How to become an Assistance Dog Trainer
We say a dog is human’s best and the most loyal friend, but we usually forget to state one thing, and that is, Man is the dog’s most caring and loving friend. Dogs are those species that have evolved from the species of wolves, and since then dogs are roaming beside humans like a loyal friend and human has taken care of this small animal like it’s own family member from ages.
Dog trainers are those people who train dogs to be service dogs by implanting seeds of obedience, loyalty, and discipline in them. They train dogs to perform specific tasks for people suffering from certain physical or mental disabilities. They teach them how to follow commands like Sit/Stay, stand, run, fetch, and other advance commands like to open doors/gates, etc.
Who is an Assistance Dog Trainer ?
An assistance dog trainer or Service Dog trainer is the one who teaches and trains dogs to follow commands and perform specific tasks according to the service the dog has to provide. An assistance dog trainer has a unique skill-set of communicating with the dog to make him understand the meaning of commands and to make him do tasks. The trainer is experienced in communicating with the mute canines and train them to be obedient, loyal, and disciplined, which are the basic requirements for a dog to be qualified to work as a service dog.
Duties & Responsibilities of Assistance Dog Trainer
Well, It is not as simple as it sounds; teaching a child is one thing because one can communicate with the child in their language, but talking with these cute little four-legged canines is a difficult task.
There are some duties of an assistance dog trainer that he has to do in his job:.
- An assistance dog trainer is required to train the dog thoroughly in all aspects according to the service he has to perform. Some of the important and must factors that he/she has to a dog are obedience and discipline. Other factors and skills that are to be taught to a dog depend upon the service he has to perform. For mobility assistance service, the dog has to learn how to open doors and gates, how to turn electrical switches on/off, how to fetch something particular from far away, how to help the owner in case of a medical emergency, and lot more.
- Their training does not end with just training the dog and making him the service dog, but it continues till the dog bonds with the real owner. The assistance dog trainer must help the owner and dog work together by teaching the dog how to work for him/her. Creating a bond between the dog and the owner is an essential part of the training as the bond between the dog, and the owner should be good to keep both parties happy and satisfied.
- Assistance dog trainers need to keep the dogs fit and healthy and hence are required to provide both physical and mental health fitness exercises to dogs to keep them healthy and motivated.
Qualities required to be an Assistance Dog Trainer
For becoming a successful assistance dog trainer, one needs to check that they have the required classes in them because these are the essential qualities that are must in the trainer:
- Trainer must be healthy and must not have any medical condition, especially some kind of allergies from dogs, dust, pollen, or insects.
- Trainer must be physically healthy too as this job requires one to run on fields with the dog, train them different exercises, teach them outside in different environments.
- Trainer must have a good or excellent relationship with dogs and other animals. He/She shouldn’t be afraid of any breed, size, or color.
- Trainer must have excellent communication skills, and especially he/she should be unique in communicating with the dog via expressions, hand signs, different commands, voices, etc..
- Last but not least, an essential quality to have in an assistance dog trainer is nothing but patience. A dog trainer must be patient and utterly calm when training dogs. Dogs may or may not obey the commands and orders, but the trainer should remain calm and patient and work hard to make the dog understand. The trainer should strictly prohibit to indulge in some harmful activity concerning a dog; that is, he/she must never harm the dog in any way possible. It is a criminal offense to beat or harm any dog and can make the trainer pay a hefty penalty or even jail time in some countries.
Education Qualification Needed
The education qualifications that are required are not very high as in other technical jobs. Still, there are few qualifications that the aspirant needs to pass before starting the journey of training dogs.
- The essential requirement is to have a General Certificate of Secondary Education, which proves that you are educated enough to give training. The GCSE must include at least English and mathematics as a subject.
- 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) are required for an advanced apprenticeship.
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels are needed for a degree apprenticeship.
- Before training service dogs, one needs to be at least a dog trainer. To be a dog trainer one needs to get certified by any professional dog trainer certification program like Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), Association of Animal Behavior Professionals (AABP), National Association of Dog Obedience Instructors(NADOI) and many more.
- Vast practical experience is also required to be considered as a service dog trainer.
Duration of Apprenticeship
Several organizations and programs provide apprenticeships for anyone who is qualified.
On average, it takes about 2 to 3 years of apprenticeship before being able to be considered for the job. During the apprentice years, the trainee will be taught about different techniques on how to train dogs by using different methods.
For example, the most popular technique – Bridge Technique in which the trainer provides a reward to the dog in the form of food, cuddle, patting whenever the dog follows the right command or performs specific tasks.
Some programs also offer more extended apprenticeships for about 3 to 4 years to make the aspirant more experienced in this field.
How to apply for job
- For a job of an assistance dog trainer, one needs to apply at any dog training agency, program, organization, or company where such practices are carried out.
- Criteria for selection depends from organization to organization and is not a fixed criteria. For example, some organizations might require you to have up to 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), and some might not.
- You can apply directly to the organization for selection or by taking reference from somebody who is already working in this line of business.
Things to keep in mind while working as an Assistance Dog Trainer
There are some things that a trainer should keep in mind while practicing or working with the dogs :
- Do not hurt them in any way possible.
- Keep them healthy both physically and mentally.
- Keep them happy and motivated. Sadness and demotivation can make a dog unhealthy mentally.
- Keep communicating with the owner so to know him/her well as you have to create a good bond between the dog and the owner later on in the training
- Always stay calm and patient.
The salary of an assistance dog trainer may not be that fancy enough but is not that much low.
The salary varies according to the experience level.
- For starters salary can start from 13,000$ – 18,000$
- For experienced trainers it can vary from 22,000$ – 30,000$.
In the end, this job is all about communicating with those cute little beings and love working with them. If you can communicate well with these creatures and show them your love and care for them, there is no way they are going to avoid what you want to say to them. Even if they don’t listen to your commands or orders, don’t be impatient and do not get demotivated, keep on practicing with them, and give them their space and time to learn. An assistance dog trainer not only trains dogs but also helps society and people in need of some help and happiness in their lives.
To know more about training service dogs, refer these videos :