern, humane training methods and at the same time elevate the standards of the dog obedience instructing profession. To accomplish these goals, it was decided that members of the organization should be designated as having attained certain skills and knowledge of dog training and obedience instructing. NADOI is not only the oldest group of its kind in the world, it is the only professional organization to require that all applicants demonstrate proficiency in their craft, as tested and measured by their peers, before membership is granted. NADOI members are found all across the USA and in many foreign countries.

  7. Interesting that no one has mentioned the IACP as as growing force in certifying trainers from areas of training, from all positive to balanced, offering several levels too.

  8. I believe this has gained a lot of focus recently.
    I know for one the IAABC has made their position clear.
    Let’s see how it all pans out.

    • Thanks for your comment Andy. Agree with you that we’ll have to see how it works out.

  9. Awesome post.

    • Thank you very much and so glad you liked it! One of the members of SNADT is in our YouTube forum panel, his name is Steve Diller – hope you can check it out on YouTube.

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