I am smart.

I am kind.

I have dog hair on my pants.

It's nice to "meet" you!

I am smart.

I am kind.

I have dog hair on my pants.

It's nice to "meet" you!

Hi! I'm Jess Kelley-Madera, CPDT-KA, PMCT1.

I'm a Certified Professional Dog Trainer located in Staatsburg, NY.

What is a certified trainer, anyway?

Maybe you didn't know dog trainers could earn certifications, or maybe you're getting dizzy from trying to decipher the many dog training certifications out there. Either way, you're not alone!

Dog training is entirely unregulated in the United States, which means that anyone can say they're a dog trainer (and charge you for their services!).

To help consumers differentiate the qualified trainers from the unqualified trainers, institutions and highly experienced trainers started offering credentials that were hard to earn and a true sign of skill, knowledge, and ethics in our industry.

And to compete with those top-tier certifications, copycat certifications started popping up. Some are available for very little work or knowledge in dog training, some are awarded by a facility to their own employees, some have no meaningful ethics requirements... you get the idea.

Does that mean all certifications are meaningless? No. But it means you need to understand what a certification requires in order to understand what it tells you about a trainer.

So, what do my credentials mean,

and how did I earn them?

I have two certifications: CPDT-KA and PMCT1. CPDT-KA stands for Certified Professional Dog Trainer, Knowledge Assessed and PMCT1 stands for Pat Miller Certified Dog Trainer, Level 1. I have also completed two extensive, highly respected courses: Michael Shikashio's famous Aggression in Dogs Master Course and Kim Brophey's Family Dog Mediator Course. A little about these qualifications:


CPDT-KA is a credential offered by the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. In order to earn the CPDT-KA credential, I was required to:

- Spend 300 hours training dogs that were not my own.

- Pass a lengthy exam, which covered learning theory, animal husbandry, instruction skills (such as infectious disease management, ethical issues, etc.) and more.

- Sign a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, which includes a commitment to the Least Invasive, Minimally Aversive (aka LIMA) standard to govern if and when we use pain or fear to work with dogs. (LIMA is a moderately strict standard, allowing force in some cases. My personal standards are more strict and my methods are fully force free.)

- Have a relationship with at least one certified dog trainer who was willing to vouch for me as a skilled trainer. (To fulfill this requirement, I became an intern at Pumpkin Pups in Brooklyn, NY. I worked under four extremely skilled and certified dog trainers, who all have CPDT-KA and additional specialty certifications.)

- I am required to fulfill continuing education credits and adhere to all ethics and standards to maintain this certification.

Here I am training Frank, a rescue pup who was scared of several aspects of normal life, including having his harness put on, walking by fans, and seeing strange people and animals. This training took place during Pat Miller's May 2022 Behavior Modification Academy, where I earned the top grade in the class.


Pat Miller is a very experienced dog trainer, author, and the Training Editor for the Whole Dog Journal. She has many certifications, professional affiliations, and accolades to her name, and she is one of the most respected dog trainers in the world.

Pat runs rigorous academies for dog trainers out of her facility, Peaceable Paws, in FairPlay, MD. These academies are one week long and require students to work one-on-one with one dog on a specific goal.

The academies I attended to earn my PMCT1 credential are:

- Canine Behavior & Training Academy

- Canine Behavior Modification Academy

- Canine Aggression Academy

For all of these courses, I completed the course with extremely high grades!

Aggression in Dogs Master Course

The Aggression in Dogs Master Course is a world-renown class taught by Michael Shikashio, CDBC. The course requires graduates to complete 23 in-depth learning modules, all centered on helping dogs with aggressive behaviors. The course covers everything from defensive handling to aggressive behavior modification to humane law.

Family Dog Mediator Course

If you notice me talking about how your dog's breed affects their behavior, that's because of this course! This course is all about understanding dogs within their greater context, from their breeding to their previous learning history to what they're learning from their environment. I found the genetics aspect of this course to be particularly interesting and I enjoy considering what our dogs were bred to do (even rescue mutts like mine!) and how we can help them find enjoyment and comfort by providing them with opportunities to fulfill those niches.

All of these credentials share the following features:

Significant coursework and experience required

High ethical standards for both clients and dogs

Mentorship and guidance from industry leaders

Together, they represent an educational background that has breadth across many experts and disciplines, and depth particularly in the areas of fear and aggression.

Do you have a misunderstood pup like Rose? If so, I'm here to help!




Tuesday & Wednesday: