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Working Dog Practitioner Certification Program

A Blended Online Program

Working and performance dogs, as compared to their pet counterparts, have higher physical exertion demands, increased risk for injury, and greater exposure to hazardous substances and environments. Veterinarians can expand their skills and services by learning  how to effectively address these needs.

The Working Dog Practitioner certification program provides specialized instruction through a blended program of online courses and hands-on learning  in workshops and preceptorships. Instructors include specialty certified practicing veterinarians with real life experience, and subject matter experts in the working dog field.

The Working Dog Practitioner program is RACE-approved for continuing education credits.

For More Information

Penn Vet Working Dog Center
3401 Grays Ferry Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19146

Online program


Designed for Veterinarians

This customized program is for graduate veterinarians who care (or desire to care) for working dogs, performance dogs, and canine athletes. All share a passion  to refine their clinical skills in the assessment, care and treatment of working and performance dogs. Typically, candidates come from or serve canines  in the following sectors:

  • Agility and canine athlete associations
  • Field and hunting dog associations
  • Veterinary hospitals
  • Veterinary sports  medicine  and rehabilitation specialties
  • Customs and Border Patrol
  • Department of Defense
  • Law enforcement
  • Transportation Security Administration
  • U.S. Secret Service

Program Take-Aways

  • Develop the knowledge and confidence to work with a variety of dog and handler teams
  • Implement successful, low-stress handling techniques for working and performance dogs
  • Understand the performance requirements for different types of canine athletes
  • Identify and manage risk factors  that can lead to job and sports related injuries
  • Develop comprehensive medical treatment plans for working and performance dogs
  • Utilize the principles of athletic conditioning to maximize health and longevity of working and performance dogs

Session Topics

  • Physical examination and assessment of a working or performance dog
  • Safe and low stress  handling of a working dog or canine athlete
  • Working dog injuries and medical conditions
  • Breed specific diseases and heritable diseases
  • Therapeutic exercises and physical rehabilitation modalities
  • Retirement of a working dog or canine athlete
  • Hands-on workshops in a variety of topics: search and rescue, athletic assessment and conditioning, law enforcement orientation, canine behavior and training and others

A Growing Need

“There is a growing need for a more specialized approach to caring for the working and performance dog.Through this flexible, online format, our goal is to answer the questions that are important to both the veterinarian and the dog handler. And to provide that information so as to improve the health and performance of the working dog.”

Cynthia Otto, DVM, PHD, Associate Professor of Critical Care and Director, Working Dog Center School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania

Academic Directors

Dr. C.M. Otto, Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Cynthia M. Otto, DVM, PhD

  • Diplomate American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care
  • Diplomate American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation
  • Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist
  • Associate Professor of Critical Care
  • Director, Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Bess Pierce, DVM, Working Dog Center

Bess Pierce, MZS, DVM

  • Diplomate American Board of Veterinary Practitioners
  • Diplomate American College of Veterinary Internal  Medicine
  • Diplomate American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation
  • Associate Professor of Small Animal Internal Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, Lincoln Memorial University
  • Adjunct Associate Professor, Canine Performance Sciences and Rehabilitation, Penn Vet

Royal Canin logo


The Working Dog Practitioner Program was made possible by generous support from Royal Canin.