I Want to Work with Assistance Dogs

 

I love dogs and I am considering a career training assistance dogs.
How do I become an assistance dog apprentice trainer?
How long does it take to become an assistance dog trainer?
What do programs look for when hiring people as assistance dog trainers?
I want to start an assistance dog program because I love dogs. How do I do that?
How do I get information about volunteering, acquiring an assistance dog, raising a puppy, or adopting a released, retired or pet therapy dog?

 

I love dogs and I am considering a career training assistance dogs.

All dog trainers love dogs, and enjoy teaching dogs new behaviors and tasks. Training assistance dogs goes a step further by training the dog to perform tasks, then the individual with the disability must be trained to work with their new owner. Training a basic dog obedience novice class of individuals, who have never trained a dog before, is challenging, and the easy part is training the dogs. Training people to train their dog, or maintain their dogs training, is the hard part.  Many programs require the dog’s trainer to also train the individual with a disability during the placement process. It takes patience, understanding and experience for a client to work with a trained service dog effectively. Training the individual to work with their service dog is extremely important as they may have physical and emotional limitations that may provide challenges in the learning process. The commitment to the new assistance dog team doesn’t end at the class graduation. It is a commitment for the life of the new service dog partnered team. 


How do I become an assistance dog apprentice trainer?

Please contact the assistance dog program directly to learn about their specific apprentice or structured training programs. There is high demand for individuals wanting to become an assistance dog trainer and a limited number of positions available. It can though be very rewarding work that allows you to meet many different types of people and impact their lives in such a meaningful way. It can also be physically demanding work that also involves the less glamorous tasks of cleaning dog kennels, bathing dogs, completing paperwork, and working in all weather conditions. Finding a job opening in your area often is often enhanced by your volunteering prior to getting an apprentice position. See the Employment Opportunities web page to view current opportunities with our accredited programs.

 

How long does it take to become an assistance dog trainer?

Most assistance dog programs have a 2 to 3-year apprentice training program. This time frame is needed for an individual to gain a complete education, understanding and various experiences in training a variety of dogs, training dogs of different temperaments and breeds, and learning about working with and training individuals with disabilities. A person should thoroughly investigate all programs that promise it can make you an assistance dog trainer in 6 months.  

  

What do programs look for when hiring people as assistance dog trainers?

This will vary with each program and the type of assistance dogs they train. Generally, programs look for a person with a practical, common sense attitude toward dogs. Like most employers, programs are looking for positive, dependable, enthusiastic team players with good people skills. A good trainer candidate is patient and genuinely interested in helping people. A willingness to work long and hard, get dirty, and do whatever needs to be done to accomplish the program’s goals are a must. Each program has its own policies and procedures relating to dog training, client selection, team training and follow-up. Job seekers will want to do careful research on each program to determine which program best matches their ideals and meets their needs.

 

I want to start an assistance dog program because I love dogs. How do I do that?

Starting your own assistance dog program involves much more than working with dogs. A common misconception about the assistance dog field is that it’s about dogs. In reality, it’s about helping people. If you do not think of yourself as a “people” person, no amount of love for dogs will make this the right field for you. You will be training, guiding and counseling people with a variety of disabilities as well as working with the curious, and sometimes difficult, public. You will be expected to be diplomatic, flexible and creative when working with people to ensure that their needs are met. While all good dog trainers must respect their dogs, your main goal will be to empower a person with a disability.

 

How do I get information about volunteering, acquiring an assistance dog, raising a puppy, or adopting a released, retired or pet therapy dog?

Each ADI member program has its own policies and procedures regarding these issues and you will need to contact the programs individually in your area for specific information.