What’s a CPCFT? What about CCFT, CCRP, and the rest of the alphabet soup?

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I think it is impressive to see all kinds of letters after someone’s name. For the most part, that means this person has put in time, effort, and money into bettering their knowledge base. There are a number of canine fitness, conditioning, and physical rehabilitation programs out there, which can get very confusing. Not all programs are created equal and some programs are better than others. The key to hiring a Canine Fitness Professional or Rehabilitation Specialist is ensuring that person has been well educated and is SAFE! Everything MUST be SAFE for the dog. Let’s take a look at what you are getting into when you decide to pursue Canine Fitness & Conditioning. Keep in mind Canine Fitness & Conditioning is NOT physical rehabilitation from an injury. There are also qualified professionals to do physical rehabilitation with dogs that are recovering from a significant injury. A quality canine fitness professional will require veterinary clearance for dogs who have recently been diagnosed with an injury.

CPCFT – Certified Professional Canine Fitness Trainer

The CPCFT program is run through the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy, taught by Dr. Debbie Torraca, and certified through the Wizard of Paws. This program is not sponsored by any equipment company, which allows students to use “what they have.” By using “what we have” when in training creates critical thinking skills, which allows us to develop better at-home training programs for our clients. This program includes 24 weeks of intense online classroom work, students must have been active with 75% or more of each class session to qualify for the four 6-week peer reviewed case studies. Upon successful completion of class requirements and case studies, students are then permitted to take the exam. Certification is granted after students pass the exam with a score of 80% or higher. The topics covered in this program includes: canine anatomy and physiology, conformation and structure, gait analysis, proper form, safety, developing effective fitness plans for a variety of dogs, nutrition, and are taught about various healing modalities to refer clients out to get better care. CPCFTs are taught what is beyond our scope of service, and safety is the utmost priority!

CCFT – Certified Canine Fitness Trainer

This program is hosted by the University of Tennessee and is sponsored by Blue-9 Pet Products and FitPaws. This program includes 23 hours of class, two days of in-person hands on lab at UT, 3 case studies, and an exam. This program requires students to purchase specific FitPaws equipment, but they are also taught what is beyond their scope of service. I cannot say much more about this program since I have not participated in it. My opinion here, is based on my own research of what is publicly available.

CCFC – Canine Conditioning Fitness Coach

This program is run through Do More with Your Dog. The instructor and creator of this program is not certified, nor has been trained, by any known canine fitness or rehab professional. This program has online course or a weekend training course options. The creator of this program is very unwelcoming to people who question this program. She has deleted legitimate questions or comments from her social media and has also blocked some of those people asking questions. Safety does not appear to be a high priority with this program. I have not been involved with this program either, but from what I have seen that is publicly available I do not believe there is adequate time spent on teaching safety, form, or scope of service.

The following credentials require board licensure to be eligible for the program

CCRP – Certified Canine Rehab Practitioner

This program is hosted by University of Tennessee and is available to veterinarians, registered veterinary technicians, and physical therapists. The program includes: 3 online courses, 2 hands on labs, clinical practicum, and exam. This is a huge undertaking and is known for being the premiere canine rehabilitation program.

CCRT – Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist

This program is based in Wellington, FL and includes 3 hands on modules, must successfully complete an exam for each module, and 40 hours of internship. This program is for physical therapists or veterinarians. It is an intense program that includes specialized training on physical therapy assessment, manual therapy, physical modalities and therapeutic exercise, and neurological rehabilitation.

I’m still so confused!

This just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the world of canine fitness or canine rehabilitation. If you have a dog that has chronic or acute injuries, the dog needs to be seen by a licensed veterinarian, but not all licensed veterinarians are created equal either. If you are involved in physically demanding sports with your dog (such as: agility, dock diving, flyball, herding, lure coursing, etc.) you will want to consider seeing a Board-Certified Orthopedic Surgeon or Sports Medicine Specialist. It is likely a boarded specialist will likely refer you to a CCRP or CCRT for proper rehabilitation. If your dog is a pet (does not participate in sports) a licensed veterinarian that frequently sees orthopedic cases is likely to be sufficient in more rural areas where boarded specialist are few and far between.

What if you have a physically healthy dog and compete in dog sports? This is where a CPCFT or CCFT can help. Both of these certification programs can develop safe and effective fitness plans for your dog’s specific needs. The key here is to use someone who is paying close attention to proper form and is actively teaching you about it. They should also be educating you on signs of fatigue, exhaustion, and anything to specifically look out for with your dog. For example, I am training a dog with weak and straight shoulders. My at-home fitness plan for this dog includes a note about watching for signs of fatigue in the elbows.

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  1. Mandy German

    What is your opinion of NCSU’s CCSC certificate program? (Canine Strength and Conditioning Coach)

    • Colleen Bragg

      I wrote this blog well before NCSU’s existed. From what I have seen of it, I think it is a good program. I need to look more into it and since I have become a Registered Veterinary Technician, I am leaning more towards NCSU’s CCAT program rather than the TN program though. Great question!


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